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Monday, 12 April 2010

Review- Uncharted 2: Among Thieves [PS3]

Publisher Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer Naughty Dog

Released: 16th October 2009

The potential protruding from the foundations of the original Uncharted, 'Drake's Fortune', were clear for all to see. Somewhat of a sleeper hit early into the PS3 life cycle, it had moments of brilliance that were somewhat beset by minor niggles in the works. However, it was an enjoyable title all the same and those that consumed it at the time were taken aback with its wonderful graphical edge and developed storyline.

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves arrives just under 2 years after the original. From the very first moment of the game, it just gives and gives, and gives some more. It's no understatement to tell you that a literal cliff-hanger awaits, in only one of the game's many triple-A set piece displays.

Nathan Drake's latest adventure sees him try to solve the mystery surrounding Marco Parlo's final voyage and the secret of the 'Cintamani Stone' to which, it is said, holds great power and the just cause for evil war criminal Lazarevic and his crew to go searching for it also. The plot may sound slightly contrived and generic, however the way in which the story is presented can only be commended to the highest degree. Rarely in video games do we ever see such top quality scripting or voice work that is employed here. The detail within the character models, the well-crafted dialogue that progresses the story perfectly, the affluent voice work, all mesh so that Uncharted 2's storyline just works- it is engrossing and appealing. Characters are developed nicely throughout, from the charismatic Nathan Drake, voiced by Nolan North to the return of hugely likeable Victor “Sully” Sullivan and love interests, Chloe and Elena. Pair this with the way in which transitional cut-scenes are employed so that the action seamlessly works its way from cut-scene to game play and back again without a single load screen in sight and you have a truly authentic cinematic experience that has, as yet, not really been seen in the medium. The graphical prowess of the PS3 really comes into its own on a game like this, Sony have waited and waited for the true dominance of the Blu Ray to really shine- now we understand how powerful Sony's console really is. The hugely realised locales and environments, from intensely harsh snowy mountain tops to greenery and lush forestry via ruined urban sprawl- all popping from the screen in HD glory. One of the best looking games on the PS3? No question. Try one of the best looking games of all time! The orchestral score compliments the visuals perfectly and really adds another layer to the already strong package.

And thus, we come to the game's mechanics. In Uncharted 2, the cover based, 'over-the-shoulder' action is offset by platforming sections and puzzles, which should be expected in the adventure game space. The cover-based game mechanics are, for the most part, smooth and satisfying. However, especially later in the game, it'll take extreme patience to accept some incredibly frustrating annoyances which often see Drake jump out in front of the enemy or off the edge when trying to stick to cover! The inclusion of stealth game play is somewhat more accomplished, allowing for a much more varied game playing experience- the player given the choice to decide to run into the battle no holds-barred or stick to cover like a stiff ninja and take out enemies one-by-one. Platforming sections are simple yet effective, improving pacing of the game whilst breaking up to many rounds of shooting whilst the puzzles are well thought out and neither too difficult nor too easy.

This being an action game, Naughty Dog went all out in delivering some of the most well-constructed set pieces seen in a game. From being merely a pawn in the infrastructure of a collapsing building, to running from a helicopter through the streets of Nepal whilst buildings are laid to rest in your wake- all edited together with real-time game play via the transitions mentioned earlier, this is nothing short of breathtaking. The game design that is also delivered is clever and well thought out, the user interface taking the form of scribbles in Nathan's journal, all viewed in real-time with Nathan pulling out the journal and flicking through its pages with a press of the 'Select' button and flick of the analogue stick respectively. The journal, whilst taking a back seat in the first half of the game, becomes more important later on as it must be used in order to solve puzzles.

At this point, positives are outweighing the negatives at every turn, and alas it can not continue. For all the accomplishments in development of story and impressive game design, the developers seem to fall back on lazy programming towards the latter quarter of the game as the story progresses towards its conclusion. Frustration awaits as the game throws waves of enemies, one after the other, at the player, meaning the short musical motif and the 'Continue' screen are likely to make their appearance all too often during this time. The pacing of the game, like the train to which Nathan hangs early in the game, comes off its rails here, the amount of game play action to cut scene and platforming ratio is over-powered and it feels like a long hard slog to the finish in what otherwise is a wonderful video game.

For the first time in the series, Uncharted 2 also features competitive multi player, where you can play as either heroes or villains in death match and capture-the-flag modes.

Bask in its excellence, enjoy the experience, and ignore its slight indiscretions for they are minor in what is otherwise a triple-A experience from start to finish.

1 comment:

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