Guest Review: Uncharted 2
ESRB: T for Teen
Number of Players: One to Four
Developer: Naughty Dog
Release Date: Oct 13, 2009
When a sequel is released, it travels through one of three roads. One: it can fall far below its predecessor into a void of abysmal proportions. Two: the sequel can play it safe and remain in the realm of decent mediocrity. Or three: hopefully, it can surpass the firstborn to become a gem in its own right. Suffice it to say, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, falls in the third category. Yes, I’ve jumped on the bandwagon with scores of other reviewers and gamers to give Naughty Dog a huge pat on the back.
To give some perspective, I played through Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune and enjoyed it well enough. It certainly wasn’t my game of the year, but it was fun while the game play lasted. Fast forward to 2009 with the return of Nathan Drake and a slew of new features, leaving me intrigued about what improvements Naughty Dog has made to the growing franchise. While I was genuinely excited about the single player campaign, I was unsure about the multiplayer aspect of the game. I’ll admit it, I was one of many rolling her eyes, wondering why Uncharted 2 was joining a long list of single-player focused games slapping on a multiplayer feature. However, after investing significant hours into both the single and multiplayer modes, I was pleasantly surprised. Enthralled even!
Before I wax on some sweet poetry, let me get critical aspects out of the way. Just like its predecessor, Uncharted 2 suffers from similar weaknesses. If puzzles aren’t your thing, it’s a minor factor. But for gamers who do enjoy solving difficult puzzles, it can be somewhat frustrating to realize that there’s some major hand holding going on. Throughout the game, I never put down the controller in frustration that I couldn’t figure out a particular problem, so there was never that sense of satisfaction at having solved one. Predictable AI movement is another factor; hide behind a crate long enough and it becomes easy to figure out attack patterns. But…
Done with the bitter pill? Let’s move on to a lighter, sweeter note. Naughty Dog kept the Hollywood-esque plotlines, awesome voice acting and funny dialogues. Add in improved shooting mechanics, none of the gimmicky six-axis controls and smoother cover positioning. Now you have yourselves Uncharted 2! And the game definitely holds no punches; from the very beginning, you’re thrown into the adventure. Naughty Dog adds a different dynamic, though, humanizing Nathan instead of smothering us with his snarky comments. From beginning to end, the transition between game play and cut scene is smooth; instead of breaking up the flow of the action, it left me feeling engaged with the story. By the time I finally beat Zoran Lazarević, I was thoroughly amused by the story, clichés and all. Actually, scratch that. I was tickled by the sixth chapter! When the action finally came to a close, I was… satisfied – a content gamer, happy with the polished single campaign.
It doesn’t end there, though. I was a skeptic at first, wondering if the additional modes were going to be any good. Cue dramatic music because my mind was blown away. The co-op campaigns were especially fun. My friends and I strapped Bluetooth headsets and chatted away while strategizing how to take down enemies. We died multiple times and enjoyed it, bless our masochistic hearts! Whether I was pleading for someone to help me as enemies flanked me into a corner, or shot down the opponent daring to hold my buddy in a chokehold, I was having fun. Key word: FUN. I would have loved it to be a four-player co-op, though.
When I tried out competitive multiplayer matches, I noticed that the mechanics played pretty closely with the Call of Duty series, not that that’s necessarily a bad thing. (Maybe that’s where the Infinity Ward shout out comes from?) With each successive match, I gained major moolah which I could then use to buy certain perks. However, for those stepping into competitive matches for the first time, it could be a little discouraging because opponents would have far better weapons, defense features, etc. As many do in the Call of Duty series, you just have to keep playing until you gain enough money to start buying your way into power. No pain (in this case, lots of dying), no gain folks! Now that’s one way to get players to keep investing their time into Uncharted 2!
Naughty Dog has successfully managed to balance and polish both the single player campaign and multiplayer matches, one of few companies able to do so. What that means for us lucky gamers is that there is some major replay value involved. No game will be perfect, but Uncharted 2: Among Thieves comes pretty damn close.