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Uncharted 2: Among Thieves Member Review for the PS3

By:
jeff_himself
10/20/09
PRINTER FRIENDLY VERSION
EMAIL TO A FRIEND
GENRE Action 
PLAYERS
PUBLISHER Sony 
DEVELOPER Naughty Dog 
RELEASE DATE  
T Contains Blood, Language, Suggestive Themes, Violence

What do these ratings mean?

Who all see an overrated game, say "YEAH!"

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is essentially a reworking of the Uncharted: Drake's Fortune with a different setting and characters. Many flaws of the original game are still present in the sequel: the game is still repetitive; it is still too easy; the story is still garbage that relies on supernatural monsters provide an additional "challenge" during the later stages of the game. The plot of Uncharted 2: Among Thieves borrows heavily from the first game and Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Crystal Skull--the final scene takes place in a very large and seemingly very observable "hidden" city guarded by arrow firing natives. In this game Drake seeks to find a mythical stone with magical powers before an adversary with a large army find it for himself. The journey takes Drake from city streets to mountain villages and ancient temples. There is plenty of climbing and jumping, but not much in the way of puzzles. The ancient people built the temples full of Rube Goldberg machines must not have been the puzzle-type. Drake encounters several temples full of ledges and platforms to jump on, but only two puzzles during the game--the game nicely puts a graphic on screen to indicate that it is puzzle time so even the stupidest player will know that he needs to accomplish some small task if he wants to move on to the next room. The plot is being marketed as being loaded with action and deception. Action--if by "action" one means shooing thousands of rounds--the game has. Deception not so much. As Drake searches for the lost stone he learns that his companion Chloe may or may not be helping his adversary. But it is clear from the beginning the Chloe is loyal to Drake even while working with the enemy. The storywriters do aim high, but come up short. It is fun to see almost every action movie cliche thrown into a video game though: Drake jumps from train car to train car while avoiding low hanging signals and a helicopter gunship; Drake runs from a large vehicle; Drake runs from a tank; a train car hangs precariously over the edge of a cliff; and so on. There are plenty of explosions to placate those--likely under the age of 13--who consider shit blowing up to be "drama." Much of the dialogue is macho adventure talk about the hero saving the day. The game's story will most impress the teenage set. Aside from being offensive from a writing perspective the plot comes off as being completely sexist--female characters are either in need of saving due to their inept and naive ways or manipulative and traitorous. The player gets to live out every macho fantasy of saving the damsel in distress while blowing shit up. Strangely there are also no female enemy characters as soldiers or native villagers during the climax implying a strong tendency towards strong male companionship. I must give Naughty Dog some respect here for loading the game with enough misogyny and homoeroticism to keep even the manliest of men happy.

The game is visually proficient. The settings, characters, and cinematics are very easy on the eyes. There are rare occasions when objects and textures look very poor and there seems to be a limited number of enemy death animations--most noticeable on the "skull" enemies who go down the same way every time you kill them--and character movement through water producing poor looking splashes and a minimal ripple effect (note: previously reported no ripple effect, but there is actually a subtle rippling; it is less than what would be expected however and does detract from the overall visual appeal). These shortcoming do tend to take away from the game's visual appeal, but they only amount to minor annoyances that can be easily overlooked as they do not hinder the gameplay.

But the actual gameplay does hinder gameplay. The game incorporates hand to hand combat, stealth, and action sequences, but never together. It is not possible to focus on being stealthy or avoiding confrontation except in the areas of the game designated for this type of play--few segments allow for any type of stealthy play. Drake cannot enter an area taking cover to avoid being noticed if the segment is intended to be about "action." Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is all about shooting bad guys that come out of nowhere before they kill Drake and force him to restart at the latest checkpoint--every room is a checkpoint so a player never has to replay any of the game previously completed. Much of the game centers around Drake jumping from platform to platform to ledge to platform or climbing around a locked door--there are several sequences in which Drake needs to go around locked doors and all require a bit of climbing. Climbing becomes a tedious chore made worse by level design where there is only one correct path so a player cannot explore to find the way to gain the most advantage while moving. Each new area has only one entrance and one exit so areas with enemy presence cannot be avoided through clever climbing--one wonders why Drake would drop into an area full of enemy soldiers instead of continuing past them. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is a very linear affair and the least adventuresome "action-adventure" game in recent memory. Everything needed to complete a room is always available so Drake is never forced to backtrack or even revisit scenes previously encountered. The game plays like "Smash TV" if "Smash TV" did not allow the player to choose which path to take through the game world. Difficulty is ratcheted down even on hardest levels due to an almost infinite amount of ammunition in most areas and an infinite ammunition cache during key battle sequences--Drake's side arm will magically replenish it's magazine while fighting monsters and while hanging on a sign while being attacked during another sequence for example. During several battle sequences Drake's gun will reload when out of ammunition to keep the fight going or ammunition will regenerate to allow Drake to keep shooting. This bottomless supply of ammo is necessary as certain enemies take lots and lots of fire before going down. And there are lots of enemies to kill.

One run through the game will take care of most of the achievements for kills using a specific weapon as there are is an everlasting supply of goons to dispatch. The game offers hints if a player is in an area too long without completing the "challenge" of that area on all difficulty settings. The game never forces the player to continue, but it strongly suggests it and shows the player what to do if they are ever confused, which is not very likely as the game is completely straightforward. AI is rather stupid for the most part taking cover during gunfights, but not always actually being under cover. Many enemy fighters will just walk towards Drake as he returns fire until dispatched. Friendly AI is equally as inept: those with Drake will completely ignore him as they move the extent that they force him off ladders and ropes to his death. There are other oddities that one will encounter through playing, such as moments in which dying will force the player forward and Drake auto-shooting propane tanks with no direct line of fire, which take the player out of the game and lessen the experience. Grenades are more deadly to enemy fighters as a grenade a few feet away from Drake will have no effect on him, but can take out multiple enemies at greater distances. Controls are functional with only minor issues. The cover system can often result in deaths as the player is locked to the wrong face of object and exposed to fire. While under cover any action besides firing results in Drake standing up in fire--picking up a grenade or weapon pulls Drake out of cover. Cover is controlled by the "roll" button so expect to lock to objects when trying to roll resulting in many deaths--especially on multiplayer.

Beating the game on "hard" opens up a "crushing" difficultly level that plays exactly like hard yet is supposedly more difficult. The game still provides all the hints, ammunition, and redos as the easier levels and nothing is changed story-wise leaving little reason to replay the game unless one values his existence by the number of PSN trophies he has collected. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves incorporates a multiplayer component where up to ten people can play team versions of death match and capture the flag/zones. A co-op mode is also supported with up to three players online. Multiplayer pairing is not particularly good as the system only allows the player to pick game type and wait for auto-matching to set up a game. This becomes a problem as the specific round rules are not picked until after the players have been paired. A simple vote system picks between two options. If an unpopular option is selected the team that does poorly initially usually empties creating lopsided matches. There is no ability to team change and no system to balance teams nor any late joining causing some matches to go on much longer than they should. There are no multiplayer options for matches so each match is the same layout all the time. Occasionally matches will have specific weapons, but in most cases the matches will start with players going for grenade or rocket launchers. There is no ability to turn off "perks" or force standard skins, which results in player who have completed the campaign mode or played more multiplayer to have an instant advantage. Negative perks are available for higher level players, but their use is not wide spread. As in the single player campaign there is a complete lack of control for the player. The game makes all the choices while allowing the player to think that he or she is actually doing something through the simple voting mechanic.

The addition of a multiplayer mode is the only reason to consider purchasing the game. Those not interested in running around as Drake shooting other Drakes while trying to capture treasure or zones would be advised to replay the original and imagine the setting as being Nepal instead of some South American forest. It would be a pretty good equivalent of Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, which is in no way a bad game. It is just not a very good game. It is almost too much like its predecessor to even be considered it own game,. The major differences between the games are the lack of traps and the inclusion of an actual boss battle instead of a pressing buttons as they appear on the screen--though melee battles still are based on pressing the button at the bottom left of the screen when the game indicates it.

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is an average title worth renting before making any purchase decisions. The main campaign can be completed in under ten hours and subsequent replays--even with more difficult settings--will take much less time and be much less enjoyable. Multiplayer can be a nice time waster as long as the community remains strong. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is a game with loads of potential, but it is all wasted as it is content with being a shooting game in exotic locations. Uncharted is one more game that chose style over substance and ends up being all the worse because of it.


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