Monday, March 1, 2010

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves Review

In the world of gaming we have third person shooters and then we have the Uncharted series of games. If you have not played an Uncharted game before it is a hybrid third-person shooter that mixes platforming, puzzle solving and cinematic gameplay all in one package. Uncharted: Drakes Fortune was a very ambitious game and showed glimpses of what was capable of the PS3 hardware. Nevertheless it wasn't perfect yet this gave Naughty Dog the experience to refine the gameplay and fully utilise the hardware to the limits for the next game in the series which is the birth of Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. It's one of those games that make you go WOW, OOOH, and AHHHH. It's a technical masterpiece with an immersive story and the most cinematic experience you can find in games to date. That only describes the single player and the other half is a highly addictive online multiplayer that will only drain hours of your life away.

Story:

You are once again Nathan Drake and it wouldn't be an Uncharted game without a massive treasure hunt. So this time around you meet some old colleagues and find out someone is looking for Marco Polo's lost fleet. Without giving away too many plot details you find out this bad guy Lazaravic is after the Cintimani Stone which is assumed to still be in the lost city of Shambhala. The main motivation of Nathan Drake is to find the stone before Lazaravic gets his hands on it. So with the help of his friends Chloe, Elena, and Sully he tries to find clues throughout various parts of the world to find Marco Polo's trail back to Shambhala. The story is very well written and has a great pace throughout the entire game so that it doesn't get irritatingly boring and holds a decent amount of humor to keep the player entertained. Cinematics don't plague the game because they are short and get to the point, also at the same time many of the cinematics are interactive that they are integrated seamlessly into the gameplay itself which is awesome.

Graphics:

The game is beautiful looking from top to bottom. It clearly is the paragon of a PS3 game utilized to the full potential of the hardware. The game uses allot of motion capture so the character movements are very life like and the facial animation is some of the best in the games business. If there is anything to nitpick it would only be that it 1080p isn't fully supported and maybe Chloe's eyes because they are too sparkly blue.

Gameplay:

Uncharted at its core is a third-person shooter that uses a cover system extensively. Although you can probably run and gun your way through the game at easier difficulty levels, cover is almost essential to use at hard and crushing difficulties. The most improved aspect of the game over its predecessor is that it is now easier to sneak around in cover and then grab an enemy while they are not looking and taking them out. If you’re clever enough you can skip long waves of enemies just by getting through certain areas using stealth attacks only. You can grab enemies around the corner, enemies near ledges, enemies behind and it all feels natural without being a headache for players to perform. The platforming portion is also improved from the first game because there are portions of the game that are moving dynamically whether it be a moving train or death defying ledge jumping on moving gears. The puzzles are not terribly hard but they are also bigger in scope as they can span an entire large room in a level. The AI is good and enemies will flank the player quite often from multiple sides so you can’t just camp enemies for easy kills in one spot. Hand to hand combat is also a bit more refined and enemies can counter the player for a dynamic button melee sequence to determine the winner. Having all these mechanics together in one game may be a nightmare for any developer to create a control scheme but Naughty Dog has made controlling all these actions very simple and effective because the player can focus more on the game rather than clunky controls which complements the total experience of playing the game. If the story itself is not enough for you then you can hop on multiplayer and duke it out with other players using almost all of the abilities you gain in the single player campaign.

Sound and Music:

The dynamic music scores and atmospheric sounds give the game an almost epic feel throughout the game. The voice acting is superb; Nolan North gives another A+ performance in portraying the trials and tribulations of Nathan Drake to life. Every action and interaction with objects and other characters seems real and some of that is due to real live action performances caught with motion capture to bring this game to life.

Multiplayer:

This is a new addition to the series and a welcome one it is. Everything that is great about the single player game is almost intact here in multiplayer. The game has various different multiplayer modes which are competitive multiplayer, co-op story, and co-op survival. In competitive multiplayer you can play with 10 other players in 5 vs. 5 matches in team deathmatch, elimination ( I call it the counter-strike mode), plunder which is similar to capture the flag but with a treasure as the focus, chain reaction which makes player capture certain points on the map before they can proceed to the next one first team to control all five win, turf war which players battle to take over three areas of the map in order to score points, and king of the hill which randomly selects areas of the map that need to be controlled to score points. During these matches you gain money for medals you obtain and money will rank you up while at the same time allow you to purchase new multiplayer skins, weapons, boosters, and even taunts. Boosters enhance your character and can either increase your accuracy with certain weapons or let you move faster with treasures or heavy weapons. You may only have two boosters at a time to enhance your character but give you some sort of customization to work with. If that is not your cup of tea then there is co-op for you to try. In co-op story mode you can play with a friend to get through a side mission which gets pretty intense as you have to get through a level with waves of enemies coming at you. Then there are the co-op arena modes where you waves of enemies keep coming at you and then they get progressively harder after each round. These modes are all very fun and great to play with friends. Multiplayer is definitely not perfect, the matchmaking can use some tweaks and the playlists need to be a bit more segregated to allow people to play what they really want to play(plunder hah). Some people may also be turned off by the ungodly amount of punishment the characters can take before they actually die. The multiplayer is definitely good enough that it is almost a separate game and I would possibly rate it an 8 on a scale of 10 if that were the case.

Conclusion:

Uncharted 2 is the total package and if you do own a PS3 this is a game that you definitely do not want to miss playing. It is probably one of the most epic single player campaign’s that you will ever play and the multiplayer holds its own with games more focused on the multiplayer department. Buy it or rent it, either way just do it!

No comments: