Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

I’ve tried to write this review several times over the past two weeks with, as you can probably tell, little to no success. It’s difficult for me to properly express my experience with Uncharted 2, especially in a balanced and thoughtful manner.

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Naughty Dog have done a brilliant job in getting the most out of the consoles, although I’ve been playing the Remastered version so I can’t really say that it looked great on the PS3. They did a great job with their environments and scenery, which has been the major selling point of Uncharted since day 1 – everything will look great, you’ll climb over some of it and shoot most of the rest. Away from the lush, open forests of faraway islands, Uncharted 2 is more focussed on cities and towns and you’ll find yourself on top of buildings to gaze upon the world more often than not.

The puzzles of Uncharted 2 are to be commended as well; they’re interesting, fun and quite challenging, at times. Nothing new here, though, because they were the best bit of the first Uncharted game as well. There aren’t nearly enough, in my opinion, so maybe I fall more into the Tomb Raider camp of archaeological exploration?

It’s around the halfway mark where there is a distinct shift in gameplay, spending more of your time shooting and less solving ancient puzzles. It’s also around the same mark that I lost interest in Uncharted 2.

From the moment Drake met his cock-a-ney geeza mate and his lass, the entire plot followed a generic action movie script. Drake is your typical American bloke, all square jaw and bad quips, bumbling from level to level in search of The Thing. It was enjoyable at the start, the slow build-up through the early chapters to prepare for an explosive finale – unfortunately, the downside to a generic action movie script is that it gets boring quickly.

With a British betrayal under the belt, a Russian skinhead ushered in to take the ‘bad guy’ reins and two love interests to bounce between, you’re off to the mystical Eastern lands to find The Thing and The Place.

A new feature for Uncharted 2 was a stealth mechanic which could be quite useful to clear out some larger battlefields, before you take your first shot. It’s not a perfect system by any means; Drake has an annoying tendency to leap out from behind cover instead of silently murdering a goon, which really throws a spanner in the works. If he’s not leaping out sideways from a chest high wall, Drake is instead superglued to the surface and won’t budge when you ask him to.

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It was around the 4th attempt at the train trainon, the best setting for a good ol’ battle, that I realised I wasn’t enjoying the game anymore; The puzzles were few and far between, Drake spent more of his time sprawled in the snow riddled with bullets, goons would pop out of every available crevice for their chance to take out the mediocre Nate Drake and, of course, there was the long foreseen supernatural twist.

Combat in Uncharted 2 is bad, there’s no two ways around it; it’s clunky, Drake is about as tough as a sheet of paper and everyone else can connect a stream of rifle fire from the top of a mountain, while you can just about shoot through a window, if you’re lucky. The further you trudge through the game, the more mooks they’ll throw at you – to add difficulty, they’ll add more armour to certain spawns just to pump bullets in to. I’ll freely admit that I was most impressed by the men who can take (at least) two RPG’s to the chest without keeling over.

Towards the end of the game, you’re fighting off 75 men more heavily armoured than a tank, an actual tank, fending off a helicopter with your left hand and immortal guardians of The Thing with your right. It’s an insane curve of difficulty, always changing and throwing in new weapons to try and best you, like a child who’s bored of playing and keeps pulling out new toys. You can hardly aim your rifle without being shot by 7 new spawns, who can immediately lock on to your face with a shotgun.

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I really tried to enjoy the game, but I couldn’t play more than 30 minute bursts towards the end. It would spit me out into another gunfight, the story dragged itself along behind, coughing up occasional intrigue and I’d have to replay the same section 3 to 5 times because I got shot by a missile, or someone tossed a grenade over my chest high wall when I couldn’t throw it past the pillar directly in front of me.

All the way through to the final boss fight, it just felt like a chore to play. The weakest element of the game was put out in front and was crushed by the weight of the carriage. Drake smarmed through his way through the story, got the girl and that was that. Having slain a small country’s population worth of mooks, he cracks a joke and goes on to another adventure, apparently.

Only 2 more and I can put this behind me…

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