Uncharted 2 opens with our favorite treasure hunter, Nathan Drake, bleeding from the gut while taking an unintentional nap in a train car threatening to fall off the edge of the cliff that it is desperately clinging to. After taking control, you work your way up and off the hanging car and through the wreckage above, slowly learning the controls along the way. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Before you will understand what Drake is doing out in the snow without a coat, you have to play through the events leading up to this point, all starting with Nate being hooked into a simple act of thievery, which quickly evolves into an end-of-the-world-if-the-bad-guy-wins type deal.
The story is just one aspect that helps to create the perfect integration between film and videogames. The cutscenes are beautifully animated (except for the incredibly sparkly eyeballs), as well as really well written, keeping the hilarious dialogue of the first game. However, the best part about this is that the game does not simply jump between gameplay and cutscenes, saving all the cinematic elements for the latter, but actually integrates them into the game, moving fluidly between them. One example of this is the train car climbing mentioned above. As you manipulate Nate up the train, boulders fall from the cliff above, parts of the car plummet to the depths below, Nate falls through windows, etc, and though these moments involve no player reaction to keep Nate from falling with them, it does not make the moments any less suspenseful. However, the best example of the cinematic feel to this game is the manipulation of the camera placement. The player is able to move the camera around as much as they want, but there are some moments when it is moved for them, such as when Nate is climbing up a mountainside or giant knife (you will understand later), manipulating the camera in such a way to take advantage of the surrounding environment, creating many “Ooo, pretty” moments.
It’s really easy to get lost in the details of the environments, whether you are exploring the mechanisms of a temple in the mountains of Tibet or walking through the streets of Nepal (no seriously, when you get to the top of the hotel, take a moment to look around the city below), but what is really great is what you are able to do within these worlds. The basic gameplay never gets boring or repetitive because there is a lot more freedom to how you go about moving through the environments (especially depending on if you prefer to be stealthy or like a less subtle approach), and even the simpler interactions between the player and the characters accompanying Nate on his quest, such as throwing Chloe up to an unreachable ladder, are great, as well as oddly comforting to have them there with you. And trust me, pulling people over ledges never gets old. However, for those of you who scoff at the simple joys, this game is definitely not lacking in the tension filled moments as well. When Nate is not climbing trains, he is fleeing from cars, tanks, and helicopters, or tagging along as a hotel crumbles to the ground under his feet.
And last, but by no means least, are the puzzles. Though they aren’t too challenging, especially with the help of Nate’s journal, this is by no means a flaw in the game design because clearly Nate is no idiot, and therefore the player should not feel as such when fulfilling his role in the game. Instead, you actually feel even more like a competent adventurer.
The only thing I can really complain about, other than my apparent affinity for being killed by shotguns, is how difficult some enemy soldiers, though riddled with bullets, are to kill; but I am going to play along because the animators took the time to dress them in what I am assuming is amazing body armor. In other words, nothing is going to keep me from describing Uncharted 2: Among Thieves as anything less than the perfect game.
Final Grade: 10