Uncharted 2 : Amongst Thieves – Sony 2009

By Neil McCormick

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One of the most anticipated titles of 2009 has finally arrived, Electro-candy has cast its eye and here is our take on it.

In just one sentence – this is a true contender for Game of the Year. It is not a sentence I utter lightly, and I can assure you I have not fallen sucker for any hype. In fact I approached the game with certain degree of cynacism, how often does a game get launched with hype and when you play you get a completely different experience that you come away feeling cheated? Finally this is a game where you can believe the hype.

Uncharted 2 sees the return of Nathan Drake roughly two years after the events of Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. Similar to the previous story, Nathan “Nate” Drake’s new adventure revolves around an unsolved historical mystery, the doomed voyage home of Marco Polo from China in 1292. After spending almost 20 years in the court of the Mongol Emperor Kublai Khan, Marco Polo departed with 14 ships and over 600 passengers and crew laden with treasure– but when he arrived at his destination a year and a half later, only one ship remained, and only 18 of the passengers had survived. Although Marco Polo described almost every other aspect of his journeys in minute detail, he never revealed what happened to the ships that were lost.
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The story begins, with a wounded Nate waking up to find himself in a train hanging off a cliff. Through flashbacks, it is revealed that Harry Flynn and Chloe Frazer approached him with a job offer, the theft of a Mongolian oil lamp in an Istanbul museum. Nate accepts once learning that the lamp may hold the answer to what happened to Marco Polo’s lost fleet. Flynn and Drake acquire the lamp, which contains a map showing that the lost fleet had been transporting the Cintamani Stone from Shambhala before being thrown ashore on Borneo by a tsunami. Taking the map, Flynn double crosses Drake, who is arrested and imprisoned for three months before his friend Victor “Sully” Sullivan and Chloe secure his release.

The trio discovers that the lost fleet never possessed the Cintamani Stone. They locate a tomb containing the bodies of Polo’s passengers, as well as a golden Tibetan phurba and another letter from Polo saying that another clue is in a temple in Pokhara, Nepal. At the temple and discover that the stone and Shambhala are in the Himalayas. The rest of the game is about getting to Shambhala and discovering what was there.
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The opening chapter from getting off the train etc, serves as a subtle tutorial, as you learn to climb and interact with the appropriate controls. There are some real “Hollywood” moments, when climbing does not go to plan as pipes come off and your course of direction has to alter. It could be considered agripe at this point was just how linear your route was. Literally it felt like one was being drawn down a set corridor with no option to go “off Piste” . In other games, this would annoy, but it actually was so well done, like a bit of scenery would fall and your path would be blocked, it did not feel that bad.

In completing the game, I only came across two graphical glitches. Even then I have to be honest I was actively looking for glitches. This is some achievement, for I have played several games recently that I have came away wondering was there any sort of quality testing given the amount of errors I experienced.
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The Himalayan Village has to be seen to be believed. I have never seen a more beautiful portrayal in a game. Seeing the Prayer flags billowing in the wind, it was as if you where actually there, and what a privilege it was. At this pont my words cease to be a review and instead I have became a Fodor’s Guide. The interaction with the natives of the village, are genre defining. You really do get the impression of being alien to the environment around you, as children look at you with uncertainty.

I think part of the experience of Playing Uncharted 2 is that, there will be times where you will stop playing, just simply to take in the view. This does not take away from the game experience it adds to it. Surely the playstation processor was close to being maxed out coping with each and every one of the stunning polygons that are set out upon you? Even the subtle things like the cruching of foot upon snow, and the way the character has been animated with feet sludging in the snow, leaving small clumps of snow footprints. This is a level of detail that a lot of game developers could learn a trick from.

Just like the first game, as well as the main mission, you find treasures hidden throughout the various chapters. This works well as you do not rush through the game, as you try to find them. This leads to a dilema, Im not sure if I would encourage you to find every piece of treasure on your first play through. i think that would only serve to distract from taking in the wonderful story.

“I did not tell half of what I saw……” Marco Polo .

This was the first screen, you see as the game opens, and it sums up exactly how I feel; having emerged at the end of playing the game for this review. I could go into more detail about the game, but that would ruin your own experience. This is not a game it’s a spectacle,for Uncharted 2 has blurred the separate boundaries of gaming and movies to form some sort of crazy hybrid. And by zeus it works like a charm.

Uncharted 2, is the greatest game I have played , in 2009, if not the finest title to have graced the PS3 so far. If you are ever in need of a game to benchmark your gaming experience, this is the title. I suspect when we look back in years to come, and talk of the legacy of the PS3, Uncharted 2 will be one of the defining memories.

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The fantastic script and writing in the game, and the incredible voice acting by the cast, are at a level that even Hollywood would be jealous of. Infact there are movies out there that are not even close to the league seen here.

Naughty Dog and Sony I salute your efforts, those of us that have played the game; can say we have found our own Shambhala.

Electro-candy score – A perfect 10. What are you doing still sitting there ?- out you go and buy it!

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