The follow-up to Naughty Dog's often overlooked cinematic gem Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves plots the path of Nathan Drake once again as he follows the trail of Marco Polo and a legendary gem known as the Cintamani stone. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves sees some growth to the game's cast, with both Elena and Sully returning alongside new squeeze Chloe Frazer and antagonist Zoran Lazarevic.
What ensues is a rollercoaster ride of action and adventure that stands closer in regard to an influential Hollywood blockbuster than any other video game. Simply put, Uncharted 2 raises the bar for story telling and cinematography within a video game. Uncharted 2's campaign takes approximately ten hours to complete, but there's a solid multiplayer component and plenty of unlockable content to see the game last you way above the 30 hour mark.
To say that Uncharted 2 raises the bar for video game cinematography is no overstatement. Naughty Dog's focus on intense voice acting rewards the team with an experience that is unparalleled by any other. The introduction of new squeeze Chloe Frazer, coupled with fan favourites Elena and Sully, makes Uncharted 2 a tour de force of character-driven plot. Its subject may be somewhat familiar, but the execution is without equal in this medium, making Uncharted 2 a game that will be remembered for years to come.
Whether it's the strikingly rich orchestral score, or the breathtakingly detailed vistas, Uncharted 2 is without a doubt the best produced game on PlayStation 3 to this point. Killzone 2 raised the bar for console visuals early in the year, but Uncharted 2 takes it that step further, with rich textures, unrivalled draw distance and incredibly defined animation. Only the slight compression of some cutscenes bring down Uncharted 2's astounding production values.
It took some guts for Naughty Dog to open its game with a level entirely dedicated to stealth. This is, of course, the training wheels for what's to come. Uncharted 2 provides much more depth than its prequel. Situations can be encountered in numerous ways. You can still go in all guns blazing, but for those who like to try something a little different, the stealth mechanics allow you to tackle situations in a different way. Perhaps you'd like to silently gain a vantage point and then proceed to pick off the enemy from aloft their position. It's totally possible. The gunplay has also been refined, giving weapons much more kick and making enemies less like the bullet sponges they once were.
It's a point we've not seen pop up much regarding Uncharted 2, but during our playtime we found the enemy AI to be incredibly challenging. They're clever at using flanking tactics and cover to constantly compromise your position, making the game not only difficult, but rewardingly so. You genuinely feel vulnerable in some missions, with enemies prone to attacking you from any angle. It's getting out of these situations alive that make for the most enjoyment, with Naughty Dog providing enough checkpoints to stave off frustration.
Uncharted 2 is littered with some of the most fantastic set-pieces ever to be experienced in video games. There's one such area where you're trapped inside a building, while a helicopter launches several missiles at its foundations. Gameplay continues while the building collapses around you — an incredible showpiece of Naughty Dog's coding talent and artistic vision.
Uncharted 2 features a much better balance between platforming and gunplay than its predecessor. There's even one section, approximately at the game's mid-point, where you'll take a casual stroll through a Tibetan village. There's no need for gunplay, explosions or fighting here; Naughty Dog realise you need a breather, and that's exactly what you get. It's almost grounding for a game to take such risks and yet still come up smelling of roses.
There's not a lot we don't like about Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. If we really had to stretch ourselves to come up with something, we'd have to say that the cover system can still be a little clingy. Despite being revised since Drake's Fortune, it's still possible to incorrectly cling to cover when diving out of the way, likewise jumps can sometimes stick to nearby ledges, leaving you completely open to attack during combat. They're minor niggles in a wholly polished package, however.
We could scour the world's largest libraries in search of a quote that thoughtfully describes our love affair with Naughty Dog's Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, but we doubt we'd find one. An action game of surpassing quality, it's one of the finest games of the past ten years and a genuine classic.