Release Date: October 13, 2009
Developer: Naughty Dog
Metacrtic Score: 96
“Uncharted 2” is everything you would ever want in a sequel. It takes everything that worked in the last game and turns it up to eleven while addressing most of if not all the issues I had with the last game. I was worried going into this that my love for the game might have been pure nostalgia, but after replaying it, I remember why I’ve always said this is one of my favorite games of all time.
The game starts is Nathan Drake alone on train with a bullet in his gut. Making matters worse in the fact that the train has derailed and in hanging off a cliff. After to manage to get him to safety we go back and find out how this whole mess got started. And as you probably have already guessed, it started with a treasure hunt.
We go back to four months prior, to a meeting Drake has with Harry Flynn, an old friend and accomplices of Drake’s and Chloe Frazer, an old girlfriend. The two new comers are looking for answers about an object they’ve been hired to find, as well as get some help retrieving it. Reluctantly Drake helps, and they trio soon learn that the ordinary (read: worthless) oil lamp their benefactor has spent a lot of money trying to get is a clue leading to Marco Polo’s lost fleet. Now knowing what they are after the three decide to steel the lamp, but keep it for themselves. The team then heads to an museum in Istanbul to steal the lamp. Everything goes according to plan…until Flynn decides to stab Drake in the back and leave him for the guards to find.
We shoot a head a few months. Drake is in prison and seems to be losing his mind as he replays the prior events to himself repeatedly. Luckily for Drake, Sully comes to the rescue and bails him out. As it turns out, Chloe has been working as a double agent and as soon as Drake was put away she got to work trying to get him out. She also has been working on learning what her bosses plains were. We learn that the man who haired them for the museum job was a man named Zoran Lazarević, a Soviet intelligence officer and war criminal. We also learn that the oil lamp was just the first clue to finding Shambhala, the fabled Buddhist “Pure Land”. From there on out the story is a race to find Shambhala and unravel the mystery of Marco Polo’s lost fleet before Lazarević.
I said earlier that this game was bigger than it’s predecessor, and that shows right off the bat in terms of story. Where Uncharted 1 was mostly set on one island this game really is a more global adventure. The set peaces are also much bigger as well, but i’ll talk more about those in the game play section. The best story telling upgrade has got to the villain, however. In the first game the villain was just a businessman, looking to get rich. Even when you learned that Navarro was the real mastermind, he’s only real goal is “sell El Dorado, get rich”. While Lazarević might not be the deepest villain ever, his back story and the way he describes the power of the Cintamani Stone (this games big mcguffin) makes the treat he posses feel more immediate and thus makes it more important that you take him down. This is a man who wants to be the next Genghis Khan or Adolf Hitler. So, yeah, this is a much better villain.
I was also impressed by how the game’s two female lead were handled. While both of them are love interest for Drake, neither one is really trying to win him over or trying to out do the other. Really, outside of one line when Elena and Chloe meet, there’s no real animosity between them and that line was more meant as an attack on Drake rather than Chloe. Better yet, both women are strong and useful, but in different ways. Chloe is more of a bad ass treasure hunter where as Elena has movie on to doing “real” journalism. In fact, when you meet her in this game she s also on the hunt for Lazarević as she is trying to document his war crimes. These are two different women who want different things but both know how to achieve their goals. And better yet, Drake isn’t the be-all-end-all to their ability to achive those goals. Chole doesn’t need Drake, She chose to include him. Even when she does need to be “rescued” it turns out that she really didn’t and Drake ends up paying the prices for the assumption that she did.
I do have one issue with the story however: when the idea pops up that Shambhala or the Cintamani Stone might have some magic property’s to them, Drake reacts the same why he did when the idea that El Dorado might be cursed fist came up. After what he went through in the last game, this choice feels a little lazy. This doesn’t really make the story any worse, but I do wish they could have taken another rout. All in all, I had a blast. I loved the slow moments as much as I did the action heave set peaces, I loved the characters and I loved everything about this game.
For the most part Naughty Dog took a “if it’s not broke don’t fix it” approach to the game play, but what they did change made always served to make the game better. Every issue I had with the last game got addressed here and it is all nearly perfect in ever possible way. Like the last game, there are three main things you’ll be doing game play wise: traversal, puzzle solving and combat. I’m mainly going to focus on what’s new in the game, so if you want a basic recap on the over all game play, go check out my review for the the last game.
Traversal: One of my biggest issues with the last game is that nothing was really going on as you moved through out the world. Sure, stuff would break, but you would need to not be paying attention in order for it to really effect you. While this game is a little too lenient as well, the game world does shift around you enough to always force you to pay attention. In the first part of the game, when you are on the derailed train, a pipe brake and swings you around forcing you to platform on another side of the train car. It’s that kind of stuff that really sets this game apart from “Drakes Fortune”. Leniency issues aside, simply having the illusion of danger made these sections much more entertaining than they were in the last game.
Puzzles: In the last game most of the puzzles were variations of “get to the switch and pull it”. There were a few were you had to make sure something or a group of things were facing the right way, but none of these were very clever. The same is some what true for this game as well, but what makes these puzzles so much better is the shear scope of them. My favorite is this huge room were you have to direct a beam of light to the right spot. Even though I had a pretty decent memory of how to complete it, the size of the room I was in the multi-level structure of the puzzle made me take up a good chuck of time getting it done. At the end of the day Naughty Dog still made puzzles anyone can get through and it would be nice to see some that took some real cunning, but the scope at least makes for an interesting display. And that was something the last game never really had with it’s puzzles.
Combat: This is were the fewest tweaks were made. In fact, some I didn’t even realize until someone else brought them up. One of these was the verticality of the combat arena’s. While this was never something I was really thinking about while playing, looking back I can say this definitely made the game more enjoyable. It allowed for more options in combat, as well as making the enemy spawn points more versatile and interesting. It also meant I couldn’t always stay in cover for too long as enemy could get high enough to shoot me anyways. This kept me moving pretty constantly and had my adrenaline running high. Another nice addition is that when blind fire ring there is still ghost reticule that shows you about where your bullets will hit.
Probably my favorite change to the game play are the set peaces. Sure, the last game has set peaces as well, but again its the scope that makes these so much better. One mid game car chase has you leaping from car to car, while still taking down waves on enemy’s. Another, this time on the train, has you having to compensate for the movement of the train while you shoot. Then a military grade helicopter comes out and fires rockets at you.
And the last great change the made was fixing the save points. In the last game the save points would often be just far back to drive me insane. That was never an issue here. Every time I died I was brought back to the exact point I wanted to be. That alone warrants some points with me. In the end, if you played the last game you feel right at home with this game, but there is enough new to not make this feel like an expansion pack.
Game Play: 5/5
Music and Sound:
Really, everything I said about the last game’s music and sound is true hear as well. The entire voice cast is great and the music is perfect. I honestly can’t think of one bad thing to say here. Unfortunately, I can’t think of anything new to say either. But for those who didn’t read my last review, let me simply asure you: this is one of the best voice casts i’ve heard in a game with some of the best music. The gun sounds might not blow your socks off, but they all fit in with the world Naughty Dog has created.
Music and Sound 5/5
Overall Score: 5/5
Who is this game for:
Have you played it yet? If not, this game is for you. If you have, go play it again and thank me latter.