Our Editor-in-Chief has a big video game collection consisting of retro and modern games. This is the second installment of his Collection Chronicles as he reviews games he’s completed from his video game library. Enjoy!
I liked the first installment of the Uncharted series. I finished it quite a while ago and I recall enjoying my first play through of the classic PS3-era game. Some would argue that if it wasn’t for the first Uncharted the PS3, a console that started out on a shaky $600 floor, was the game that made people purchase a PS3, and those people wouldn’t be wrong.
Even though the first game should be lauded over as a great early first party game for the PS3, Uncharted: Drake’s Tale wasn’t perfect and suffered through it’s fair share of flaws, but it’s success led to the development of the second chapter in Drake’s quest for more old dusty relics in Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. A game, dare I say, that is almost perfect from beginning to end.
Uncharted 2 builds off of the foundation of the first release by giving you a noticeably improved story, even better characters, and more locales to traverse. It’s better put together in almost every conceivable way. It is a textbook lesson on how to develop a sequel that surpasses the first installment by a margin that would even impress Batman if he was an actual living, breathing, psychologically disturbed millionaire that dressed up as a giant bat. That is how impressive Uncharted 2 is, it would impress a real life Batman if he existed. Do you realize how hard it would be to impress a REAL LIFE Batman?!
I apologize for that lapse in writing judgment. I mean you obviously don’t understand how difficult it would be to impress a LIVING, BREATHING, SNARLING Batman like Uncharted 2 would mostly certainly do.
We can now move on from this terrible attempt at an analogy.
Drake’s second adventure gives us much better set pieces than the deep and dreary jungle you spend most of your time traveling in the first release. Even from the opening moments of the game, you know you are going to be in for a great adventure that will give you a much wider palette of areas to enjoy. You do get some jungle, but you also get snow covered hills, desert villages, and rocky mountain sides. The game does a good job of pacing these out where you don’t feel like you stay in one setting for too long. This made the game continue to feel fresh, something I found lacking in the first game. This may be the biggest improvement over the first game because it was such a glaring problem to me.
Naughty Dog also gave us some fresh characters to go along with some old favorites. Drake is always better when he has other heathens to converse with and the addition of Harry Flynn and Chloe Frazier, two old friends from Drake’s past, gives the first part of the game this 1960s caper film vibe that I really enjoyed. Drakes interaction with both throughout the game is great, and it leads to some good story moments as you work your way through the narrative. The addition of Chloe and Harry along with the return of another person from Drake’s past helps the story come across as more enjoyable than the first one did.
One of my favorite new characters in the game was a Tibetan villager named Tenzin. Tenzin saves Drake from dying in the frosty Tibetan mountains and speaks not lick of English. The parts of the game where Drake and Tenzin are traveling together lets the writers really get in some great one lines for Drake due to Tenzin lack of English skills. I found myself smirking and laughing my way through these chapters and was sad to see the kind natured Tenzin go once it was time for Drake to move on to the next part of his adventure.
The controls and “cover and shoot” mechanics are improved. The shooting especially seems a bit more fluid and I felt more in control of the weapon I was creating chaos with. I’m a terrible shot, so I didn’t try many weapons that had scarce ammo. I’m the classic “I’m using this gun the whole game because I can just spray bullets and hope I hit something” player. Of the weapons that usually lacked a refill past its initial ammo, the grenade launcher quickly became my favorite. Seeing all the bad guys I dispatch with the weapon flying through the area like a drunk Peter Pan was beyond satisfying. I also found I enjoyed when the shootouts occurred as they appeared to more spaced out than the first game. They didn’t seem to drag as much as I remembered the first installment doing, but that may because they tended to change terrain during them as well. Instead of what seemed like endless tunnels of bad guys, the developers would move from enclosed shooting, up to a rooftop, then down a number of stairwells, and out into an open town square. It made combat a bit more challenging instead of just moving to the next wooden crate or stone wall to take on your next set of bad guys.
The big action sequences were also ramped up a bit more. One of my favorites in the game was when you have to jump from truck to truck during a shoot out late in the game. It was smooth and intense as you had to quickly dispatch of the gunman in the truck in front or beside of you before your current four wheeled death chariot’s motor blew up. Another one found you running down an ally way with a military grade vehicle of violence coming after Drake, who was on foot and shooting back at the vehicle to, hopefully, pump it full of enough bullets for it to do its best flaming fireball impression. And, for the sake of spoilers, I won’t even touch on the intensity driven craziness of the last ten minutes of the final chapter. And most of these moments didn’t always rely too heavily on quick time events, a staple of the first one. In fact, the only one of the above that had one was the alleyway scene. The rest was pure straight gameplay. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are still plenty of quick time events to be had, but the developers put them in places where they made sense and didn’t interfere with a the flow of the game as much. As much as we all complain about this gameplay mechanic now, Naughty Dog did a pretty good job of placing them in the right spots and not leaning on them too heavily like the first one.
The game still has some problems that carried over from the Drake’s Tale. The camera can still be a pain at times as it can get caught at angles where you can’t figure out where you are on the screen. It isn’t as bad as the first installments camera woes, but it can still be a bit of a hinderance in spots. The camera often surprised me at how much freedom it gave me to adjust compared to the the first one, which showed me how much of an effort they made to improve it, but there was still some frustration to be had.
The climbing sections, though improved, did sometimes have the same issues as the first in distinguishing where I could climb and jump in order to progress to whatever lever or switch I had to get to. I will be the first to admit that I’m terrible at games and can sometimes make the simplest tasks harder than what they should be, but there was still times I found myself not entirely clear on where I was supposed to go. I want to make clear it wasn’t near as bad as the first one, but there were still those times where I would fall to my death because I thought I could grab or swing from a piece of the environment and I ultimately found out that wasn’t the case.
One of my biggest disappointments was some of the “boss fights” in the game. I wasn’t terribly impressed with them and often found myself having more issues with the large number of bad guys that accompanied whatever military grade vehicle you were trying to blow up. I know the game is a bit more entrenched in reality then most games, but they were just a bit underwhelming. The one that I can remember enjoying the most was fighting a helicopter while advancing on a moving train. It was a unique battle that was innovative, challenging, and fun as you tried to keep moving up the train all while picking your spots to try and put some damage on the helicopter that was trying kill you. It was a neat sequence and one of my favorite parts of the whole game.
I did play the game on the Uncharted HD Collection instead of the original released on the PS3. The HD visuals were gorgeous and there were some scenes that were beautiful to see. Part of me wishes I would have played it on the original hardware so I could see how big of a graphical difference there was between this and Drake’s Tale, but I can report that Among Thieves looks great in HD.
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves gave us a much better game that learned from most of the first one’s mistakes. The more cohesive story combined with smoother shooting mechanics and the better environments make this game a must own. If you have already played it, like most Sony console owners probably have, or if you haven’t got around to it yet, I highly recommend the Uncharted Collection on PS4 as a great way to experience the whole series. If you’re still hanging on to your PS3, don’t hesitate to pick this game up on the cheap. You won’t regret it.