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Clearly inspired by action adventure films among other sources, the first Uncharted is a solid action adventure game with high production values. It’s not flawless, it does have its problems but the gameplay is fun for the most part and I liked the story and characters. It was followed up by a sequel that aimed to be bigger and better and more exciting. Developed by Naughty Dog and published by Sony Computer Entertainment, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves was released for PlayStation 3 in October, 2009. It was remastered along with the first game and Uncharted 3 as part of Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection, released for PlayStation 4 in October, 2015. For this review, I played the PlayStation 4 version on a PlayStation 5. I’ve played through the campaign two or three times before including the remastered version around the time it came out and whenever I hear the name “Uncharted”, this is the game I immediately think of.
Shortly before Nathan Drake, the protagonist from the first game, is double-crossed by a former associate, they discover the treasure they were after contains a map revealing Marco Polo’s shipwrecked fleet from his voyage in 1292 and that they were carrying the Cintamani Stone from the fabled city of Shambhala. Uncharted 2 centers on Nate’s quest to prevent a war criminal from finding the stone and obtaining its power. The campaign took me a little over sixteen hours to beat and it did manage to keep me engaged from beginning to end. The plot actually follows the same formula as the first game. Nate learns of an ancient treasure and then sets out on a quest to find it and is hindered by criminals and other beings along the way. It retains the cinematic qualities of the first game and contains excellent writing backed up by phenomenal voice performances. Uncharted 2 does feature some familiar faces and much of the banter between the characters is humorous.
Unfortunately, this remastered version does not contain the multiplayer component that was present in the original so all you get is the campaign. Luckily, the campaign is beefy and the game has a good amount of replay value. Just like the previous remastered entry, Uncharted 2 Remastered does feature a Speed Run mode and numerous difficulty levels including Brutal which is new to the remaster and must be unlocked. Progressing through the campaign and finding treasure does unlock various rewards and certain rewards are unlocked by completing the game on harder difficulties.
Uncharted 2 is a story-driven linear action adventure title and third-person shooter filled with set pieces, scripted sequences, action-packed encounters, and many exciting moments. One complaint I have is that it starts out a little too slow for my liking. The first two chapters are essentially designed to show you the mechanics and the second chapter forces stealth upon you. As in if you get caught, you must restart from the last checkpoint. After that, things start to pick up and get really exciting and fun. These two chapters are also clearly written to set up some major plot points and being story-driven game, I can somewhat forgive the slow start.
You’ll get to run around and shoot a lot of baddies in Uncharted 2 and if you’re not running and gunning, you’ll be jumping, climbing and solving simple puzzles. Controlling Nate works just like it did in the previous remastered entry which also means some of the same issues are carried over. Getting around can sometimes be finicky and I missed certain jumps despite being certain I was pushing the stick in the right direction. But for the most part I didn’t have too much trouble controlling Nate.
I consider Uncharted 2 a third-person shooter first and foremost and despite how exciting the action can be and how much there is, the campaign does contain some lengthy periods of downtime. There’s two back-to-back chapters in particular that have you jumping, climbing, and swinging around in typical Uncharted fashion. There’s nothing wrong with this per se but I do feel it goes on a little too long and considering Nate is magnetized to whatever he’s able to grab onto and that the environments are very linear, there’s nothing very exciting or challenging gameplay-wise about these areas. It’s usually always clear where you need to go and what you can grab onto so there’s nothing to figure out. It’s just very straightforward and simple.
Most of the challenge in this game is found in the combat and not in navigation or puzzle solving. That said, the combat has been refined and Nate will get his hands on more weapons this time around including new assault rifles, handguns, a tranquilizer gun, minigun, crossbow, and rocket launcher. You can also pick up and use riot shields as well as hurl propane tanks at a foes before blowing them up. Nate can perform melee attacks, combos and counters and performing stealth kills can force enemies to drop more ammo and grenades.
The gunplay is satisfying and the difficulty does ramp up nicely as you progress. Enemies aren’t over-animated like they were in the first game but explosions and certain weapons can send bodies flying. There’s not much gore but some blood does appear when enemies are shot. Foes do exhibit average intelligence and there are several more dangerous types than that of the previous game. In fact, Uncharted 2 features a decent variety of enemy types and more tougher foes are thrown you as you progress. The mix of different types will always keep you on your toes. It’s often wise to prioritize certain foes over others like snipers and guys with riot shields moving straight towards you.
There’s two primary enemy factions – soldiers and Shambhala Guardians. Soldiers come in a variety of types and are the enemies you’ll face throughout most of the game. You’ll engage typical goons, snipers, and others that carry deadlier firepower like grenade and rocket launchers. The Shambhala Guardians make up what I’ll call the supernatural enemies in the game, much like the Descendants in the previous entry. Unfortunately, encounters with them are not always enjoyable in my opinion simply because they’re bullet sponges and that’s all they are. But it is cool when you approach an area where soldiers and guardians are engaged in battle. It’s fun sitting back and watching the carnage.
What really makes the combat and Uncharted 2 as whole exciting is the situations and set pieces. You’ll engage enemies on a moving train, you’ll be chased through a village by a tank, and at one point you’ll have to jump from vehicle to vehicle as you’re being shot at from multiple directions. But even when it’s just your typical third-person shooter stuff, you’ll get to engage enemies in a lot of diverse locations like a jungle, on city streets, across rooftops, and around a monastery among other areas. You’ll shoot and climb your way through a lot of buildings and structures. Taking cover is very important, especially on the higher difficulties and when you get towards the end of the game where heavily armored dudes with miniguns that can rip Nate to shreds are more prevalent.
Uncharted 2 will frequently mix things up and throw something new at you all the way to end whether it’s a new area, new enemy type, or an exciting set piece. Luckily, the encounters in Uncharted 2 do not feel as repetitive as those in the previous entry. Sometimes the game does throw waves of enemies at you but that’s not the norm. Some environments are very vertical which makes for some fun and interesting firefights and bigger battles are usually set in more open areas with plenty of objects to use as cover and sometimes multiple ways to get around. You will often have to keep moving because foes will try to flush you out with grenades, you’ll have to roll and stay behind cover to evade snipers, and guys with grenade and rocket launchers can drop you pretty quickly if you’re not paying attention.
The campaign will take you to various locations including Istanbul, Borneo, and Nepal. From city streets to snowy mountains, the game contains an excellent variety of environments which not only keeps things visually interesting but also helps convey a great sense of scale. As mentioned earlier, the environments are very linear and there’s always a specific way to progress forward. Taking the time to look around will lead you to weapons, ammo, and treasure which acts as a form of collectible. There are a few puzzles that you will need to solve and just like the first game, they’re not very difficult and you can reference a journal which will give you the solutions.
Visually, Uncharted 2 looks phenomenal on PlayStation 3 and this remaster looks even better. It’s also presented at 1080p and comes with a photo mode. The game is colorful and vibrant and the environments are exceptionally well crafted and feature a lot of detail and gorgeous backdrops like distant snow-covered mountains and ravaged buildings in Nepal. Despite being focused on the action, it was hard for me not stop and look around to admire my surroundings from time to time. From what I understand, the performances in the game were motion captured by the actors, which results in more realistic animations. I don’t know if the enemies were motion captured but as mentioned earlier they’re not as over-animated as those in first game. Visual effects like muzzle flashes and explosions look good and smoke puffs appear as a result of bullet impacts on surfaces and these effects are accompanied by satisfying sounds of weapons and explosions. The soundtrack is full of some great orchestral tunes that do a great job at building tension and enhancing the action. On the technical side, the game ran at a smooth sixty frames and I did not notice any dips or encounter any noticeable bugs.
Uncharted 2 is one of the greatest sequels I’ve ever played. If you were to ask me what my favorite action adventure game is, Uncharted 2 would definitely be at the top of the list or at least in the top five as of this review. I love the story, I love the characters, and I love the sense of adventure and scale. I also love the action. It’s the environments, situations, and set pieces that make it stand out. If you strip out everything surrounding the combat, it would be a typical third-person shooter. But when you’re hanging on things and shooting enemies or engaged in a firefight as the building or platform you’re on is collapsing or running through a village evading gunfire and tank shells – it’s these kinds of things that make it all exciting. No encounter feels bland or uninteresting. Whether it’s a set piece or specific mix of enemy types, there’s always something interesting going on with the action. A lot of the excitement is scripted but it plays out in a way that feels fun. Playing Uncharted 2 is like playing through a big budget action adventure film. It has high production values and is a feast for the eyes and ears.
Like anything else, Uncharted 2 is not perfect. The finicky jumping and climbing can sometimes be annoying, I feel the action slows down for a little too long at certain points, and like the first game, the supernatural element doesn’t add anything fun to the gameplay. As it relates to the latter, I’m of course talking about the Guardian enemies. They’re just bullet sponges that can kill you quickly if you’re not careful and can force you to drain through a lot of ammo. Luckily, they don’t appear very often. I would say all of these issues can easily be ignored because the game has so many other great qualities.
I would absolutely recommend Uncharted 2 to anyone. I think the original game is one of the best games for PlayStation 3 and I think this remastered version for PlayStation 4 is the definitive way to experience the campaign. It is a shame the multiplayer was removed from the remaster but the lengthy campaign, multiple difficulty levels, and rewards should keep you occupied for a while. Definitely check it out.