Wednesday, 1 May 2013

PS3 Catch-Up: Uncharted 2: Amongst Thieves

One of the best things of arriving late to the PlayStation 3 scene is not having to wait years for a sequel. Being able to jump straight from Uncharted: Drakes Fortune and straight in to Uncharted 2: Amongst Thieves is like watching a whole season of your favourite TV show in one sitting. It doesn't get better than this.

Uncharted 2 sees the return of everyone's favourite roguish fortune hunter. No not Indy! the other one Nathan Drake! Set 2 years after Drake's Fortune. Among Thieves sees Nate travel the world in search of Marco Polo's lost fleet and hopefully the lost city of Shambhala. Of course, Nate is joined on this quest by Sully and Elena, but this time he is joined by Chloe Frazer, his current lady friend, and Harry Flynn, a long time associate of Nate and Sully. Naturally there is a bad guy in the mix and this time it is in the form of Serbian war criminal, Zoran Lazarevic, a particularly vicious and determined man who will stop at nothing to find the secret of Shambhala.

Rather than starting at nice sedate pace, the game opens to find Drake, badly injured, sat in a train carriage that has gone over the edge of a mountain. After, clambering up the train wreckage and narrowly escaping (again) being flattened in a train pancake, Nathan makes to the edge of the cliff only to find himself alone and wandering through the snow with little protection. There is only one thing for him to do and that's flashback to a tropical beach resort several months earlier. Here we catch up with Chloe and Harry as they approach Nate about helping them to "acquire" a mongolian oil lamp from a museum in Istanbul. The lamp may hold the secret to the whereabouts of Marco Polo's lost fleet.

Off to Istanbul and once the trio of fortune hunters get the lamp, Flynn double crosses Nate and leaves him in a Turkish prison for 3 months, until Sully and Chloe can arrange for his release. So begins the global chase to find the mysterious Cintamani Stone and gain access to the mythical city of Shambhala. After a quick dash to Borneo and a run in with Lazarevic's private army. The chase leads Nate to Nepal in search of a temple in the middle of a war torn city, which just so happens to be filled with temples. Drake manages to figure out the location to the temple, bumps into old flame Elena (from the first game) and then its off to the Himalayas via a quick train chase. This brings all the way back to beginning of the game, finding Drake injured on board the wrecked train, hanging off the side of a mountain.

Seeing as Nathan is possibly the luckiest man on the planet. It will come as no surprise that after passing out in the snow, instead of freezing to death, he is found by a passing Sherpa. Waking in a village and reuniting with Elena, Nate is taken to the local wise man. Who turns out to be a German named Schafer. Schafer sends him on a mission to find the remains of Schafer's original expedition. Things end up with Nate and his Sherpa sidekick being attacked by Yeti like creatures. When they return to the village, Lazarevic has turned up and destroyed the village and kidnapped Schafer, believing that the old man knows how to enter Shambhala.

Cue the final showdown, with Nate, Elena and Chloe racing to the temple to rescue Schafer and bring Lazarevic down. They gain entry into Shambhala, with Lazarevic in hot pursuit. Things all end up with the usual fight to death and resulting destruction of said mythical city.

What Uncharted 2 does best is take all of what is great from the first game and ramp it up to 11. Halfway through the game you enter an iconic sequence that is the train chase sequence. The level sees Nate trying to fight and climb his way from the back of a speeding train to the front. The action never slows down and the adrenaline constantly pumps. Indiana Jones never came close to generating this level of exctitement. You control Nate as he clambers along the side of carriages, avoiding signs narrowly skimming past. Then ducking behind whatever cover you can find and taking out another squad of trained mercs. It all culminates in a helicopter gunship attacking the train and a massive crash. The whole sequence is spectacular and is one of the finest action experiences in video gaming so far.

Where some games may treat that as their highpoint of the game and go into cruise control for the rest of the game, Naughty Dog decide to throw in a mountain top truck chase as well. With players forced to fight enemies all whilst hopping from truck to truck whilst they are speeding on the edge of mountain. Where it does fail to match the intensity of the Train sequence, it is still an amazing experience and one that wouldnt feel out of place in a Hollywood blockbuster.

As for the rest of the game, well it is a case of more of the same, but much better. The combat is more fluid and although I miss the use of sixaxis for throwing grenades, I can understand why it wasn't a popular feature in the first. Platforming is just as good as the first with plenty of thrills and scrapes as Nate clambers up walls, street lights and neon signs. The one thing that shines out though is the stellar voice work. Nolan North adds so much character to Nathan and makes him the lovable rogue that he is. With the addition of Claudia Black (of Farscape and Pitch Black) as the voice of fiery Chloe and even Odo (Rene Auberjoius) as the voice of Schafer, the whole cinematic feel is boosted by their performances.

To sum up, Uncharted 2; Among Thieves is one of the best action titles I have ever played and I can't wait to get my teeth into Uncharted 3: Drakes Deception. Oh here it is right on my desk! Ah the joys of not waiting.

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