Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. This game deserves every award it has won, which is quite a large number.
I was hesitant, after the unimpressive original Uncharted, which I found to be clumsy and cliche, though had a few unique mechanics I could appreciate. It was one of the first games to be released on the PS3 but I don’t think the developers understood how powerful the system really was.
Uncharted 2 takes every concern I had about the original and addresses it. And then some.
In terms of graphics, this is a stellar example of the power of the PS3. The characters look much more alive this time around and the environments are breathtaking. At one point you’re in a city in Nepal and you’ve made it a warzone pretty much, but I couldn’t help but stop and just look at the details. Paper flying in the wind, desks that you can turn over and use for cover, signs and billboards that you can climb up to get to a higher vantage point… It was stunning.
The variety of environments has been dramatically increased. Uncharted 1 was essentially just a jungle. Here, you have urban warfare in Nepal, snowcapped mountains, lush jungles, and some incredible ruins. Water effects are amazing (I hurled myself into waterfalls on more than one occasion, thus dying). It was worth it.
Combat has also been improved. The gun fights felt more natural and (even though it’s 3rd person) felt more like traditional first-person shooters. And I actually found ways to use melee combat. Stealth kills had more of a role, allowing me to sneak up and throw people from rooftops or choke them out and take their weapon. The first game was hard to get close without raising alarms, but this allows for more stealth. But luckily they didn’t turn the stealth into a necessity. I hate games that force stealth and if someone sees you, you have to restart. I hate that so much. Luckily here, you can still run in with guns blazing (if you wanted).
I also appreciate the story and acting more in this outing. I might be bias since two new voice actors were added that I happen to love. Claudia Black was added to the cast, known mostly for her roles on Farscape and the last few seasons of Stargate: SG1 (and known less for her role as Morrigan in Dragon Age: Origins, though that’s why I love her). Another Dragon Age alumni shows up, Steve Valentine (who voiced Alistair, reluctant prince). Both of these voices were highly recognizable but worked incredibly well in this story.
In Uncharted 1, things go bananas towards the end and we start fighting zombies. Well, things get a little weird in this one too, but the developers didn’t bash us over the head. They introduced a new villain for a few fights but didn’t try to reinvent the game partway through. It felt much less intrusive this time around.
This game was pretty incredible. Traversing terrain felt much more natural (at least closer to Assassin’s Creed) and gunplay was pretty spot-on. The cinematic feeling of the game made me feel apart of the world and I couldn’t tell cinematic movie from gameplay (the cutscenes were actually made with the gameplay engine). Every new scene felt different and exciting. I can understand completely why this game won so many Game of the Year awards last year.
It was breathtaking.