Uncharted 2: Among Thieves – First Impressions

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves released yesterday to amazing reviews and as someone who enjoyed the original, I simply had to pick the game up. This game truly deserves the reviews that it is getting. It is one of the best action / puzzle / platforming games that has come out in a very long time. The environments are absolutely gorgeous, the dialog is well done and the cutscenes feel more cinematic that any game I have played. The game plays very much like the original Uncharted, with you playing Nate Drake as he travels through various locations, climbing and shooting his way past obstacles. While I didn’t finish the original game, I did enjoy it quite a bit and am very happy I picked up the sequel.

The things this game has done right are the lighting, environments, cutscenes, animation and voice acting. The shadows are beautifully done and really enhance the already spectacular environments. At the moment, I am running along the rooftops of a Nepalese town and every now and then I get a chance to see the whole city from above. This is amazing every time I see it. Each building is detailed and the view is spectacular. Standing on top of a hotel roof while looking out at all the houses, markets and temples, plus the tree covered mountains and lake in the distance, is something to see. This scene came after an already amazing sequence in a Turkish city and the jungles of Borneo. Not only are the locations beautifully crafted, they are also quite varied.

The cutscenes, animations and voice acting are also very well done. Unlike most games I have played, these characters look, act and speak like real people. The cutscenes aren’t “good, for a video game”, but just plain good. People talk naturally and move about while talking. They don’t stare unnaturally at each other and don’t always wait for someone to stop talking before speaking. They give a good story much more life to it by being realistic. The story itself is well done, starting off with Drake near death after a train crash on a snowy mountain, and then backtracing his story of betrayals and backstabbing to lead up to where he is and what happened. The pacing is superb, constantly feeding me new bits of information about Drake’s story.

The annoyances of this game are a sometimes difficult camera and weapon management system. The camera is usually just where you need it to be, but on occasion I have to fight to get it in place, which can be particularly awkward if I am also trying to move and jump. Weapon management may have been artificially harder than it should be due to my drinking while playing, but it seemed often annoying to pick up ammo or pick up new weapons. During a gunfight, with so much on the ground, I would run around trying to gather more ammo but occasionally pick up a new weapon instead and find myself quickly out of ammo with that new weapon. I lost one big gunfight in Borneo trying to get ammo before the next wave, only to accidentally pick up the wrong weapon.

Even with its few annoyances, this is a fantastic game that starts off the 2009 holiday season in an epic way. I don’t know if any of this season’s games can top this one, but there is no shame in being inferior to Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, because this game is truly Game of the Year material.

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