Uncharted 2 may not be innovative but it is put together so well that it sets the standard for action-adventure games

User Rating: 9.5 | Uncharted 2: Among Thieves PS3
The gaming world was first introduced to Nathan Drake in 2007's Uncharted: Drake's Fortune. This arrogant but likeable treasure hunter could do just about everything-he could solve complex puzzles, scale across rooftops, climb stone walls, take down a small army of foes single-handily, stealthily dispatch lone goons, and of course, charm the ladies. In Among Thieves, everything that was loved about the original game is back but tweaked just enough to make the controls tighter, the story deeper, the world bigger, the scenery more lush and the action faster and more intense. While many sequels seem to rest on the laurels of what the original game did right without beefing up new elements, Among Thieves has the ideal balance of familiar gameplay with a healthy dose of improvements. Nathan has once again found himself involved in an epic adventure, this time working with series newcomers Flynn and Chloe in search of Marco Polo's missing fleet and the treasure it was rumored to contain. Complicating matters is the fact that a war criminal with a private army is trying to beat him to the same treasure. It's up to Drake to do what he does best; use his brain and his brawn to make his way through precarious situation after situation and prove that there really is such a thing as honor among thieves.

GAMEPLAY (9.0) - The basic gameplay in Among Thieves is similar to that of Drake's Fortune but plenty of tweaks have been made to improve the experience. Melee combat has been adjusted to a simple system of hitting and countering. No longer is there the worry about button combinations during a heated firefight; if the need arises one can quickly take down an enemy by hand. Additionally, there will be instances during which being more subtle is beneficial and Nate can sneak up behind foes or or grab them from behind cover and eliminate them silently with improved stealth maneuvers. When it comes to gunfights the cover mechanics have been improved for both Nate and his foes. Among Thieves features extremely competent enemy AI and foes will hide, fire blindly, and generally do what they can to avoid being killed. Nate's companions will also be quite helpful, which is a nice change of pace from many video games with AI-controlled partners. They are skilled with guns and know how to assist Nate without getting in his way. The waves of enemies that constantly appear in some areas can get a little monotonous but it never seemed to get as carried away as the original.

Once again Nathan Drake will have a lot of areas to explore, which means plenty of climbing and platforming. One of the biggest changes in Among Thieves, though, is the variety of environments Nate will traverse on his latest journey. Instead of the same lush green jungle, the game takes to snow-covered mountains, war-torn villages, and a well-guarded museum, to name just a few locales. Platforming elements like pipes, bars, and climbable bricks usually stand out pretty well, but it is easy to confuse part of the background with something Nate needs to reach, which can cause a bit of trial and error gameplay at times. This can be particularly annoying when a leap is attempted over a gap that was assumed to be a climbable section, only to bounce off the wall and fall to Nate's death. Just like the first game, there are times when the camera won't align itself properly during a platforming segment, turning simple jumps into leaps of faith. However, with checkpoints generously scattered throughout the game, this is hardly much of a setback.

The puzzles in Among Thieves are few and far between, though Nate will have to rely on his trusty journal from time to time. The journal itself is a prime example of the attention to detail in this game-there are plenty of pages that feature doodlings and pictures of Nathan's companions and story elements, along with humorous comments. This guide will also assist in puzzle completion, though the book doesn't open right up to the information needed. These segments are a nice change of pace from combat and platforming, and add even more variety to the gameplay.

GRAPHICS (9.5) - The first game was a visual triumph, and the sequel once again sets the bar for this generation's graphical capabilities. Nathan moves through water or snow with realistic effects; water ripples in reaction, while snow sticks to his boots and pants. The environments are stunning, and players will find themselves just panning the camera around, trying to take it all in. The character models are excellent with a great amount of attention to detail, adding to the cinematic feel of the game. Not only do the cut-scene moments capture emotions that haven't been seen or attempted in a video game, the gameplay moments are no slouches either. It can actually be difficult to know when one is controlling Nate and when the player can sit back and just watch because of the delicately animated movements and faces. There must have been long motion capture sessions and animation tweaks to perfect the fluidity of the game and how one can transition between stealth, action and puzzle solving without ever realizing it.

AUDIO (9.5) - The soundtrack is appropriately epic, with a score that seems to suit each scene perfectly, and the sound effects also intensify the adventure. Each of the voice actors behind the characters breathe personality in each scene of the game. The addition of Claudia Black to the mix as Chloe simply adds to the already great mix of voice acting. One of the small touches that makes Uncharted 2 endear itself more is when the characters will chat with each other while scaling walls, shooting enemies or looking for the next path to take. They aren't always deep conversations, usually just small quips or funny remarks, but these moments add another layer of believability as the game unfolds to the dramatic conclusion.

VALUE (9.5) - Uncharted 2 took me just under 15 hours to complete, an impressive amount of time for a game that is pretty much non-stop action. There's almost always something new to unlock, be it a bonus trailer, a character skin for use online and off, or one of the more interesting items such as the 'no gravity mode', which makes certain objects (the most amusing being dead bodies) slowly float off up and away. These are bought with money earned in single and multiplayer modes, and are so numerous that the replay value is vast. There is also a fully featured multiplayer mode. On top of standard multiplayer modes there is a co-op survival mode that has been made popular by games like Gears of War 2 and Halo 3: ODST. The game will track all your stats and the more ranks you achieve in the competitive modes, the more unlockables you'll receive. Then there's the cinema mode, slightly like the theatre mode in Halo 3. Each online match is saved to watch again and again.

SUMMARY - Uncharted 2 is easily one of the best games released on the Playstation 3 as well as one of the best releases across any platform in this or in previous generations. This game is spectacular, featuring hours of fun and the visual impact of a blockbuster movie without the bad acting. It's a stellar example of a third-person action title, or just action games in general, and if you've got a PS3 I can think of no reason why this should not be at the top of