One minute you're sipping a beer on a tropical island, the next you're running across a speeding train in the Alps dodging helicopter rockets all in search of one of the greatest treasures in history. Such is the life of Nathan Drake, the protagonist of "Uncharted 2: Among Thieves," the sequel to the 2007 Playstation 3 hit "Uncharted: Drake's Fortune."
"Uncharted 2" manages to heighten the already pulse-raising sense of adventure that came with the first game through exceptional platforming, combat and set pieces that covey a sense of grandeur that seems more at home on the silver screen. The games few flaws -- its sometimes frustratingly linear progression and unnatural boss fights -- are more than overshadowed by outright fun.
The second installment has an even more ambitious worldwide scope than the first as Drake romps through jungles, snowy caves and precarious mountain passes in a race against a predictably evil rival. Predictability, as it turns out, is one of the plot's greatest faults. Players will find themselves thinking a few steps ahead of most of the various betrayals and twists, but the story's delivery is so smooth most won't care.
It's obvious there was a lot of thought and time put into the story side of "Uncharted 2" as the voice acting and scripting are heads above most action games.
While the cast is as stereotypical as the plot -- the evil Russian mercenary, the beautiful-but-deadly fellow treasure hunter, the grizzled-but-affable old adventurer and of course the unavoidable comparison between Drake and Indiana Jones -- it's again in their delivery that any eye-rolling is lost.
They may be saying lines like "X marks the spot!" but their interactions are so natural and clever it all seems at home in Drake's world.
The characters do more than talking, however. They also shoot guns -- a lot of guns.
Drake and his companions will have to wade through waves and waves of enemies on their quest, but "Uncharted 2" forces the player to have at least a semblance of strategy.
Before the gun battle erupts, Drake can often dispatch several enemies by employing stealth and one of several instant take down moves. Those stealthy sections morph seamlessly into action sequences, however, when Drake is spotted creeping around by a guard that suddenly unleashes a barrage of bullets and alerting his comrades. While generally solid, the artificial intelligence is not the brightest here, sometimes allowing Drake to stomp around almost comically close to his enemies without being noticed.
Once the firing starts, it's all about taking cover as standing in the open will bring a swift end to Drake's treasure hunting days. The cover system can be frustrating at times.
Often a player will attempt to lead Drake out of cover and through an entrance, only to have him spin across the opening and to the other side where he slips back into cover. Another attempt could send him spinning back to where he started. Several attempts later Drake, presumably weary and dizzy at this point, may actually make it down the hallway. What seems like a small problem becomes a rather large one when several men with shotguns bear down on our hero.
Since mowing down a limited type of enemy can get repetitive, "Uncharted 2" also features a few engaging combat sequences where Drake fights from moving trains and trucks to raise some pulses.