The PlayStation 3 has had a bit of a rough start and in its early days true must own titles were hard to come by. There was one particular game that that proved to PS3 owners that the system was worth owning, Naughty Dog’s Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. A combination of a great story, unique characters and amazing graphics made the game a crown jewel, one that showed off the PS3’s capabilities and let people know that it was for real. Two years later Nathan Drake and crew are back in Naughty Dog’s Uncharted 2: Among Thieves.

I’m going to try and keep this review as spoiler free as possible so I won’t be going in dept in storyline details. Uncharted 2 really is something that you need to experience on your own. Taking place a couple years after the events of the first game, we find rascally Nathan Drake and a couple of fellow treasure hunters planning a search for Marco Polo’s lost fleet. With Drake, nothing is as simple as it should be and we find Nate and the rest of the crew traveling from Istanbul to the jungles of Borneo to the mountains of Nepal. It’s a whirlwind adventure that keeps you engaged through out.

Speaking of the characters, Uncharted 2 features a cast of endearing characters, from Drake’s new love interest Chloe Frazer to past interests like Elena Fisher. Old favorites like Victor “Sully” Sullivan return to give Drake a hand when he can. Then there’s the games principle bad guy, Zorin Lazarevic, who’s hot on the trail of the infamous Cintamani Stone that can only be found in the legendary kingdom of Shambhala, or as it’s most commonly known as Shangri-La. It’s the characters, as well as the story, that really make the game enjoyable.

If you’ve played the first Uncharted, then Uncharted 2 will instantly feel familiar. You’ll be solving puzzles, battling it out in gun fights and navigating through various obstacles. While it may feel like it’s just an extension of the first game there’s more to it, this time Naughty Dog’s managed to mix it up a bit. They’ve even added in a stealth element to the game allowing you to take out enemies and move about without alerting others and being drawn into a shoot out.

The combat is the same for the most part, but the manner in which you’ll fight isn’t as linear as the first game. Previously you fought primarily on flat stages, where Drake would find cover and shoot it out with the enemies. This time around the game is designed to allow for you to traverse the landscape on different levels, whether it’s climbing up a blown out building or jumping onto a perch, you’re not limited to just one level of combat. You can take enemies down from up on high, or by looking them in the eye.

One of my gripes with the first Uncharted was the games aiming mechanism, which I thought was lacking a bit. Thankfully Naughty Dog seemed to have tightened it down a bit and made it more accurate, although it still seems to suffer at times. It’s important to note this because not only does it make the campaign more enjoyable to play, but it also makes co-op and multi-player a lot more tolerable. Yes that’s right, Naughty Dog has included a multi-player element into Uncharted 2 and it’s pretty in depth.

The new multiplayer has several gameplay modes, which can be played on seven maps that are adapted from a scene from the campaign. The level designs vary from very large to somewhat small. There’s your standard team Deathmatch, Elimination, Plunder, and Chain Reaction. Based on your round performance, you’ll gain money which will rank you up accordingly and allow you to purchase various perks. Perks range from better accuracy with pistols to new weapons and skins.

The Matchmaking can use a bit of a tweak though, too often I entered a game where my experience was the lowest in the room by a good 20 levels. Since I had just entered the multi-player aspect I only had a couple rounds under my belt. Being at level two and playing with people that were already at level 23 felt as if I was being thrown into the fire feet first. It takes a couple rounds to get used to the maps and the game mechanics, and being thrown in with players far more advanced didn’t help.

Another new feature in Uncharted 2 is the co-operative play. There’s a survival mode, similar to Gears of War 2’s Horde mode or Halo 3: ODST’s Firefight mode, that pits you and a friend against waves of opponents, where each wave gets stronger the longer you play. You can also play through the campaign in co-op mode with a maximum of three players. One will take on the role of Nathan Drake while the other two will assume the roles of other companions. The multi-player and co-op features are a welcome addition to the game.

One of the biggest things we’ve been hearing, and seeing since it was first announced was how great Uncharted 2 was looking. Now that I’ve gone through the entire campaign I can say with no uncertain terms that Uncharted 2 is the best looking video game I have ever played. The visuals are absolutely breathtaking, from the night skyline of Istanbul to the mountains of Nepal. Everything looks absolutely gorgeous. Watching the action turn to cut scene and back to action was seamless, and since they used the same graphics engine you couldn’t tell the difference.

Not only are the graphic gorgeous, but it’s the little things they did that really stand out. The facial expressions of the characters, their fluid movements and even scenes were little kids are blushing really make the game feel real. The lighting in the game really brought out the detail and realism to the various environments. The amount of detail and attention that was poured into every scene is impressive. There were time I literally stopped what I was doing just to look around at the scenery and take it all in.

Another great feature was the voice actors, who really brought the characters to life. Nolan North and Emily Rose reprise their roles as Drake and Elena, and newcomer Claudia Black ramps up the sex appeal for Chloe with her great English accent. Rounding out the case was Rene Auberjonois, Steve Valentine, Graham McTavish and Richard McGonagle, who all put in impressive roles. Their portrayals of their characters really brought the game to life.

It’s rare that I heap so much praise on a Playstation 3 exclusive, but like its predecessor, Uncharted 2 deserves every ounce. Naughty Dog has taken the game to the limits and given players a cinematic experience. And one hell of a game. If you own a PS3 then you owe it to yourself to pick this game up, if you’re thinking of buying one make sure you get the game when you finally take the plunge. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is easily one of 2009’s best games, and perhaps of all time.