Combat is just one half of what Uncharted 2 has to offer, with around half the game comprised of exploration and platforming, with a little bit of puzzle solving thrown in too. The puzzles really aren't very taxing, with Nate's journal usually holding the key, but the leaping about high above the ground gameplay is excellent and comparable to what we've seen recently in the Tomb Raider series. Platforming in Uncharted 2 never poses as much challenge as the trickiest sections in Eidos' most recent Lara Croft outing, but it's still great fun. Nate moves around so fluidly that clambering up walls, shimmying along ledges and hanging onto giant cogs is never a chore, and should you find yourself stuck the game will offer helpful hints at the press of a button.
Many games get all the basics right, but it's the stand-out moments that often set them apart from the competition. Uncharted 2 is no exception, with thrilling sequences coming thick and fast - glorious set-pieces and production values that rival the best the system has to offer. Particular highlights on a list too long to detail include a breathtaking sequence on-board a train and a wondrous exploration sequence inside the most stunning caves ever to grace a video game. At times it's hard not to just stop and stare and what's in front of you, marvelling at the detail packed into every scene. The original Uncharted set a new benchmark for visuals on the PS3 and Uncharted 2 might even have surpassed its successor, Killzone 2.
Across the board Uncharted 2 screams quality. Visually it's top of its class, but Naughty Dog hasn't skimped on audio production either. The excellent voice cast of the original returns, along with a few newcomers, each delivering their lines in a natural fashion that is still rare in video games. It's the soundtrack that really shines the most, though, and could easily have been lifted from the best adventure movies. The game knows just when to change the mood or highlight a moment, and even the game's title screen gets you in the mood for some epic exploring. I encountered a few unfortunate moments in which Nate would glitch through walls, and sometimes he would hover and "fall" to his death, despite being mere feet from the ground. However, these are few and far between, and in no way hurt what is one of the most well produced games available.
With a campaign that's at least eight hours in length (a good few more for most people who don't simply rush through) and begging to be played through a second time, as well as tons of unlockables to buy from the in-game store, very few people would have complained had Uncharted 2 been entirely a single-player experience. It's not just a single-player experience, though, with a fully-fledged online multiplayer component included too, featuring competitive and co-op game modes. Competitive modes see up to 10 players forming teams of five across seven maps and various game modes, including Deathmatch, Plunder (similar to capture the flag), Elimination (no re-spawning deathmatch) and Chain Reaction (capture the flag, but with flags needing to be taken in a set order).
These are all great fun and there's a CoD-like perk system that lets you use in-game credits to buy new special abilities. It's the co-op modes that we had most fun with, though, with up to three players fending off waves of enemies or working together to collect gold. Fallen players can be revived if a team-mate can get to them in time, but the impressive enemy AI makes reaching them incredibly tricky. Enemies don't simply sit back and wait for you to come to them, with their mentality being to flush you out should no movement be made. First come the grenades, then they'll push right up into your cover zone, often circling behind you if they can get there unnoticed. It all makes for some thrilling gameplay and should see the game have legs for months - extra content through DLC also seems like a certainty.
Uncharted 2 does so many things right, that its problems (a less than perfect cover system, some frustrating combat and unfortunate glitches) are easy to overlook. The single-player adventure packs in so many incredible moments that you'll be talking about it with friends for months, the multiplayer functionality is superb and rammed with content, and the whole game looks beyond anything you'll have seen before. Uncharted didn't quite make the grade as a classic, but Uncharted 2 should earn the series a place among the very best exclusives to hit the PlayStation.