Videogames are much like any creative medium, in that the artist's second body of work often struggles to deliver the same balance of novelty, flair and gusto they achieved in their debut. But in the case of Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, Sony and developer Naughty Dog have accomplished that rare gem: a sequel that renders the original almost forgettable, such is the successor's originality and depth.
Among Thieves continues the chronicles of Nathan Drake, a distant relative of the famous British seafarer who presents as something of an Indiana Jones for the Jason Bourne generation. Told in chapter-style narrative, the story leaps back and forth through time to explain how the chippy protagonist finds himself bloodied and dazed in a train carriage at the game's outset, the latter hanging precariously from one of the Himalayas' more vertiginous peaks.
If you're new to the series, the gameplay is modeled loosely on the Tomb Raider titles - although here eschewing the hotpants and pneumatic breasts for an alpha-male relic hunter with an endless repertoire of 007 one-liners. But while the first game found a successful formula of third-person shooter, platformer, and puzzle solving, the second has tightened up all three elements, expanding your ability to achieve dizzying feats of parkour while evading the clutches of a bald, heavily-scarred mercenary with a tally of war crimes on his CV.
The game's denouement might stretch the plot's credibility somewhat (even for a work of interactive fiction), but the journey to the finale is so engagingly relentless and full of inventive twists, that you're ready to forgive it this minor flaw.
Out on 16 October (PS3)