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Let’s get right to the point, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is one of the most critically acclaimed games of this generation. I don’t usually put a lot of trust in Metacritic, but it has a score of 96 over there with over 100 positive reviews, and not a single mixed or negative score to contrast. I can only marvel at that, and then I see that Grand Theft Auto IV has a score of 98 and I can only shrug at the idea of critical consensus.
Playing the Uncharted series was high on my list for when I finally obtained a PlayStation 3, and while I never considered not playing Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, it seemed many gamers thought it was rather skippable, especially with Uncharted 2 available. In the end, yes, it is skippable, but if we only ever played excellent games, we would never be able to recognize them for what they are. I have my list of faults the first one suffered from and am hoping they are all fixed with Among Thieves.
So let’s get right down to the first hour of Uncharted 2, a game which advertised you’d be able to fool your girlfriend into thinking she was watching a movie (this would be a massive eyeroll if it wasn’t for Kevin Butler). So pop the popcorn and roll the film.
00 - I select New Game and the first hour of Uncharted 2: Among Thieves begins. I set the difficulty to Normal, create a save, and the loading begins. The game opens with a quote:
“I did not tell half of what I saw for I knew I would not be believed...” - Marco Polo on his deathbed.
01 - We immediately open to Drake in a sticky situation, bleeding heavily from his chest in what looks like a broken down airplane. A nice camera tricks shows we’re actually hanging from a dangling train car and we take a tumble... Nathan Drake catches himself at the last moment, of course, before we meet an icy death at the bottom of a ravine. My job is to now climb up train car.
02 - Controls are pretty friendly while climbing, and the game makes several big camera pans to show how bad the situation really is. Among Thieves is certainly attempting to be at least as cinematic as the previous game.
04 - I direct Drake inside the train, but am almost immediately flung out through a window. I have no idea how this guy is still holding on after apparently losing so much blood from the initial crash.
05 - I reach the last horizontally level car, and in a great scene, make a perfectly timed run as the two cars fall off the mountain with me jumping out at the last moment. Nice! Now a flashback of Drake in a much warmer climate having a drink when an old friend shows up.
06 - Unsurprisingly, his friend has a “job” for Drake, something to do with Marco Polo. Drake says the jobs will require three, and Chloe, the obvious femme fatale appears just in time.
08 - We’re pulling some heist job, Drake doesn’t think it’s worth the effort, but an old document written in Marco Polo’s hand connects some dots in his head and all of a sudden he’s gung-ho. “What could possibly go wrong?”
09 - Cut back to Drake lying nearly unconscious on the side of a cliff in snowy weather, and there you have it. I’m now weaving my way through the crashed train cars, trying to find an exit. The game is clever in that it never makes your next step totally obvious, but will subtly push you in the right direction.
11 - I’ve got a gun now, so that means shooting off padlocks... and bad guys, apparently? Drake doesn’t seem totally surprised to see people trying to shoot him and yelling “he’s alive!”, but I sure am. Drake is knocked out again a few moments later by a rolling train car.
13 - Cut back to the past, this time with Drake sneaking Chloe into his room. Sounds like Drake walked out on the heist job when he found out his old friend Flynn and Chloe were sleeping together. She’s here trying to get me back... through sexy means.
15 - Back to the present, the car I’m in is, once again, precariously hanging off the cliff. Nathan Drake has both the best and worst luck.
16 - Didn’t have to climb as far, as a cutscene kicks off with Drake stumbling through the snow and picking up some golden idol on the way. It kicks off another flashback to four months ago in Istanbul, for the heist. Drake and Flynn joke on the boat as Chloe drives. Chloe is the getaway and support, and Drake and Flynn are breaking in together.
19 - I now have control in the flashback, Drake and Flynn banter back and forth as I struggle to shimmy up walls. The pair work together as they climb through the sewer to access the target museum from underneath.
22 - This sequence is a bit too long for my taste, especially after the multi-minute train climb.
24 - Either way, we’ve made it inside the museum and are now sneaking around, disabling guards with easy to execute sleeper moves.
25 - Flynn and Drake communicating makes it a bit easier for me to figure out where to climb to next, I like working together, breaks up the tedium of sneaking.
30 - We’re now sneaking through a large corridor, with multiple routes to take... oh oh, just got caught. Alarms went off, but the game rewinds to a few moments back.h
31 - Caught again trying to grab someone from a ledge above me, didn’t work as expected. And again, trying the same move. I’m pretty sure this should work.
32 - Taking a good look around the room this time to see if I’ve missed something, obvious route seems to be to take out the guy on the ledge from below. Oh, the takedown move worked but I was caught by another guard.
34 - Okay, I’m gold this time. Not sure what went wrong the first two times. After a bit more hopping around, Flynn pulls out two tranquilizer guns for popping the guards. Flynn helps to shoot, too.
37 - More jumping, shimmying, and shooting.
39 - Couldn’t we have snuck in more directly under our final destination? This is a pretty long sneak-in sequence with a dozen guards knocked out already.
40 - Pretty sure Nathan Drake just killed an innocent security guard by pulling him off the roof of the building and tossing him into water a hundred feet below. I know that this is the guy who kills hundreds of gun-toting natives without batting an eye, but this guard probably has a family.
42 - We finally make it to the tower holding our prize, and Flynn and I run in.
42 - Drake grabs the lamp we were looking for and smashes it for a hidden note inside. The note appears empty until Drake does some fancy stuff to make blue fire so he can read the inscription and map. It’s information on Marco Polo’s lost fleet near Borneo.
45 - Wow, this is unexpected (sarcasm). Flynn pulls up the rope leaving Drake behind. Well, first he shoots a display case setting off the alarms. Our man appears screwed, but I regain control anyway.
46 - Red lasers everywhere indicate I’ve got about a dozen snipers trained on my position, so I’m forced to roll everywhere as that apparently shakes them off. Drake dives back into the sewer underneath, but there are guards here too. In a few moments, we’re caught!
48 - Flashforward in the flashback but not all the way to the present, Nathan Drake is locked up in a Turkish prison. Either he’s gone insane or is just really, really bored, but he’s making hand puppets reliving his last moments with Flynn as he was backstabbed. It looks sad, but then Sully shows up!
49 - And Chloe is here too, though Drake is not happy to see her. He thinks she betrayed him too, but she insists Flynn was betraying alone. Sully and Chloe update me on the situation: Marco Polo’s ships have been found but they haven’t found the Chintamani Stone, whatever that is.
50 - The trio is working out a plan to find said stone, so they’re going to break into Flynn’s boss’ campsite so they can steal some important files.
52 - Jump forward in time again (still in the flashback) to the jungle camp where Flynn is. Drake and Sully are going to be setting charges that Chloe planted previously.
53 - Sully says we should take out some bad guys quietly, but as I fumble around trying to even see them, they spot me and a firefight begins. Shooting is heavily cover based and feels very much like the original Uncharted. Not a bad thing.
57 - Shooting through jungle camp continues, no time to look for the explosives.
60 - Jungle finally clear, off to look for explosives... but that’s the end of the first hour of Uncharted 2: Among Thieves!
Minutes to Action: 2
Bias: Well, as I noted in the introduction this game was pretty well received, it’s hard to ignore that kind of success. But I had some issues with the first Uncharted, even if it was an above average game, so I’m looking for some improvements in the series.
Would I Keep Playing? Yes, you almost can’t go wrong with a heist opening the game, plus the cinematic feel for the game from the way the scenes are arranged to the camera angle has me quite intrigued. I wouldn’t really say that Uncharted 2 is a lot better than the original so far, but it certainly hasn’t done any worse, in my book. Of course, I thought the first hour of Drake’s Fortune went rather splendid too.
Controls were probably my biggest issue, as they hindered the game’s cinematic feel and reminded me that, yes, I really am playing a game and not watching a movie. Drake still isn’t as responsive as I’d like and leapt in the wrong direction more than once, not to mention the multiple times the game failed to register that behind the back kill in the museum. Nothing is more frustrating than seemingly doing the right thing and still failing, over and over.
I do like how Naughty Dog integrates real life people and events into their fictional stories, Sir Francis Drake isn’t very well known, but Marco Polo sure is. I’m excited to see what kind of craziness they inject into their alternate history this time. Hopefully not some sort of undead/cave creature again though. Please!