As a gaming enthusiast I’m always interested in new gaming experiences, but every once in awhile I feel compelled to go back and put in some serious time replaying some of my favorite games from the preceding years. In that spirit, I have created a new series of writing pieces titled Replaying the Classics, wherein I discuss the games that I have replayed recently. Unlike my Late to the Party series, my goal with these writing pieces is not so much to give a strong analysis of a particular game, but rather to give an informal recounting of a game and to try to convey to the reader why it’s one of my favorites. I do not come to you this time as a game reviewer, but merely as a friend wanting to have a casual chat about what he’s been playing. Today, let’s take a seat in our comfy chairs and talk about Uncharted 2: Among Thieves.
Do you have a special movie, or maybe a special music album? You know, something you don’t play often but is really good and you bring out every once in a long while? That’s sort of how I feel about Uncharted 2. It’s one of my favorite video games and probably the best overall game in the Uncharted series (for those curious, I’d personally rank Uncharted 4 as a close second). Last week I completed my most recent playthrough of Uncharted 2, which was either the fifth or the sixth time I’ve finished the game. Like putting on a classic film that I’ve watched a million times before, I knew everything that was going to happen before it happened, but I still loved it anyway. Uncharted 2 is, in my mind at least, a true gaming classic of the PS3/Xbox 360/Wii generation of consoles, and it’s a proud member of the very small collection of games from that era that I actually own.
Whenever someone asks me exactly what the Uncharted games are, the usual response I give is to tell people that they are sort of like a modern Indiana Jones story. Series protagonist Nathan Drake is a thief, treasure hunter, and amateur historian whose adventures take him all over the world in pursuit of whatever MacGuffin each game has him chasing. In Uncharted 2, Drake is on the trail of Marco Polo, whose fleet of treasure-laden ships mostly disappeared on its way from China back to Europe. As it turns out, however, the real treasure of Marco Polo is the Cintamani Stone—a massive sapphire residing in the mythical city of Shambhala (aka Shangri-La). Racing against Drake to the Cintamani Stone is an eastern European warlord named Lazarevic who seeks the stone for its supposed power to make its holder invincible. Drake’s adventure in Uncharted 2 takes him from Istanbul to Borneo to Nepal to the Himalayas and finally to Shambhala itself.
|Just another day in the life of Nathan Drake.|
If that setup sounds kind of silly, that’s because it is. If the Uncharted games were films they’d fall into the sort of pulp-fiction action movies that you normally associate with summer blockbusters. Much like a summer blockbuster, Uncharted 2 is full of exotic locales, incredible action sequences, and crazy plot twists, but what really sets Uncharted 2 apart from similar games in terms of narrative is the sheer quality of its storytelling and the performance of the actors behind the characters. Uncharted 2 was one of those games that showcased just how far video games had come as a storytelling medium back when it launched, and in my mind it set a new bar for video game storytelling, both during cutscenes and in-game. It was a fun story with great characters, and even though things like graphics and facial-capture technology have advanced quite a bit since 2009 when Uncharted 2 was released, the fundamental storytelling of the game still holds up when compared to its modern contemporaries.
Speaking of comparing games, as I was playing through Uncharted 2 I couldn’t help but think over how much it improved over its predecessor and set the tone for the following games in the series. The first Uncharted was a good game, but Uncharted 2’s refinements and additions took what was good and turned it into great. Among other things, Uncharted 2 improved the gameplay, significantly ramped up the visual spectacle, and introduced boss fights. All the tweaks that were made added up to a far superior game in Uncharted 2, and after this point developer Naughty Dog more or less had the Uncharted formula figured out.
|Exploring the ice cave.|
One component of that formula that Uncharted 2 set in stone was the incredible action set piece. Sure, the first Uncharted had some good action sequences, but never to the same scale or wow-factor as Uncharted 2 (or its successors). When I think of Uncharted 2, these set pieces are among the first things to come to mind, be it the part where you get chased through the city by an attack helicopter, the train ride up into the Himalayas, or the convoy sequence where you’re jumping to and from speeding trucks. These were the sorts of events that oftentimes would be cutscenes in other games but in Uncharted 2 you were actually in control and playing through these crazy moments in real-time.
You know another thing Uncharted 2 did that was new to the series and is probably the most surprising things about it? Uncharted 2 had a multiplayer suite of modes that I actually put a fair number of hours into. Back when when it was announced that Uncharted 2 was getting multiplayer I was skeptical, but upon actually giving it a try I found it strangely enjoyable. The game mechanics of singleplayer had been translated perfectly into multiplayer, and there were even cooperative modes where you and two other players could work together to fight through maps based on the game’s singleplayer campaign. Of the competitive modes my favorite was Plunder, which was sort of like capture the flag, except there was only one object both teams were trying to capture and escort back to their base.
Well, I could go on and on about Uncharted 2, but I think I’ve given you enough for now. Also, my intention for these writing pieces is for them to be an informal chat rather than a thorough analysis, so I think it’s good for me to cut things off here. I hope you enjoyed our time together, and I look forward to seeing you again to discuss the next game in Replaying the Classics.