Project 5: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

If Heavy Rain struggled to convey its true potential from the first five minutes, its dull, plodding opening hardly indicative of the rest of the game, Naughty Dog’s Uncharted 2 suffers no such issue.  From the off, it’s a thrilling, daring battle for life, and once the five minutes are over, the first set piece out of the way, the player is left wanting for more.  Playing through the train sequence never gets old (a fact the developers used to great effect by running it twice anyway) and as introductions go, it’s probably the best on the console.

[drop]The initial, pre-rendered movie makes way for Drake hanging from the tail end of a train carriage, dangling precariously over a huge snowy precipice; dramatic camera angles and swirling wind enough to let the player know that this is not only very high up, but obviously life threatening.  Gracefully, there’s no time limit, at least just yet, the player able to gently feel their way around the first set of mechanics at a comfortable pace.  Once you’ve worked your way around to the undercarriage of the train, the innate desire to climb upwards is echoed by controls that simply work.

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It’s obvious where the path lies without being patronising – there’s only one way up the train, still hanging by a coupling, but it never fails to feel like your way.  Jumping up handholds is obvious, scrambling up (and along) pipes too, and as rocks fall and disrupt your ascent it all feels like the very best sort of action movie – dynamic, unpredictable and, most importantly, hugely exciting.

[drop2]There’s a moment when you’re inside the carriage jumping from seat to seat that doesn’t quite flow as well as the rest of the section (you need to hold up when really you should be pushing towards the camera) but that aside, it’s a sequence that builds up gradually until the rush towards the front of the train as the whole thing starts to slide down in the abyss.  Drake’s wounded, he can’t run, but you’re desperately wanting him too, his eventual escape onto the relative safety of the snow pre-subscribed but still feels like something you did on your own volition.

It is, in a word, brilliant.  It takes just under five minutes to get through the section if you enjoy the ride, which leaves us with a few seconds to skip the next cutscene and venture forth into the blizzard.  Explosions tear up the crash site, weaponry is left by the dead for the picking and the game walks you through aiming and shooting just as keenly as movement.  It’s a piecemeal approach that doesn’t feel forced or contrived, the gradual drip feed of new controls pitched and paced perfectly, setting you up for the rest of the game.

We don’t review games based on the first five minutes, but if we did, this one would be as close to perfect as any review policy would allow.  Fantastic stuff.

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38 Comments

  1. Well said :) Uncharted 2 never stops being amazing, from start to finish. One of the few games I’ve played through again and again. Good read!

  2. Although having to replay through this section towards the last third of the game undoes all of the good that this introduction had. Why?? WHY???

    • Because it’s subtly different. And it’s part of the story, really.

      • Bit like the similar bit in Killzone 3! (Or is that next?)

    • I love the fact it does that. It’s another cinematic tool that UC2 uses brilliantly, imo.

      You immediately know what to do, it doesn’t take as long and it just ties everything together. =)

      • And there is a completely different feel to it each time. The first time you do it it’s calm, slow and steady. The second time is quite tense and frantic

      • Also, the second time you do it, Nathan is a little bit depressed after everything that happened.

    • Must admit one of my only gripes with Uncharted2 was that repeated section. Loved it the first time around but it seemed pointless playing it again. Killzone 3 did something similar and it seemed dumb there too. Just my opinion of course :)

      • I really liked the Uncharted one, but the Killzone 3 one annoys me because it is rather different on each occasion, which makes no sense at all.

  3. I picked this up the other day with Enslaved as those types of games have everything I love.

    Nice recap and it’s made me even more excited to play it again. That opening 5 minutes, like you say, not only give you idea of the graphics, scale and cinematic flare but it covers up the control familiarisation brilliantly.

  4. I have to say I hate flash forward intros.

    • Well, you could always think as the part between the 2 train sections as big flashback.
      Unless you hate those too ; )

      • Shouldn’t it be “in media res” intros?

  5. I picked this up again a couple of weeks ago and still love it. Playing from the very begining too.

    I mainly wanted to see what it looks like on my 3D TV, and while the game has no native 3D support my TV will “upscale” to 3D, and it looks very impressive.

    Only 2 games so far look good in pseudo 3D – Battlefield Bad Company 2 and Uncharted 2.
    Seeing the barrel of a tank turn to face you while you’re planting C4 on it is something you have to see to believe.
    Likewise, looking down while climbing the undercarriage of a train is not advised.

    • Might try that, my experience of upscaled 3D so far has been – It’s bloody awful. Which is a shame because real 3D is amazing

      • Mostly it is pretty naff, but those two games are by far the best. Some oddities now and again though.
        I wonder why Sony haven’t created a universal 3D patch, it works on the PC (most of the time).

  6. I absolutely love Uncharted 2. I usually get bored with games after a while and rarely finish them, but Uncharted kept me gripped from start to finish. Can’t wait for Uncharted 3.

  7. Uncharted loved it so I was sad when it was over then uncharted 2 I was the same I think Nuaghty Dog do some absoloutly brilliant work here even my other half likes to sit a watch me play these cos she love sthe story. Brilliant article I have never been so excited about November :) Love this series by the way the 5 min intro thing is quality great work sixth axis :)

    • Thanks. The next one might not be quite so clean cut…

  8. I might actually go out and say UC2 was probably the best single playing game I have played in teh last 10 years at least. It was fantastic.

    • I would go one step further and say best single player game I’ve ever played.

  9. I think you are absolutely right. U2 has the best intoduction on the console. It really was done beautifully and brought you straight into the story whilst showing off the tech.

  10. I hate the fact that the games takes control away from me every 5 secondes in the intro to make me take a look at “another” rock falling, sending me backwards. I thought it was too scripted, making too many things happen it seemed too staged.
    But the part where you have to run is genius : you’re still in control, you fear you can really die for the first time. It’s impressive.

    • Yeah, I get that

    • I was formulating a similar response, but you have hit the nail on the head for me there. Whilst showy and impressive, I never had much of a sense if urgency as I got the impression the rocks etc that narrowly missed me were waiting until I had moved first. The running bit though, as you can see the world slipping away from you, felt genuinely tense.

      I felt the same in the Enslaved demo, a lot of stuff triggering after you move, but one bit where you can see a building hurtling towards you as you scramble away, where there is genuine tension.

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