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.
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.