PlayBack: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

Three months ago, Jim played back the first instalment of the Uncharted series, Drake’s Fortune. With the reveal of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, I thought it fitting to continue playing through the series, so we can have a look at where Naughty Dog have shown their strengths, where they’ve let themselves down, and how they could blow us away in their apparent final outing with Nathan Drake.

As a new player to the series, I thought it would be best to play Drake’s Fortune before delving into Among Thieves. However, time has not treated the first instalment well, and with more recent games like the Tomb Raider reboot to compare it to, I was disappointed by the clumsy platforming and fighting mechanics.

Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune was great for its time, but when its sequel was offered to me on a silver platter, it was all too easy to throw it aside after only a couple of hours of game time. So, after a quick rundown on the plot of the first game, I skipped to Among Thieves to see if it had improved on its predecessor.

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And the difference was amazing.


Best Bit

The jump from the first to second was a feat few sequels have achieved. Uncharted 2 sticks to its roots, with a strong focus on platforming, combat and witty dialogue, but each element had improved by leaps and bounds (quite literally, with the platforming). It was obvious that Naughty Dog had considered every aspect of the game and found ways of improving on what was already a groundbreaking release at the time.

The story of Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune was its strongest point, so the writing of Uncharted 2 was faced with the daunting task of improving on an already rich set of characters and plot. To achieve this, new characters were introduced who represented more of a grey area; they were neither good nor bad. There were constant twists in the dynamics of their relationships, and the plot progressed naturally from area to area, with these characters dropping in and out of play as necessary, making the player question to whom each character’s loyalty lay.

One of the most enjoyable sections of the game, though they didn’t crop up often enough, were the puzzles set over large rooms. They were never particularly taxing, and tended to involve little more than flicking through Nate’s journal for clues before pushing a few buttons; but it wasn’t their difficulty that made them great. It was their sense of size, and the feeling of being a true explorer, à la Indiana Jones, when the final button was pressed and the sound of stone grinding against stone echoed through the area.

Puzzles weren’t just satisfying, but refreshing. They gave the player some respite from the constant sprinting and barrage of enemy bullets that the rest of the game was filled with. Along with the cutscenes and walking sections, they  allowed the player to see Nate and co develop their relationships without the need for any lengthy exposition.

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Worst Bit

Despite its many positive aspects, Uncharted 2 was still flawed in minor ways across the board. I could say that the one defining “Worst Bit” was the melee combat, but gameplay problems such as this are intrinsic to older games, so the majority of its smaller technical flaws could be forgiven. Surprisingly, Uncharted 2 hasn’t aged much over the years, unlike it’s predecessor, and is still an impressive game to play through in the current gaming climate, but nothing is perfect, and I had some quarrels with mistakes that can still be seen in games today.

As with all platforming games, it can be clumsy in places; if Nate tries to jump from a ledge, he doesn’t always lean where the analog stick asks him to. Melee combat, as mentioned, is restrictive, clinical and poorly integrated into gun combat: if an enemy punches the player, or vice versa, they are locked into a fist fight that almost guarantees Nate’s death if a nearby enemy wields a weapon. Again, it’s irritating, but forgiveable.

What disappointed me most was the single, glaring flaw in the game’s story – which was only exascerbated by the contrast between it and the rest of the game’s top-notch writing. The villain, Lazarevic, was a lazily written, two-dimensional thug that seemed to have no motivation for his actions other than his lust for power. He had no backstory, and almost no dialogue short of “Kill him” or “You can’t kill me”. Inherently evil villains are difficult to pull off, and Lazarevic was not fleshed out enough to warrant an emotional reaction from the player. He wasn’t likeable, but nor was he interesting enough to hate. He was boring.

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All in all, Uncharted 2 is an impressive game. The first game wasn’t for me, solely because there are other, better games of its kind out there, but Uncharted 2: Among Thieves looks to be the pinnacle of those other games. It has its flaws, both in mechanics and writing, but overall it’s a solid game that will keep you absorbed from beginning to end.

Games of its kind that have been released since (like Uncharted 3 and Tomb Raider) have drawn influence from the strengths of Uncharted 2, but in recent years, no action-platformer has improved the genre to such a degree as Among Thieves.

If you haven’t played it before, even if you haven’t played Drake’s Fortune, it’s well worth a shot. It’s very combat heavy, but the experience as a whole is worth the occasional tedium.

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10 Comments

  1. For me this was the best of the series, it was paced really well and everything just ‘clicked’. While I’m a big fan of all the games (although SP only), the third one felt slightly ‘overcooked’ in my opinion and I havent played the first one in a long time, so cant comment on its datedness.

    On a related note, I’m pretty sure I read somewhere ages ago, that Naughty Dog weren’t going to make a PS4 Uncharted and that the series should close with the previous generation. Did I make that up, or has ND just thought there was too much cash to be made?

    • Yeah UC2 was by far my favourite. Have loved all of them but there is something about 2.. the story, set pieces, puzzles they all seemed to compliment each other perfectly. Fantastic game and probably my favourite platinum trophy.

  2. I think the first one is still fun to play, but mainly because i like the series as a whole. This is the best one, but I really enjoyed 3 as well, and I liked 1 because it plays out in one main location.

    Although it falls down where u say I don’t think I noticed much, as the seemed the nature of the game and I did last replay it at least a couple years ago now.

    For excitement, puzzles and set pieces this oaths one to play.

  3. Good read, I remember the first time I played the first UC & thought TR rip off & bad graphics but then when number 2 came out took me ages to get it as I wasn’t really into gaming hardcore so wasn’t bothered but went CEX it was only £15 so bought it & I was like OMG, the second best opening in gaming history, I replayed the opener about 10x till I moved on.

    The worst bits about all uncharted for me is the collectables, I mean they don’t do shit but waste your time. Also I don’t see why UC3 is not highly respected, I thought it was brilliant of a game

  4. This is without doubt the most epic game ever to grace any of my consoles and I know that is a pretty bold statement but I stand by it. Sure we have had some brilliant games and I have played a lot since my days gunning down ducks on my Nes but this I can play over and over and never get bored and like a good film I can go back to it time after time. I love the whole series but this is the best by far.

  5. Big fan of the franchise. My favourite genre of game by far. UC2 is the pick of the bunch though. Easily in my top 5 PS3 games.

  6. This is definitely in my top few games of all times, the best in the series, even if I loved the first and third too. The level on the train is simply amazing, the change of scenery stunning. And I really enjoyed the multiplayer too, while with Uncharted 3 I never got into it.

  7. I thought the first Uncharted was brilliant but Uncharted 2 is the best in the series for me. Uncharted 3 was great too – it had it’s moments – but overall wasn’t as fun or memorable as the second.

    I loved everything about Uncharted 2, the story, the characters (Chloe > Elena), locations and pace were all perfect. As others have said, the train level stands out as a favourite (a little nod to Tomb Raider IV The Last Revelation) but there were so many great levels/locations. The Ice caves and the Monastery stood out most for me… what is it about snow that instantly makes a game better? Then just when you think the game is about to end, we spend a few more levels exploring the lost ruins of Shambhala.

    Really looking forward to the next one. Think I might have to replay these great games again before Uncharted 4 comes out next year.

  8. Hmm, time hasn’t treated many games very well. That doesn’t mean they are not worth the effort or time to play them.

    My introduction to UC was after UC2 got so much praise. I figured I owed it to myself to play through UC1 first. I picked up UC1 and before I even finished it I went and bought UC2. I was so blown away with UC1 that I knew I was going to play UC2 even though I had not finished UC1 yet. Beat UC1 and followed it up with UC2 and was floored by that opening on the train. That has got to be the best opening for a sequel, probably the best opening of any game ever.

    However, in January of this year I went on a Naughty Dog binge. I have taken to waiting for GOTY editions, because DLC is a scam, and just picked up UC3 for nothing on Amazon. To prime my UC pump I played through UC1 & UC2 on hard with a guide to get all the hidden treasures. Ahh, the sweet memories (that damn train-yard level on hard, almost cost me a few controllers, LOL).

    Then, on to UC3, the level design was amazing, I didn’t think it was as good a story as UC2 but, UC2 was flawless in my opinion. Naughty Dog does magic with their games. I played through UC1, UC2 and UC3 in less than one week then topped it off with TLOU which I played through in less than a week. I will probably do the same before playing UC4. If the box says Naughty Dog, you are in for a treat.

    The Uncharted series like a good book or movie you read/watch over and over. UC2:AT is why I will always own a PS3, I have a 60G phat and will probably buy a slim before they cease production just in case my phat goes bust. Got my PS4 and can’t wait to play UC4.

  9. AT was ground breaking and made DF looks like a beta, even though it was good. I loved the train level and thought the pace and story was awesome. It’s no wonder it was lavished in awards and love from everyone. I think 3 is just as ground breaking with set pieces stepping up another level.

    Uncharted as a series will always stand out as a game changer. Brilliant visuals, gameplay and story with some fantastic characters.

    :-)

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