Games for Lunch: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
Developer: Naughty Dog
Release Date: Oct. 13, 2009
ESRB Rating: T
Official Web site
0:00 I enjoyed the writing and presentation in the first Uncharted, but stopped when the game started throwing endless streams of ridiculously tough enemies at me. After reading a bunch of reviews that call this sequel the greatest game of its generation, the bar is set mighty high. Will it live up to expectations? We shall see...
0:01 After a good minutes of loading and logos we've reached ... the title screen. Really? That's why you needed all that loading? Anyway, birds fly around amidst golden idols in a sun-lit jungle tomb. Timpani-heavy, John Williams-esque music sets the mood.
0:02 Difficulties are Very Easy, Easy, Normal and Hard. Where's my Very Hard? I DEMAND SYMMETRICAL DIFFICULTIES. Oh, maybe it's locked. Well ... all right, then ... Normal it is.
0:03 There's an option for "Motion Sensor Throw." OFF PLEASE!
0:04 This is the first game I can recall that lets me set the "dynamic range" on the audio. I don't even know what that means, but it can be set to Maximum, Wide, Normal, Narrow or Midnight. That last one sounds cool. Let's go with that.
0:05 Twitter! Yes, the game can update your Twitter account as you play. A few of my Twitter friends had this on, pestering my feed with endless updates on their progress through the chapters. I think I'll pass. I actually like my Twitter friends.
0:06 Ah, "Crushing" is a locked difficulty option when I actually start a "New Game" while "Very Easy" has aim assist and extra health. I'm tempted to try it -- this game is mostly about watching the story anyway, right? In the end I go with Normal. Hey, I'm no wimp!
0:07 Sounds of wind over a pitch-black screen. "I did not tell half of what I saw for I knew I would not be believed." It's a quote from Marco Polo's deathbed, apparently. Fade in to Nathan Drake rubbing his eyes on a train car. "What's going on," he says groggily as he looks down at his bloody shirt. "That's my blood. That's a LOT of my blood." Pan out and the train car is absolutely wrecked. Outside, a raging blizzard. Suddenly, stuff starts falling down the aisle. Apparently the train car is turned 90 degrees on its side and hanging over a cliff! "Oh god!" Drake jumps, and just barely grabs a rail in the back of the caboose. Zoom out to show train fires snaking down a huge snowy mountain "Chapter 1: A Rock and a Hard Place." Appropriate title!
0:09 In control now. I sidle along the pipe I'm hanging from until I reach the car's underside, which has many handholds for me to climb up. A boulder knocks me back a bit, but I continue on. Drake makes grunts as he jumps across to another pipe. The camera is pointed straight down. I'm getting a bad case of vertigo here!
0:11 The pipe I'm on bends down precariously, causing whimpers of concern from Drake. He swings and jumps to the window side of the car just in time as the pipe falls away.
0:12 Inside the car now, climbing up the armrests of the seats, which fall away as I put my weight on them. I fall outside and grab a window ledge.
0:13 Made it to the top of the car, limping and holding my side from my injuries. The rest of the train is lurching painfully forward, toward the cliff. Yipes!
0:14 I run onto the next car just as the whole train starts rolling forward and off the cliff. I run down the hallway as fast as I can and jump at the very last moment. Guess I was too slow, as I fall to my death. I respawn just outside the car, with no significant loading time. Forgiving!
0:15 I make the jump on my second try, but just barely, and watch as the train falls away. Drake lies weary on the bed of snow as we fade to white and back up on a tropical beach, where Drake drinks at an empty bar. "Buy me a drink, sailor?" asks Harry Flynn. He's looking for Drake. "Should I be flattered or worried?" "Maybe a bit of both."
0:16 Flynn has a job ... loads of cash in exchange for a "certain object." He takes out a brochure for a Marco Polo museum, but Drake is incredulous. "We both know two people who were killed trying to get in there." "And one who made it out," Flynn replies. "Yeah, barely," says Drake. Excellent vocal delivery here.
0:17 It's a three-person job, so Flynn introduces Chloe Frasier. Drake is nearly speechless, but manages to get his name out. She's flirting shamelessly with Flynn, who calls her the "best driver in the business." They hash out the plan: Go in through the sewer ("Loving it so far," Drake quips), run across the rooftops, drop into exhibit hall and "Bob's your uncle!" Wait, what?
0:19 What is worth all this trouble? A worthless oil lamp, apparently. No one understands why the guy wants it. But there's more ... a scrap of paper from "the files of the nutcase" in Ancient Latin. Apparently Marco Polo and his fellow travelers were robbed by Mongols on the high seas. He concealed his greatest sorrow "in the unlikeliest place." They deduce that the lamp must have directions to the lost booty. What is this, "National Treasure"? "So, we're dicking this guy over, right?" asks Drake "Yeah, absolutely," comes the reply. "What the hell ... I mean, what could possibly go wrong."
0:20 In answer to Drake's question, fade back to him, lying half-dead on a snowy mountaintop. Zoom way out to see the fiery destruction of the train crash. Zoom in and I'm in control, hobbling toward the flames. There's an amazing fluidity and life to his Drake's motions -- he really looks hurt, stumbling and bracing himself with one hand. Amazing.
0:22 A gnarled tree threatens to fall on me as I struggle through ankle-deep snow through the train's innards. I squeeze through a narrow passage and am almost crushed by an I-beam. Eep!
0:23 I find a gun on a dead man and the game puts up a big triangle button to tell me to open a door. I investigate a shiny bit in the snow... It's my first treasure, a Saraswati Statue, 1 of 100, worth $10,000. Not bad!
0:25 Nate puts up a hand to shield from heat as he passes fires inside the train. Brilliant little touch there. The shadows and lighting, too ... everything just looks breathtaking.
0:26 I shoot out a lock and struggle to open the back gate of the train car. "He's alive" growls a gruff man in a parka as I turn the corner. He draws his gun and misses with a few shots. I put two in his chest when an explosion from behind takes him out. "Karma's a bitch," I gasp, oddly.
0:27 I climb up some crates to the roof of a car, then just miss a jump to the roof of the next. Shivering from the cold and my wounds, I stumble around, not knowing where to go. I drop down, back into the snow. I bring my hands to my mouth to try and warm up, and let out a weak cough. Amazing atmosphere.
0:30 Oh, I was supposed to climb up the crates at the end of that car? My bad. I get to the roof just in time to see an oil car explode and knock me violently back into the train. The car goes tumbling end-over-end and I lay unconscious. Fade to white, then back in to a knock at the door of a spartan bedroom. "Hello," says Chloe. Drake manhandles her in. "Well, so much for foreplay." Drake wants to know what's going on with Flynn. "You mighta warned me." "I missed the look on your face," she deadpans. "Besides, you're not easy to find." "Talk about easy," Drake snaps back. Me-OW! Anyway, Chloe insists it's "strictly professional" with Flynn. "Well, mostly professional." But when she heard about the treasure, she thought Drake would "want to be in ... on the action." This last line is delivered while straddling Drake sexily on the bed. Hey-O!
0:32 No rest for the weary ... fade back to Drake as he struggles up in the train car, clutching his side again. I make a jump for a nearby car but fall down the cliff instead. The scene fades to grey but I'm back to life before I know it. Wow ... there's really no penalty for dying, is there? I make it on the second attempt.
0:35 I'm attracted to a flame like a moth to a ... flame as I stumble down a train car. The ground gives way from under Drake and I find myself jumping out of my seat on the couch, startled. Drake does a faceplant, but struggles up again. This guy is TOUGH!
0:36 Everything's black for a second, then cut to Drake stumbling toward a scepter in the snow with an ornate head. Oh, it's got a sharp wedge on the other end. White out to a motorboat in Istanbul four months earlier. "We won't need guns," Drake assures Flynn. "It's just museum guards. Relax." "Relax? Have you ever been in a Turkish prison, mate?... You may be into that kind of thing, but I'm not." Ah, sodomy jokes. The gift that keeps on giving.
0:38 The trio uses a welding torch to blast through a sewer grate. They outline the plan as they walk... Chloe will take out the lights, while we'll go through to the tower and meet at the rendezvous point, where Chloe will have the van. "Chloe... See you on the other side," Drake says suggestively. "Looking forward to it," she replies.
0:40 More glitzy lighting effects as the flashlights bounce of the walls of the cavern. I follow Flynn up a stone ledge. "Don't you love the way the water makes your jeans all squidgy?" he asks. I've got to say, when it's sewer water, the answer is a definitive NO!
0:42 So far this section is a glorified game of follow-the-leader. I slide after Flynn along some big yellow pipes to reach the next stone ledge. The jumps are incredibly easy and forgiving. "Just like the good ol' days, innit?" Flynn asks. "Right ... when were those, again?" Great writing and delivery.
0:43 We reach a dead end, but there's a tunnel up into the boiler room that should get us in. "In like Flynn, right?" Drake says "What?" "In like Flynn." "I don't get it." "Just give me a boost." Ha.
0:46 I sidle my way up and over, open a manhole over, and we're in the boiler room undetected. Hot steam from a huge pipe prevents us from moving on, but I find a shut off valve near a convenient ladder.
0:48 Wow ... I follow Flynn to another hanging pipe and the game says, "Press O to drop down to a lower level." I do and ... fall to my death. Uh ... what?
0:49 Ah, I was supposed to drop a bit later, when there's a grate under me. Anyway, we take cover next to a steel-barred window and watch as a white coated man walks by. There's a door around the corner. "Tell me you didn't miss this," Flynn says. "I'm here, aren't I?"
0:50 The door is locked, but Flynn is prepared. "I pick more than my nose, my friend." There's an alarm, and I need to find a junction box to disable it. I stumble upon an expensive Ottoman Ring treasure as I look. Bonus!
0:52 After running around the storage room aimlessly for a minute or so, the game offers a hint: "Why don't you follow the conduit," says Flynn. Nice. Makes me feel like an idiot, but in a subtle way...
0:53 Found it! We go through, duck around a corner, take cover, duck out, and run up behind a guard. The square button pulls of a silent "stealth attack" to take him down. Tooooo easy!
0:55 The tower is in the distance. To get to it, we need to get to the rooftops, which means we need to get to the next courtyard. OK then! I make my way around a decorative floral sconce and take out another guard stealthily.
0:56 We're spotted. Jamming the square button throws a bevy of punches, complete with an Arkham Asylum-style slow-motion effect on the last punch. Again, way too easy. It all feels too scripted so far.
0:57 I take out another guard with surprisingly silent melee attacks. I kind of got caught on the corner as I tried to come out of cover to attack. Luckily he was caught flatfooted and didn't sound an alarm. Metal Gear Solid it ain't.
0:59 Another alarm at another door, this one with a junction that seems to go straight up. It's hard to tell, because the room is incredibly dark and I can't get out my flashlight for some reason. Hmmm.
Would I play this game for more than an hour? Yes.
Why? The gameplay, such as it is, is dull as dirt so far, but everything else, from the graphics and environments to the story and writing, has me hooked.
This column is based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.
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