What’s the opposite of a “Sophomore Slump”?

Yeah.  Let’s get one thing out of the way right up front.  Uncharted 2: Among Thieves commits the same unforgivable sin as its predecessor, in that it has multiple waterfalls with absolutely nothing cool hidden behind them.  I checked.  Not all of them, mind you – there are a lot of waterfalls! – but enough of them to be profoundly disappointed.  There was even one waterfall that had an enticing little tunnel that led behind it and… wound up in a dead end.  What’s even the point, really?

So there’s no way that this game could ever get a ten out of ten in my book.

Still, it’s an amazing improvement over the first game, and I’m glad that I’ve finally gotten around to playing it, even if it did take me a decade.  It’s right up there with the Assassin’s Creed series for Best Improvement In A Sequel.  The opening train sequence – the tutorial level, for crying out loud! – is one of the best set pieces I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing through, and I didn’t even mind needing to repeat it about five hours later.

On the other hand, Uncharted 2 does represent some of the worst aspects of early-gen-7 game design, in that there are a lot of places where it’s not sure whether it wants to be a game or a movie, and the camera whips around and locks into the perfect angle to spotlight whatever the director thought you should be looking at at this precise moment in time rather than trusting the player with control.  Usually it’s pointing the way you SHOULD be going, which is maybe a little easier than designing levels that naturally draw the player towards the objective.  On the plus side, this lets some of the platforming be legitimately challenging – there were a lot of places where I would try and fail a particular jump over and over and would probably have given up on if the camera hadn’t been insistently saying “no, really, you CAN go this way.”

Then there’s the combat, which initially bugged me with the number of times I’d wind up repeating an arena segment over and over.  It took me quite a while to stop thinking of the firefight sequences as though I was playing a traditional 3rd-person-shooter and start thinking of them as puzzles, where figuring out the right order to fight enemies was way more important than any actual skill at aiming.  Once that happened, I discovered that I quite liked the shooty bits, and I’m looking forward to playing the next game in the series with that understanding already in place.

The final boss fight suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuucks, though, and I do not often type over a dozen consecutive “u”s so you may take that as extreme emphasis on the degree of awfulness represented by the last boss.  Also, I am astonished by the sheer amount of punishment that the opponents in this game can absorb.  In one particularly egregious case, I had a HUMAN opponent absorb seven .45 caliber bullets to his unarmored head from point-blank range before finally giving up the ghost.

I have never been shot, but I’m reasonably sure that it would be quite difficult to survive the first bullet, much less the first six.

Hmm, that’s been a couple of paragraphs of me whining.  Let’s offset that a bit by praising the story, because it’s a great pulpy adventure.  I went through a Doc Savage phase in my youth, and Uncharted 2 pushed all of my happy buttons.  I also liked the return of familiar characters who weren’t forced into the exact roles they played in the original game, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of them and of Chloe in the future.

So, huge improvement, but let’s take off a half point for the bullet sponginess of the enemies and the final boss and another point for the continuing waterfall disappointment.

Not that I give points.  I don’t do that kind of thing.

Next up is NOT Uncharted 3, because I have a ridiculously pretentious post title that is stuck in my head and won’t let me do anything else until I’ve written the post to go with it. That has me working on an Overwatch project, the details of which are probably left in the crazier parts of my brain until I’ve actually finished it.

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7 Responses to What’s the opposite of a “Sophomore Slump”?

  1. Pete Davison says:

    Oh God. I had wiped Uncharted 2’s final boss from my memory, but yeah, that sure sucked. Did you ever finish the first BioShock? There was a short period of great games with absolutely atrocious finales, and both Uncharted 2 and BioShock were particularly notorious cases…

    Liked by 1 person

    • baudattitude says:

      I did play BioShock, yeah. I don’t remember much about the final boss, except that it was dreadfully unimaginative after the rest of the game and then I got a cutscene of me saving all of the little sisters because I’m not a monster. I don’t remember it taking more than a single attempt, though, so at least it was an EASY pointless final boss.

      Arkham Asylum had a similarly dumb final boss fight, and that’s from right around the same time period, so hmm. I think you’re on to something there. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Red Metal says:

    Uncharted 2 is an unequivocal improvement over the original. In the grand scheme of things, I think it was a little overhyped, but it still hits a solid 7/10 in my book (for the record, the original got a 4/10 from me). Both games do this weird thing where they forget they’re games half the time and implementing storytelling techniques that, while perfectly fine in films, simply do not work in an interactive medium (in fact, this is a problem I have with the entire series with the possible exception of The Lost Legacy). Still, final boss notwithstanding, while Uncharted 2 may not be a perfect game, it’s a definite high point for the series, having a creative spark that its predecessor lacked.

    Liked by 1 person

    • baudattitude says:

      Agreed, it’s a vast improvement. Like you said the other day, it really DOES make the original game look like a prototype. They made a character who could climb around environments, and they got a cover shooter done, and they got the jet skis working – though those are probably best forgotten – and then they shipped the thing. For the sequel, they got to sand the rough edges off and make it into a fully-realized game.

      The ever-present and convenient waist-high walls in the first game, for example, felt like they were only there to be cover for firefights. In the sequel, sure, there are an awful lot of convenient crates, but they worked much of the cover into the environment so it didn’t always stick out and scream “and now you will shoot exactly fourteen guys before the story can progress”.

      Some of the climbing handholds were worked into the environment a little TOO well. I got hung up in the level where you had to use advertising signs as climbing points and cover because my mind was just blurring them into the background noise. 🙂

      Thanks for your comments! I’m coming to this series super late and I like hearing the thoughts of someone who played them at the time.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Red Metal says:

        If I had played the original when it came out, I probably would’ve thought something to the effect of “Why is this so short?” It garnered a reasonable amount of critical acclaim, but I feel most of that is goodwill its sequels generated. Indeed, I seem to remember the reception being a lot more mixed back when it was released. Honestly, most people could skip it and not really miss out on any substantial part of the lore.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: January 2019 in Summary: Into the Thick of Things | Extra Life

  4. Opposite of a sophomore slump is a Sophomore Shine.

    Examples of Sophomore shines in various forms of media:

    Street Fighter 2: Better than the first street fighter.

    Cheers: Its second season was the breakout season.


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