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.