When I finished the first Uncharted game, I thought it was hugely flawed but it had some amazing moments and it had some serious potential if Naughty Dog could improve the shooting and the health of the enemies. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves was disappointing in a way as it didn’t really improve on any of that too much. But I enjoyed it a hell of a lot more.
I have to comment on the game’s graphics. It looks amazing, even for a six-year-old game. Everything is more detailed, especially the main characters, and the sense of scale is breathtaking. Drake and crew climb to the tops of mountains and clamber on cliffs and I was blown away every time. It isn’t often I see such a great sense huge-ness in a game and Uncharted 2 was incredible from start to finish.
The writing, too, is top-notch as expected. Drake’s conversations with his supporting cast is always a joy to watch. He feels like a fully fleshed out character. He does, admittedly, sort of fit into the “loveable bastard” trope, but the genuine care he has for his companions makes that totally make sense. The amount of times he says “you aren’t coming with me” when he is going to do something stupidly dangerous makes a nice change from other games. He is often very funny. An early highlight is his faux-British accent when mocking his nemesis Flynn. The women were strong characters with agency, both requiring to be saved and saving Drake multiple times throughout the story. And the main villain, Lazarević is one-dimensional, yes, but he is so much better than the nondescript bloke from the last game. He is one villain that you love to hate because he believes himself to be utterly correct, kills multiple of his own people and even goes so far to compare himself to Hitler, Pol Pot and Stalin. He was a genuine threat throughout the game.
The story is your usual ‘Indiana Jones’ affair with Drake yet again being roped into finding some mythical location – Shangra-Lai in this case – a journey that is fraught with danger and forces him to travel around the world. The locations are much more varied and less focused on the jungle and overgrown ruins. It is the Himalayas this time. I am a big sucker for a snowy landscape in games and Uncharted 2 has that in spades. And what snow! It was some of the best snow tech I have ever seen. It clung to clothes, moved and collected around your feet when you walked through it and left deep footprints. Saying that, the game’s representation of a city at war was a huge breath of fresh air. I never thought I would say that about a war-torn urban environment in a game but its true. Naughty Dog give the area such a different colour palate that it was almost a shame when you had to leave. It is all light browns and greys instead of lush greens and pure whites. It took me totally by surprise.
The problems that stem from the last game aren’t really fixed, however. The enemies are still bullet-sponges for the most part. There were points where it took at least three or four headshots to bring some of them down. But the introduction of a few new weapons like the Pistole help as they do a hell of a lot of damage. Also the aiming was still too sensitive. It was rather annoying that, when you get hit, your aim jerks slightly. That combined with the sensitivity issue made for a rather frustrating time at points. And the movement was still too loose. This was especially annoying during one sequence where Drake has to jump between trucks in a convoy. I don’t know if I am just bad at the game but it was so irritating because Drake kept jumping in the wrong direction despite me doing what seemed like the correct input. It PISSED ME OFF immensely.
Also, like the previous game, the story and gameplay falls off a cliff as soon as they – SPOILER ALERT – enter Shangra-Lai and fight the locals. They were huge bullet-sponges and just not fun to fight. I get what the writers were doing. They were yet again paying homage to Indiana Jones with the inclusion of some mythical stuff. It would have been fine if such an element wasn’t a) bad to play and b) so forced it made me actually cringe when it happened. I hope it doesn’t happen in the third one.
So, in the end Uncharted 2: Drake’s Deception is iterative, as expected, but enjoyable nonetheless. It doesn’t fix everything wrong with the last one, but it makes just enough improvements to make it a better game.