Nathan Drake returns in Uncharted 2: Among Thieves Remastered to look for more treasure and search for more seemingly impossible things, with the help of some reliable, and very questionable friends. This time, around, we’re taking a look at Uncharted 2: Among Thieves Remastered, one of the titles in Bluepoint’s Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection game.
The story this time revolves around Drake looking for the Cintamani Stone, an object believed to harbor great power. Along the way, Drake runs into some old friends and butts heads with this entry’s baddie: Zoran Lazarevic. One thing about Lazarevic is that he’s the typical “evil” bad guy, but that’s a good thing here. Even though Lazarevic oozes evil from the way he speaks to the cold, ruthless way he treats his henchmen, I never got tired of seeing him on-screen. In fact, I wish they had used him more often toward the beginning, but the fact that we don’t get to spend much time with him at first is what makes his appearances all the more special.
The story feels very much like a heist movie gone wrong. The initial search for the mystical artifact takes a turn for the worse (in a way that I won’t spoil) with a pretty predictable but necessary twist. From there, the general beats the story hits will feel familiar as the game takes inspiration from numerous movies, but the ways in which the story progresses from beat to beat are what keeps everything entertaining.
Where Uncharted 1 felt like it was trying to be an adventure movie, Uncharted 2 begins by emulating a heist movie, giving us a look at how some of the introductory characters interact with each other, and then switching genres from there. Uncharted 2 has a better introduction than what Uncharted 1 offered, with a gripping scene showing Drake in a dire situation, making the player wonder just what he’s gotten himself into this time. Uncharted 2 competently juggles multiple genres, utilizing their elements in a very convincing manner that doesn’t make the player feel like the elements exhibited were shoddily cobbled together.
To counteract Lazarevic’s sometimes hammy evil tendencies, Uncharted 2 features an ensemble cast that routinely bounce jokes off each other outside of firefights. Sully gets the short end of the stick, though; he’s practically nonexistent. Sully is there for a short romp in the beginning, possibly to get the story going and to ease Uncharted 1 players into the game, but by the time the dust starts to kick up, Sully is long gone. It wasn’t until I was nearly finished with the game that I remembered that I had even palled around with Sully in the first place.
The core mechanics of Uncharted 2 remain mostly the same: cover, fire at enemies, move to next area, and solve puzzles. The execution of these mechanics is what has changed with Naughty Dog’s sophomore title in the series.
With Uncharted 2, Naughty Dog really refined and built upon what they established in Uncharted 1. For one, shooting feels A LOT better this time around. Every gun, from the two-shot pistole, to the powerful M9, and even the trusty AK-47 feels different, discouraging the player from tackling each weapon in the same manner. Hammering down on the trigger while holding an M9 might work fine because of its more concentrated shot, but doing the same with the AK-47 will result in a lot of wasted ammo due to the more intensive bullet spread. Coming from Uncharted 1, seeing some variety in the way the guns handle is refreshing.
The melee system has been improved from the rudimentary combo system seen in the original Uncharted. Here, Naughty Dog completely removed the cumbersome and unresponsive, square-triangle combo system. In Uncharted 2, all you need to do is hammer on the square button until an enemy tries to retaliate with a punch or grapple of their own. When this happens time will slow down briefly, serving as an indicator for the player to press triangle and counter their opponent’s move. While this method doesn’t lend a ton of creativity to melee, it does make it far easier and painless to do.
Naughty Dog also added in stealth elements to the game. While, like most games of that time and even today, enemies seem to know where you are at the drop off a hat, you can start off encounters with a few neck-snapping stealth kills. These moves feel great to pull off and seeing an enemy go down without anybody else in the compound being alerted to your presence is fantastic.
When the bullets start to fly, there’s a chance that you won’t be going in alone. For a good chunk of the game, Nathan Drake is accompanied by some friend – be it Elena or Chloe – to help out in times of need. These comrades or buddies aren’t as useless as they were in the original Uncharted. They’re not all that useful, but they’re not brain-dead idiots either. With them by my side, I no longer needed to worry about killing everyone in the room because my buddy wouldn’t do anything. Now, I could focus on the immediate enemy because, although the surrounding guards wouldn’t aim at my buddy, I knew they would be able to take out a few of them, softening the amount of health I lost while taking out the few I had my sights set on. Overall, Uncharted 2’s companion AI is a welcomed improvement over the previous game.
While I raked Uncharted 1 through the coals for its constant firefights, there aren’t nearly as many here. Yes, there are firefights (because it’s an action-adventure game), but they don’t feel nearly as frequent or tiresome as Uncharted 1. That’s partly because of the amount of downtime the game provides the player. When you’re not defending yourself from the hail of bullets delivered by Lazarevic’s men, you’ll be climbing up walls, resting with village people, and trying to solve the latest puzzle. It’s easy to take these brief moments of respite for granted, but actually being able to take a breather every now and then adds to the atmosphere. Even as the action started to become more frequent leading up to the climactic (and only) boss fight, I felt like that end-of-the-game tension was earned.
Somewhat new with this entry in the series are the set pieces. Yes, Uncharted 1 had set pieces, but they didn’t become a core element of the series until Uncharted 2. The game actually opens with a very catching set piece featuring Drake climbing his way out of a train that’s dangling off the edge of the cliff. Later in the game, you can fight on top of that same train as it moves in real-time to the next location. Set pieces became a good, enjoyable way for Naughty Dog to flex the power of the PS3, so seeing some of the series’ best remastered is nice.
When you’re not shooting at bad guys, you’ll probably run across a puzzle, maybe. Surprisingly enough, puzzles in this game aren’t too frequent. I can only name a handful of puzzles that I remember, and out of those, only one caused me any difficult, due to the vague instructions. Players can take out Sir Francis Drake’s journal to aid in the puzzle-solving process. Most of the time, these puzzles are fairly straight forward – move a cylinder to the correct face, turn a few statues, etc – but the one puzzle I had difficulty with asked me about colors. If you know me, then you know that I’m color blind, so asking specific questions about colors will likely result in me giving you the wrong answer. In this case, I had to look up a YouTube video to solve the puzzle. I would have preferred it if Bluepoint had added a colorblind mode to the game like Naughty Dog did for Uncharted 3’s multiplayer mode. Speaking of colors though…
Uncharted 2 doesn’t confine the player to one general location. Nathan Drake’s adventure takes him to various places like Borneo, Nepal, and even an ice cave and they’re all absolutely gorgeous. Naughty Dog really put a lot of work into making each of these areas feels unique. The big showcase for this game are the snow effects. When Drake slowly trudges through mounds of snow, it sticks to the material of his clothing, creating a reasonably realistic layered effect.
Animations also received a much-needed improvement from Uncharted 1. Drake no longer jumps around levels like he’s a stiff twig. The motion capture used for this game translates the actors movements on-screen very well. Bluepoint even improved some of the other members of the cast. Chloe for instance no longer has that glassy look in her eyes like she did in the PS3 version, instead they match the tone of the rest of her cohorts.
A New Way to Play
Because we’re still dealing with Bluepoint’s Uncharted collection, nothing has really changed since playing Uncharted 1. Players still have the option to use either the triggers or bumpers to shoot, aim, lob grenades, and reload. As I said before, I kept my options as is and I had no problem adjusting to the new control scheme.
Photo mode works the same as it did in Uncharted 1 Remastered, although I’d say it’s far more useful in Uncharted 2 due to the varied locations and better visuals.
Since everything else is the same, rather than remastering old material, I’ve copied over relevant bits from my Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune Remastered review:
…Bluepoint has taken advantage of the DualShock 4’s touchpad. A quick tap of the controller’s touch pad will bring up Sir Francis Drake’s journal, enabling players to solve the game’s puzzles with relative ease. While it’s not revolutionary, it certainly doesn’t feel odd.
There are also a bit of social features in the game. As you go through the game, you’ll undoubtedly get a number of headshots, steel fist kills, and complete some impressive feats. The game tracks all of this. Think of these like arcade high scores that are triggered depending on when you pass up friends on your shared leaderboard. When you pass up a friend on the leaderboard, a message pops up on the screen showing you where you stand compared to the rest of your social circle. It adds a bit of a competitive edge to the game, and encourages you to play differently. However, if you don’t want to use this and would rather play the game normally, you can do that by disabling the feature in the options menu.
Uncharted 2 is the ideal merriment between a movie and a video game. The two mediums come together seamlessly as players are thrown back into an adventure with Nathan Drake. However, unlike in Uncharted 1, it actually feels like there’s a world to explore. From interacting with the environment, shooting little clay pots, and even resting with Tenzin’s village people, I always felt like I had enough breathing room.. Here I didn’t feel like I was watching a movie, but rather like I was playing a movie. At about 7 hours and 37 minutes, the movie might be long, but boy is it worth the price of admission.
+ Combat feels great
+ Melee is fluid and satisfying
+ Different locations are unique and gorgeous
+ Characters feel natural together
+ Story is entertaining
– No colorblind option