The latest IP from Naughty Dog Studios, a studio that originally rose to fame in the Playstation days with Crash Bandicoot, and in the PS2 days with their Jak and Daxter games, is called ‘Uncharted’. Anyone with a PS3 is familiar with the license, but for those who aren’t: the stories revolve around the character Nate Drake, a bar-brawling, one-lining, running, gunning treasure hunter and part-time ladies man. I think Yahtzee summed the character up quite nicely when he described him as “Indiana Jones as written by Joss Whedon”.
Anyway, Drakes latest foray into stealing Lara Croft’s mojo is Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, and it bears a lot of similarity to the first Uncharted game. In this outing Drake is looking for The Chintomani stone: a giant sapphire that sounds irrationally impossible to sell to anyone once he drags it home. Oblivious to these glaring issues, the story happily charges, flash-back driven, through several countries and missions, introducing new characters and reuniting us with old ones from the previous game along the way. The gameplay remains essentially unchanged – alternating between third-person shooting and jumping puzzles, with a rarely-used melee mechanic thrown in there. And cutscenes. A lot of cutscenes.
One of the (maybe) new mechanics in Among Thieves is the ability to sneak up behind enemies and take them out all stealthy. I say maybe because as far as I know it might have actually been in the first game but I never used it. It often makes a nice change to sneak up and take out a couple enemies silently before the real shooting starts – but that’s pretty much all you can do with stealth in the game. The few missions that try to strongarm you into being stealthy the whole time show off the glaring issues with the stealth system: it’s almost impossible to tell if an enemy will or won’t see you. There’s no light-dark meter like Splinter Cell, no visibility gem like Thief – sometimes it works perfectly and the enemies obliviously walk past the newly added corpse on the corner – other times they see your left toe and shoot you in the face.
Speaking of corpses, this is another thing that disturbed me about Uncharted 2. In the original, I could at least pretend that my main character was murdering hundreds of people in self-defence. In the second one, the character mercilessly sneaks up behind them and removes them from play with a sickening crack of the neck. It’s not really self-defence at this point. It’s just murdering people because they’re standing between you and the shiny treasure. And to add irony, the games storyline becomes all about stopping a mass murderer – who at the end of the game has killed about 398 less people than I have.
Anyway – summing up, UC2 is samey, predictable, cliched and all the characters are smarmy and annoying. The game looks good, but it tries far too hard to be a movie that it will only ever be a mediocre game.