One of the strongest and most popular new franchises to emerge from the Playstation 3 era, the Uncharted series took the gaming world by storm. Developer Naughty Dog shifted gears from past games, creating a series that perfectly captured the fun of a blockbuster adventure film, with the agency of a top quality video game. Now, as Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End approaches, let’s look back at the franchise that defined a console generation. Join us in Uncovering Uncharted Part 2.
Part 2 – Among Thieves
Two years after the release of Drake’s Fortune, Naughty Dog unleashed the follow-up to their well received first entry. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is the considered by many to be the perfect sequel. By removing elements that didn’t work, improving on everything that did in the first game, and adding a multiplayer component, Uncharted 2 was praised by critics and fans, receiving high marks and winning numerous Game of the Year awards. Let’s take a look at what made Uncharted 2: Among Thieves so special.
Story Spoilers Begin
Uncharted 2 opens an unspecified time after the conclusion of Drake’s Fortune. Nathan Drake awakens on a train, which he quickly discovers is hanging dangerously over the edge of a cliff. Also, he’s bleeding out from a wound to his abdomen. Nathan makes his way out of the train car to discover the remainder of the wreckage buried in the snow. Drake slowly goes through the wrecked cars until he discovers a golden dagger sticking out of the snow.
Cutting back and forth between the train scene, we see the events that took place 3 months prior. Drake is relaxing on a beach with none of the other familiar characters from the first game in site. Soon, he is approached by an old friend and rival treasure hunter, Harry Flynn and his partner Chloe Frazer. The two are seeking Drake’s help with a job, where they are supposed to break into a museum in Istanbul and steal an oil lamp once belonging to Marco Polo. Translating ancient documents, Drake discovers that the oil lamp could be the key to finding Polo’s long lost fleet of ships, containing vast wealth.
Unknown to Flynn, Drake and Chloe already know each other and have some obvious, intimate history. They are playing like they do not so Flynn doesn’t become suspicious of the two of them. Sneaking through the sewers, Drake and Flynn stealth their way past the museum guards while Chloe kills the power. Upon arriving Drake discovers a piece of parchment and resin in the lamp. Lighting the resin reveals a map to an island in Borneo.
Before they can leave, Flynn takes the map and betrays Drake, expecting that Drake was planning on betraying him. Left to take the fall, Drake tries to escape but gets caught and lands in prison.
Three months later, Drake’s old friend Victor “Sully” Sullivan shows up to bust him out, Chloe in tow. Drake is initially distrusting of Chloe but agrees to tag along, seeing as she wants to stop Flynn and his employer, Zoran Lazarevic from finding the treasure, called the Cintamani Stone. They travel to Borneo where Drake and Sully infiltrate the camp while Chloe acts as their inside woman. The two trick Flynn and Lazarevic into leaving their camp by setting off a series of explosions and Drake steals more info about Marco Polo’s expedition. They follow the clues up the mountain and find a cave containing the dead bodies from Polo’s fleet of ships and the golden dagger seen at the beginning.
Drake, Chloe, and Sully also discover that their next destination is in Nepal and that the dagger will lead them to Shambhala before Chloe betrays them in order to keep her cover intact. Drake and Sully escape, but after all the excitement, Sully decides to part ways, leaving Drake to track down their next clue, a temple in Nepal, alone.
Arriving in Nepal, Drake discovers that Lazarevic and his men have started a war across the city, using the chaos as cover in order to find the secret. Soon, Drake is attacked and left stranded. He finds Chloe and the two make their way to a nearby hotel, the tallest building around, to see if that can determine the structure they’re looking for. Soon, they are attacked by a helicopter and barely make it out of a collapsing building, before coming across Elena Fisher and her cameraman Jeff. The two have been following Lazarevic, reporting on him and trying to expose him as a war criminal. The four travel to the temple and Drake discovers the entrance to Shambhala is in the Himalaya Mountains. Lazarevic is hot on their trail and after wounding and killing Jeff, he catches them. Chloe, again, tries to play off her role and is taken along with Drake’s map and dagger to a train bound for the Himalayas.
Drake and Elena escape before Flynn can kill them and decide to go after Chloe and get her off the train. Instead, Drake ends up boarding the train and fighting his way to the front. Finding Chloe but getting shot by Flynn in the process. To avoid being killed, Drake sets off an explosion, causing the train to crash and leading back into the opening scene.
After surviving the train wreck, Drake is found near death and is taken to a Tibetan village where he is healed. There, he discovers that Elena has followed him and there is an old man in the village named Karl Schafer. Schafer once led a failed expedition to find the Cintamani Stone. He encourages Drake to find the remains of his expedition so that Drake might believe in the power of the Stone and stop Lazarevic from obtaining it. Drake is guided by a man named Tenzin and together they have to fight off strange monsters before discovering that Schafer had killed the men he was guiding in order to protect the world from the stone.
Drake and Tenzin make their way back, only to discover that Lazarevic has attacked the village and made off with Schafer. Drake helps defeat the enemy forces and with the help of Elena, they track Schafer to an old monastery. They fight their way through only to discover a mortally wounded Schafer, who requests that Drake stop Lazarevic. After finding and retrieving the dagger from Chloe, Drake discovers the entrance to Shambhala. However, Lazarevic forces Darke to help him by putting both Chloe and Elena in danger.
He agrees and opens the way. Lazarevic is ready to kill them until he and his men are attacked by the city’s ancient guardians. Drake, Elena, and Chloe escape and make their way to the stone, hoping to stop Lazarevic. The come across a dying Flynn who tries to kill them with a suicide grenade, catching Elena in the blast. Drake tasks Chloe with getting Elena to safety while he confronts the now stronger and possibly immortal Lazarevic. Drake is only able to wound the madman until the guardians step in and stop him for good. Drake makes his escape with the city crumbling around him and together Drake, Elena, and Chloe are the only known survivors. They make their way back to the village where Elena is healed, and the two share a moment together.
Story Spoilers End
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is everything you could want in a sequel, with just a few blemishes. The game takes everything that was great in Drake’s Fortune and either improves on it or turns it up to eleven. With a tighter paced story, improved graphics, and smoother mechanics, Among Thieves is considered by many to be the best in the series.
For this game’s story, we get to focus on Drake and the relationship he has with some of the rivals in his profession. Where in the first game, we saw Drake interacting in a familiar way with Eddie Raja, their history wasn’t really touched on, except to play for some key moments. (Their story is explored more in the motion comic, Eye of Indra). Because of that, some of the emotion between these characters wasn’t there.
In Uncharted 2, Drake is removed from the characters we know, Sully and Elena, for the majority of the game and instead, we are introduced to new characters, Chloe and Flynn. Drake knows both of them, but we don’t, so the game has us interested in these characters because Drake is. Drake is often put out of his element and in a way, we are too, as gamers. There is even a part where Drake is exploring the ice caves with a companion who he not only just met, but cannot really communicate with. While the third game delves more into Drakes past, it is this game that’s more about the characters relationship with himself and the two directions his life is being pulled in, represented by the two female characters.
Chloe represents Drake’s old life of treasure hunting adventure, but also of uncertainty and a lack of genuine closeness. He and Chloe joke about an obvious sexual relationship in the past, but for both of them it was always a fling. Born out of the convenience of working in the same field and sharing the same interests. Elena, on the other hand, is representative of a new path. Not one lacking in excitement, given the adventure surrounding their first meeting. However, this is a path of stability, of a long term, serious relationship and a way out of the life he’s lived so far. Uncharted 2 focuses on this internal struggle.
Besides having a deeper story, Uncharted 2 also looks better…in some ways. The scenery, water, and lighting effects along with the new element of snow all look amazing and it’s hard to imagine that this game is not only running on the same hardware as Uncharted 1, but it also released a mere two years later. Utilizing the same performance capture, the characters interactions feel even more real and genuine and Uncharted 2 brings back the side conversations that flesh out the characters while you explore the world.
But it’s not all for the better. In an effort to portray more emotion on the faces of the characters, something odd occurred. All the characters eyes in Uncharted 2 look, well, wrong. Drake’s eyes and eye color seem a little off and this same effect gives Elena an almost completely different look. Chloe suffers probably the worst in this because her eyes just never seem right. Not the right size, placement, or color. It’s not enough to ruin the game, but it is something that universally everyone notices when playing Uncharted 2.
The mechanics remain about the same, though. Among Thieves still uses the cover based pop and shoot mechanic and the gun fighting feels alright. It’s not the best in the business but games have certainly done worse. Enemy AI does feel a little smarter in this game, but not by much. This time, the amount of gunfights feels appropriate and it keeps the pace of the game moving, something where that the first game struggled, with its constant gun battles.
Platforming is another area where Uncharted 2 improves. While it’s always charitable to call anything in an Uncharted game platforming, the tilt stick and press X approach has been adjusted slightly. Paths, while defined, are not always clear right away, adding a tiny element of puzzle solving to the proceedings. While to some gamers, myself included, this is one of the more enjoyable aspects of the game, that tends more to do with how Naughty Dog uses these moments of climbing to showcase their world, or a particular piece of action, rather than the mechanics of climbing.
Also, it’s worth mentioning that the motion controlled mechanics are gone.
Despite all that it does well, Uncharted 2 cannot escape its biggest criticism, the final boss fight. I’ll attempt to remain as spoiler free as possible here. Like Uncharted 1, there is a confrontation with the main antagonist. Unlike that game, where it was a series of moving from cover to cover until a quick time event takes over, this game has you actually squaring off against the villain. But instead of being fun and exhilarating, with a bit of challenge, it’s just boring and tedious. Drake cannot hurt Lazarevic directly. Instead, you have to run around in a circle, putting enough distance between the two characters before shooting glowing sections of the world when he’s nearby. It’s just too drawn out and uninteresting to make for any kind of excitement. Thankfully this isn’t the end of the game. The bit of running and platforming to make your escape is much more exciting and fitting with the series, leaving things on a relative high note.
The final addition to Uncharted 2 was its multiplayer. Incorporating the climbing and shooting of the main game, it actually made for a pretty unique and fun gameplay mode. Where the market was overflowing with online first person shooter, Uncharted 2 had very little competition outside of Gears of War. An overall unnecessary addition, but an enjoyable one to be sure.
Possibly the best and most convenient way to play Uncharted 2 is in the Nathan Drake Collection for PS4. While the game certainly looks great while running on the new hardware, to this eye, it is one of those games that can really be enjoyed regardless of what you play it on. The Playstation 4 version adds nothing significant to the game itself, other than the ease of not having to plug the PS3 back in. However, as with the third game, there is the subtraction of the multiplayer, a mode that some seemed to enjoy immensely. However, there are no servers available for that game so including it would have been pointless.
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is possibly the best entry in the series. While not without its flaws, this sequel managed to deliver on the promise of the first game. With mostly improvements all around, it was, and remains to some, the definitive game out of the trilogy. Setting such a high bar, Uncharted 2 was certainly the benchmark which its sequel would be judged against.
In Part 3 of Uncovering Uncharted, we take a look at what some consider the black sheep of the series, Drake’s Deception.