What to Play: The Real Start of Nathan Drake in ‘Uncharted 2: Amongst Thieves’ (2009)
A look back at the second game in this influential adventure series.
Uncharted 2: Amongst Thieves is a 2009 action third-person shooter game about a the continuing adventures of Nathan Drake as he searches around the world for the legendary Shangri-La.
While Nathan Drake might have made his debut with 2007’s Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune it would be this game, released two years later, that truly launched him into the gaming conscious as Drake sets out to find the fabled Cintimani Stone, a massive sapphire from the fabled city of Shambhala.
Essentially rebuilding the games concept from the ground up, the development team at Naughty Dog right from the start waste no time in asserting this fact as we open with a wounded Nate waking up in a train carriage hanging precariously off the side of the cliff. This is the first level of the game, which sees you trying to escape the carriage before it plummets to its doom, certainly making for an exciting start. Only once you’re past this does the game flashback several months to Nate being approached by his former partner Harry and his girlfriend Chloe to break into a Turkish museum to steal a mongolian oil lamp, which sets you on the path of the Cintimani stone when Drake is inevitably double crossed.
Everything about this second adventure improves upon the original as the jungle setting this time is traded out for more of a globe trotting adventure, which takes place in Turkey, Borneo and Nepal and there’s real flow as you move from one location to the next with one of the standout sequences seeing you battling your way through a train as it journeys into the Himalayas. Visually the game really is a step up from the previous game as the environments are no longer the flat and lifeless jungle areas, here providing a lot more variety and visual interest to the player.
What really makes this game stand out from its predecessor though is with how cinematically styled it is throughout with Nathan Drake a real delight to play as he battles through tense cover-based shoot outs and general defy logic with his chimp-like dexterity, which enables him to climb and hang off various impossible ledges and platforms. The story meanwhile is exciting to play through, setting up plenty of exciting set pieces which includes playing cat and mouse with a tank, battling Yeti type monsters and engaging in a high speed car chase that see you jumping from vehicle to vehicle similar to the randomness we saw in WET. Certainly these all add to the fun of the adventure, which manages to find the right balance between exploration, action set pieces and puzzle solving though as much fun as it was to climb through the train carriage at the start of the game it seemed pointless to do the same level again at the halfway point.
Plotwise the game brings back Nate’s partner Sully as well as love interest Elena. To mix things up though we are introduced to Chloe Frazer, who keeps things interesting with her shifting loyalties while frequently showing herself as capable as Nate, making not so surprising that she was chosen to head up her own solo adventure in the forthcoming Uncharted: The Lost Legacy. Of course the path to riches is never an easy one and this time Nate has to deal with not only the fantastically sarky former partner Harry as well as the former Soviet intelligence operative and war criminal Zoran who proves to be a worthy foe for Nate.
Combat once more is largely cover based, but at the same time the stealth elements of the game have been tweaked to be a satisfying option, especially with Nate showcasing a number of fun stealth kills as well as the ability to pull or knock enemies off ledges. For the most part though you will find the game playing like Gears of War as you switch between locations to try and outflank your enemies, but when it’s presented with such flair like we get here it becomes much more than another Gears of War clone. Should however you find yourself in a fist fight though with your foes (which we’d highly encourage) the much neglected close combat system of the first game has been further improved here with a simple counter system, which depending on your opponent can reveal a number of fun and often cinematic moves.
The weapons system remains largely the same with Nate able to carry a pistol weapon alongside his main weapon. As well as the same weapons from the first game we do get a few interesting additions to the armoury including the all purpose Fob , which doubles as both a machine gun and sniper rifle. On the more extreme side of things, Nate can also get hold of a mini-gun on several occasions, which while cumbersome is still fun a lot of fun to unleash hellfire on your opponents.
One of the main gripes I had though this time was with the puzzles which will often see you referring to Drakes journal for clues and identifying various markings which is a nice touch in theory, but it becomes such a laboured chore to keep switching between the game and journal it did result in a lot of the enjoyment of the puzzle sequences being taken away.
Playing this game now it’s hard to know whether to recommend this as a starting point as many gamers saw for their entry point into the world of Uncharted especially as it’s enough of a standalone adventure to not make it essential to have played the previous game. At the same time it’s such an improvement on the original, it surely would makes it harder to go back to the original after being so spoiled with this game. Needless to say Nathan Drake is once more established as the Playstation man of action while making it all the more clearer why they’ve been so keen to keep the series a console exclusive. As such if you’ve yet to discover the series or just want a fun adventure then this really is a game still worth discovering.