And the skies opened.
And the angles sang.
You know it, you loved it, you played it. Or maybe none of those. But I bet that some gamers recall Uncharted 2: Among Thieves as one of the best-selling games of 2009, which received heaps upon heaps of praise. Well I’m here, three years later, to heap a little more late praise on it because I’m pretty sure it’s the best damn game I’ve ever played.
Is that overstating things? Not really. I’ve love lots of games and have played and re-played many of them times over (ahem, Super Metroid, Mass Effect, ahem), but Uncharted 2, as a 3rd person action/adventure platform shooter, did just about everything right.
Let’s journey back once again to 2009, that magical year when there was always one too many great games to play. It’s later in the year and the Uncharted 2 hype machine is in full swing in preparation for the game’s mid-October release. Neither I nor my significant other had played the original Uncharted, and we weren’t sure just how entwined the storylines were going to be between the games. We debated about getting the original game, but had seen enough about Uncharted 2 to make us think we weren’t really missing anything. But we weren’t convinced that the game was an all-out buy, so onto the Gamefly queue it when.
(It bears mentioning that along with Uncharted, we rented Bioshock. Just to show how much ungodly awesomeness we showered upon Uncharted 2, we sent both games back at the same time, having barely touched Bioshock.)
Uncharted 2 arrived at the house right around Thanksgiving and we kept the game for about three weeks. It was the Best. Three. Weeks. Ever.
As may be expected..spoilers ahead, though very minor…
Uncharted 2 told the story of adventurer Nathan Drake’s quest to find the mythical city of Shambhala. Part Mass Effect, part Prince of Persia, Drake had to climb, shoot, and puzzle his way through places (levels) far and wide, from Borneo to Tibet. There was a fantastic cast of characters, including his wizened “sidekick” Sully, the sexy love interest Chloe, the feisty/reluctant estranged wife Elena, and the bad guy who you don’t think is the bad guy until it turns out that he’s the bad guy, Flynn. It was all very Indiana Jones-like. Nathan was a bit of a wiseass, just like Indy. He was out seeking fortune and glory (shut up, Short Round!), or ancient treasures and secrets, just like Indy. He liked the pretty ladies, just like Indy. But he’s no Harrison Ford. I mean, Drake’s cute and charming and all, but…. Um. What the hell was I talking about?
The best thing about Uncharted 2 was, well, everything. The gameplay and controls were fantastic and story masterfully combined intrigue and excitement into a great plot. And the thing that shot it over, say Mass Effect (and I love ME, do not get me wrong there), was the addition of having to navigate Drake through some rather suspenseful climbing/escaping scenarios. During the opening sequence with Drake and the mountain and the train car…my god…I could feel my heart pound each time I moved Drake. There was a tangible sense of death crawling at his heels that transferred, somehow, through the controller and into my hands. Like somehow, if I did not get Drake to safety, his blood was on my hands. I connected with Drake, with his adventure, from that moment on. He had to find Shambhala as much as I wanted him to find it.
That connection to Drake was something deeper than whatI felt towards my ME characters. I was a little worried going in that, because Drake was a preset character with a predetermined fate, because I didn’t have a role in creating him like I had my Shepards (yeah, predetermined too, I know), that I wouldn’t care much what happened to him throughout the course of the game. But I did. I didn’t really connect with another video game character in or around that same level that until Cole Phelps. L. A Noire, it was great, but not as great as Uncharted 2.
And as I said before, I also really connected with Drake’s story and his search; his search not only for Shambhala, but also for love and friendship. Once again, call me a rose-colored-glasses-wearing Indiana Jones fan, but that simple mix of adventure and romance; I simply adore it when the chemistry’s right.
We sent back Uncharted 2 just before Christmas and soon after the holiday picked up a shiny new copy on sale as a present for ourselves. Playing Uncharted 2 for the first time was a thrilling and delightful ride. Replaying the game never competed with the brilliance of getting to know Drake during those three weeks. (Right, your first time? It was never the same after that. And of course I’m talking about riding a bike.)