When we had to decide the Game of the Year Award in 2007, it came down to God of War II and Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune . After plenty of debate, we decided to award co-ownership of the prestigious award to both amazing games, and ever since, we’ve been anxiously anticipating the follow-up to Naughty Dog’s wonderfully designed IP. Well, after a few debut teaser trailers (make sure to check our PS3 Videos!), a bunch of new screenshots (just click above, peeps), and a horde of new information thanks to an unveiling for multiple journalists, we can now provide you with an in-depth preview. We’re warning you, though: once you’re done reading this, you may not be able to wait until the end of the year. You might raise your torches and pitchforks and storm Naughty Dog HQ in an effort to play even a few minutes of the incomplete project. We can’t condone that behavior, of course, but we would certainly understand the driving force behind the assault. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves will be amazing, and that’s one prediction we’re not afraid to make.
If you finished Uncharted and said to yourself, “damn, I want more,” than prepare to be happy: “more” is exactly what you’re going to get. More climbing, more battles (and more ways to go about battle), more storyline (romantic interest included), more action sequences, more, more, more ; it’s all a-comin’. You can expect intense stuff like out-of-control trains, crumbling walls of death, swarming enemies, helicopter gun battles, and some very cool partner interaction, so pay close attention. If you’re not quite familiar with the premise, let us educate you on that aspect first- Drake is on a quest to find Marco Polo’s fortune in this sequel. Marco Polo set sail for home after attending the court of Kublai Khan for around 20 years, and the trip back began with 14 ships, 600 men, and gigantic piles of treasure. But when the disastrous voyage ended a year and a half later, the intrepid explorer was down to 1 ship and a mere 18 men. Oddly enough, Marco Polo would never tell anyone what happened; his closest friends and relatives only learned the barest details. Even on his deathbed, the explorer admitted that he “didn’t tell half of what he saw.”
Literary buffs may recall Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” – you know, “the horror…the horror…” – when reading that brief description, and one has to admit, it’s a compelling concept. What a great way to start a story! And Drake could really use the financial boost of finding that lost treasure, too, as he begins this sequel as little more than a roving bum, devoid of any significant funds. This means he battles with pirates and thieves and doesn’t exactly spend his days in 5-star hotels on the Riviera. But when you learn about a priceless treasure and meet up with a pretty girl, your life can take a major turn and you may soon find yourself dodging bullets and skirting precarious cliffs. The girl in question is Chloe Frazer, just as cocky and full-of-herself as Drake (perfect match, no?), and it appears the two may have experienced a whirlwind relationship at some point. It’s clear the two have some history together, although Naughty Dog refuses to elaborate. We do know that both are thrown together in an effort to locate Shambhala, or Shangri-La, where the Cintamani Stone is rumored to be. It’s a giant sapphire that’s also the Buddhist’s Holy Grail…and it’s worth a loooot of money. And of course, Nathan and Chloe aren't the only ones going after it…duh.
Then, of course, we have the gameplay. Fans of the original will be happy to know that the developers aren’t about to change the foundation; “if it ain’t broke,” and all that. However, there will be a few new features that ought to enhance the experience and bring everything to a whole new level. For example, according to IGN, Naughty Dog emphasized giving the player choices this time around. In other words, while they are implementing a new stealth mechanic, you can choose to sneak about or you can choose to go in guns blazing. It’s entirely up to you, and both ways will work out just fine, provided you perform admirably. If your foes haven’t spotted you yet, you can sneak about and dispatch them silently, and as a very cool addition, Drake will move differently if his opponents haven’t yet acknowledged his existence. So you can snag an unsuspecting pirate from behind or reach up and toss someone over the ledge you’re currently hanging from, or you can simply dive into the third-person shooter mechanic you learned in the original. It’s similar to Gears of War with it’s shoot ‘n cover system, and it works exceedingly well.
And your choices won’t end with the combat. You can even engage in battles in the midst of climbing! This is almost a must, as much more of the environment is scalable this time around, and it would be all too easy to scramble up high, out of the reach of your pursuers. But Naughty Dog isn’t about to succumb to such a flaw; your foes will follow you, so you may find yourself unloading full clips at diligent enemies who are rapidly closing your position…and instead of standing on the ground, you’re firing from the edge of a cliff or even hanging upside down. This is a feature the developers are calling “traversal gameplay,” and while we’ve seen glimpses of similar mechanics in other games in the past, we fully expect this to be a new experience. The only question that remains is how big of a role Chloe will play in our adventure; will she be attached to our hip at all times like Sheva in Resident Evil 5 or Elika in Prince of Persia ? Or is she more of a free-running companion that simply follows you and does what she pleases? We have to learn a bit more, but the Nathan/Chloe relationship is gonna be intriguing, no matter what.
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is right near the top of our list for most anticipated titles of 2009, and after this preview, it may be sitting pretty in the #1 slot. It’s going to be a drop-dead gorgeous, endlessly entertaining, and wonderfully polished action/adventure game…and yes, you can quote us on this. We’re that confident.