PAX 2009: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves Hands-On PreviewBy Sterling McGarvey - Posted Sep 04, 2009
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is pretty much a wrap at this point. Sure, there's official certification stuff and all sort of legal loopholes that I doubt most gamers want to hear about. But we're a month away from release, so I can't imagine Naughty Dog having any more last-minute programming surprises that would delay the game. At least, that's the impression I got talking to creative director Amy Hennig earlier today about the upcoming sequel. But the most important thing I got from today's PAX demo was the chance for some single-player hands-on action.
Ironically, it's the same level that Naughty Dog showed off seven months ago during a studio tour. I don't know if the team is releasing a single-player demo to complement the second phase of the multiplayer beta later this month, but if it does, I can't imagine them using a better one than this. The action takes place in a Nepalese town as war criminal Lazarevic is trying to hunt down Nathan Drake. The action starts in what I'd describe as an homage to classic Crash Bandicoot games, but with more firearms. A huge tank chases Nathan down a long narrow alleyway as he runs toward the camera. And, as I witnessed when another game critic took the reins after me, that tank can crush and kill Nathan at nearly any moment.
After escaping an exceptionally dangerous moment, the camera reverts to normal, and the demo serves to show off some of the newer elements of the game. It appears that Nathan can blindfire upward at enemies while nesting at the top of a ladder, or hanging from a ledge. That's a subtle improvement that I can see making a big difference in later levels of the game. Also, A.I. is a lot more keen than the first game. I witnessed it myself as Nathan stealthily crawled from cover point to cover point, and enemies swarmed to the last spot that they saw him. After sneaking around, Nathan was able to flank a few of them and get the jump. Even with that, though, enemies also seem tougher; it took a lot more deaths and a lot of dodging and brawling to clear the area. The hand-to-hand combat is much better than the previous game; it's a series of punches and the occasional counter-attack. The guessing game of landing a combo is a thing of the past.
Although my hands-on was probably briefer than Andrew's GamesCom demo, I could see the subtle differences that Naughty Dog has implemented into Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. I'm big on refinements in sequels, and from what I could see, the team has done a great job tweaking the little things. This one's still very high on my list of most wanted games this year. I'm looking forward to getting another go at the multiplayer beta in a few short weeks, and I'm eagerly anticipating playing through it next month.