On the second day of E3, I sat down with Naughty Dog CEO Evan Wells to briefly preview Uncharted 2: Among Thieves’ singleplayer mode. “We figured we’d let everyone get hands-on with multiplayer first, and it helps us preserve the story, since we don’t want to give away too much of the plot,” he told me. Bummer. After watching Wells’ live demo at the Sony press conference, there were few things I wanted to do more than jump into Nathan Drake’s weathered shoes and blast away at armed goons. In solitude.
The section Wells showed me, tentatively titled “Beneath the City,” happens roughly an hour of gameplay after the events of the big press demo. Nathan has escaped the lethal chopper of war criminal Lazarevic, and is trying to locate someone with a clue that will ultimately lead him to the legendary Cintamani Stone, which grants its owner one wish. Naturally, Nathan isn’t getting through to this person without a fight. And he’ll need to fight a lot. These new footsoldiers can take a beating. Some of them can’t even be defeated via melee.
At this point in the game, it appears that Elena Fisher, his former flame from Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, has crossed paths with Chloe Frazier, his friend with benefits. The two seem to be getting along like oil and water. After the events of the first game, Elena has moved on from hosting history shows to serious investigative journalism. She and a cameraman are trying to prove that Lazarevic is alive, and not deceased, as the UN currently believes. Chloe seems to be out to find the stone.
As Nathan and Chloe blasted their way through Lazarevic’s grunts, Wells pointed out a few new tricks that Naughty Dog has cribbed from
After shooting their way through waves of armored footsoldiers, Nathan and Chloe run into Elena and a wounded cohort. Chloe wants to leave him for dead, saying that he’ll only slow the group down. Elena begs Nathan to help her carry him. Nathan opts for the former, rather than latter. Wells pointed out that the moment goes beyond the usual escort mission and is a tool to convey emotional impact. Using the game’s trademark snappy dialogue, we as players will be able to see the contrast between characters as they react to a life-or-death situation. Plus, the AI reacts accordingly. Elena stays close to Nathan and shoots at anyone who comes near them. Chloe frantically runs around and tries to move ahead at all costs. Once all of them reach a safety point, there’s a big cliffhanger, and the demo wraps.
Of course, not being satisfied with that five-minute sequence, I asked Wells to play the press conference demo again, this time with more feeling. He pointed out some of the subtleties that you might’ve missed during the rapturous applause at the Shrine Auditorium. Naughty Dog has slipped in several elements that you’ll likely take for granted. For example, the team has completely redone depth of field. When Nathan focuses on one enemy, any others become blurry, just like in films (and real life). Also, I noticed some subtly improvised moments. During a firefight, Nathan couldn’t hit an enemy hidden behind a bookshelf. Wells’ solution? He tossed a grenade at the shelf, then blasted away at the destructible cover long enough to distract the enemy from an impending explosion. It’s very cool and exciting stuff.
If you picked up a copy of inFamous, there’s a good chance that you’re dabbling in the Uncharted 2: Among Thieves multiplayer beta. There’s no doubt that it’s a good sampling of the game’s new mode, but I’m holding out for singleplayer. Judging by my recent demo, it’s going to feel like eternity.