The Uncharted Compendium: Chapter 2 — Among Thieves

By Kes Eylers-Stephenson,
TrueTrophies is proud to present The Uncharted Compendium — a history of the series from A to Z, complete with awards, rankings, and your memories. The second chapter takes us on the ride of our lives with Among Thieves, released on PS3 in 2009.

Demek97: Uncharted 2 [is the best] for the story, characters and the big jump [in quality] between U1 and U2.
Picking up two years after Drake's Fortune, Among Thieves introduces the wonderful Chloe Frazer — a former friend of Drake's (they did some sex) — and her swarmy boyfriend Harry Flynn. The pair are after a Mongolian lamp that might have some relevance to Marco Polo's disappearance in 1292 on a voyage from China. In Istanbul, the trio breaks the lamp out, but Flynn betrays Drake and our hero is arrested — swarmy boy. From there, Sully comes to the rescue with Chloe, who found out that Flynn — so swarmy — is actually working for Zoran Lazarević, a war criminal mercenary. So the journey starts in earnest, taking our pair to war-torn Nepal where they catch up with Elena and her cameraman Jeff (who has a cult following among Uncharted fans alongside Tenzin, a Tibetian healer and mountain climber that is introduced later in the game). With a train sequence taking you through the Himilayas and the discovery of Shambala, this truly is the first of the globe-trotting Uncharted's.

Uncharted 2 Train Hang

So, where did the eight-point Metacritic boost between Drake's Fortune and Among Thieves to a truly exceptional 96 come from? Well, the team had elite writing staff on the project. Amy Hennig took charge of proceedings, with Neil Druckmann and Josh Scherr writing under her. This squad managed to keep the fun of the first game, but raised the banter up a notch with wit and charm in equal measure. Nate, Chloe, Elena, and Sully are all understandable human beings with a unique feel and temperament. The only point of failure is probably the horrible cardboard villain and the unresolved ludonarrative dissonance between Drake's murderous actions and his moral compass. The raging civil war in Nepal is a great example of how much gravitas this writing squad could put into a contextual situation, but liven it up with whipper-snapper banter.

Best Set-Piece: The Train Sequence
How could it not be? Nate boards a train armed to the gills with Lazarević's tanks and men. Starting in the bamboo-lined greenery of lower Nepal before climbing into the snowy mountain crevasses of the Himalayas, the beauty here is staggering. Drake must avoid the scenery and railroad props in a bit of neat and inventive platforming. But then it all falls apart. Lazarević's men catch Drake, forcing the adventurer to start shooting up the train. What starts as a small scale gunfight becomes a helicopter chase, becomes a man with a mini-gun and heavy armour trying to mow you down atop the carriage roof, becomes an encounter with Flynn — swarmy — who then shoots our adventurer before the entire train gets blown off the cliff. It is exceptional stuff from Naughty Dog and an unforgettable encounter.
In terms of level design, it isn't just the huge set pieces that stands out. Every puzzle, every combat scenario, and every platforming segment is better situated within the world. The environmental designers really show their talent here, using narrow alleys to create claustrophobia or wider courtyards to make you feel overwhelmed. A much more fluid combat system really helped the game feel better to play, as Drake could pull out his gun at pretty much any time. The team also crafted beautiful ruins, temples, natural environments, and museums that created a real sense of geographical diversity. Uncharted 2 just comes together much, much better as a whole than the first game.

In part, this might be because the team began using 100% of the CELL processor with hand-optimised code, as Lemarchand explained to Game Informer. The team slotted in 564 in-game cutscenes, those small animations that you see play outside cinematics, compared to Drake's Fortune's 80. With small-scale HDR implementation, better bloom effects, and depth of field, you are looking at a game that really pushed up against what a game could do on PS3. Naughty Dog even started getting the actors into mo-cap suits for Uncharted 2, complete with rehearsals and proper sets. It helped with those animations and the interaction between in-game characters, bringing the world even closer to life-like.

Mini Myself: I love 'em all, but U2 had it all. As a bonus, it had great multiplayer in the beginning. I wasted lots of hours on that. I know the next games had multiplayer as well, but they were not as good in my opinion.
This was the first in the series to have multiplayer, which could be competitive or co-op. In the first, the third-person shooting took centre stage in a variety of game modes as you played as a variation of the Uncharted characters from the games. It was actually an absurdly good time and the 10v10 matches got highly competitive in the right situations on some really well-crafted levels based on the main game. The co-op was equally fun as you and three friends fight in hoard-based game modes. The servers might be shut now, but the memories will live forever!

uncharted images to hand

With all of these building blocks, Naughty Dog managed to craft the first blockbuster that players would flock to the PS3 for and would set the pace all the way through the modern PlayStation era. It helps that the game is of extraordinary quality, offering up the summer blockbuster spectacle, a fun but heartwarming story, beautiful locales, and some solid gameplay mechanics. This game is something special, but the studio behind it would go on to do so much more.

Thank you for reading, and keep an eye out for the following chapters. If you haven't caught up yet, here is Chapter 1 — Drake's Fortune. Let us know your thoughts so far in the comments!
Kes Eylers-Stephenson
Written by Kes Eylers-Stephenson
Editor Kes is our resident expert in PlayStation and Sony news. He writes about PS5 exclusives like Horizon, The Last of Us, God of War, and Death Stranding 2 using experience from years of playing PlayStation games. He also covers PS Plus and trophy news, as well as his favorite games — The Witcher 3, Assassin’s Creed, and some indie gems — before an evening swim.
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