In anticipation of the release of their new game, the PS3 exclusive Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, developer Naughty Dog and Sony held a preview event for media and a select group of beta key holders in a Chicago area multiplex this week. Game designer Jacob Minkoff welcomed the crowd of over one hundred and announced a single elimination tournament, the screening of as yet unrevealed sections of gameplay and to the most applause, a copy of the new game for every attendee.
Minkoff then enthusiastically described the game’s design philosophy: to create a playable Hollywood blockbuster, complete with over the top action set pieces, great visuals and dynamic sound cues. Minkoff also emphasized how thematic and character development elevates action movies into great films, name checking Han Solo’s development from unscrupulous, self-interested smuggler to hero. He continued by likening Unchartered’s retuning hero Nathan Drake’s motivations with William Shakespeare’s takes on introspection, and Drake’s realistic conflicts with the personalities of his allies and with the game world, where it was reported that thousands of unique animations will bring his character to life beyond the voice acting.
In between rounds of the tournament, four sections of gameplay were shown on the big screen, making good use of the theater’s surround sound. In the first part, Nathan and returning character Elena fight though waves of mercenaries while negotiating the crumbling ruins of a mountainside Tibetan monastery. Several times the player had to make use of the new system that allows for combat while climbing. In the example, Nathan was hanging off a ledge with one hand while Multiplayer Shotusing it as cover as he fired with his other hand. Scripted environmental deformation was accomplished by enemies wielding RPGs blowing holes in the ancient stonework, and when dispatched, inadvertently demolishing entire towers in the distance with their exploding ordinance. The sequence ended with a dash across a crumbling wooden bridge, which quickly collapsed into a rickety ladder which had to be climbed quickly before it broke under the Nathan’s weight, each move accompanied by John Williams-esque stings of music. The second segment had Nathan alone fighting along the length of a train running though the jungle. After moving along the interior and exterior of the train, he is attacked by a helicopter that aside from trying to kill him directly will blow him off the train car he’s riding on if he stops moving forward. A few hairy jumps, standard enemies and button pressing events eventually buy enough time for the train to reach a tunnel and relative safety. The third segment featured an extended platforming component where Nathan and a NPC ally negotiated a clockwork mechanism within an iced-over underground cavern. Timing seemed to be the key skill required as available ledges and safe paths rotated in and out of accessibility. The final segment featured more combat and an extended cut-scene where the heroic characters weighed their desire for success against a desperate situation, the troop was divided on how to proceed even as their enemies closed in on them.
While the tournament raged, Minkoff described the particulars of the game’s multiplayer options. On the seven maps available on release, with more coming eventually as DLC, there will ten multiplayer modes. Apart from the standard modes like Deathmatch and TDM, Uncharted 2’s version of Capture the Flag, called Plunder, will use a heavy golden idol in place of a flag. The holder will still be able to attack with a one-handed weapon but will move slowly while carrying. However, utilizing some teamwork, the holder can throw the ‘flag’ like a grenade towards his team’s objective, a requirement in some maps where the home base will be elevated and the carrying player will be prohibited from climbing Co-Op Screendue to the idol’s weight. There are also variants on the control point holding staple of play which will either require a team to capture points in a specific order, in no specific order or just hold the bulk of them the longest.
Uncharted 2 will also feature a number of cooperative gameplay options including two ‘horde-style’ modes: Survival, a straight-up last as long as you can mode, and Gold Rush, where the players will have to move and idol akin to the CTF object across a map while fending off foes. The game will also feature a ‘lite’ campaign mode, where three players can work together through slightly redesigned story mode stages, albeit with no story.
Uncharted 2 will be on store shelves October 13th.