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Old 02-03-2009, 06:36 PM
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If you has asked me what I'd expect to see in a demo for Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, I might have said, "Probably a lot of Nathan Drake jumping and climbing rocks and trees, or ducking behind a log to shoot some guys." What I do not expect to see is Nathan Drake making his way through a city that looks like Black Hawk Down's Mogadishu combined with Uncharted: Drake's Fortune's splendid color palette. I'm used to Nathan ducking behind fallen pillars, or jumping across precipices -- but not seeing him unload a shotgun from behind a car onto some military dudes, or scrambling up an array of street signs or bombed-out apartment buildings. With that in mind, here're some of the other highlights that stood out during a hands-off presentation for Uncharted 2.

No. 1 -- The MacGuffin is Marco Polo.
Normally, a plot device isn't the most significant aspect of a game, but in Uncharted 2's case, it has a sort of trickle-down effect. Creative director Amy Hennig outlines the story by describing how Marco Polo left China with 14 ships and 600 passengers, and arrived back home with only 1 ship and 18 survivors. So in the same fashion that searching for Sir Francis Drake's body results in the finding of El Dorado, Nathan Drake's journey to find Marco Polo's lost fleet quickly becomes the search for Shambhala (the olde time way to say "Shangri-La") and the Cintamani Stone (a really fancy sapphire) hidden within. Oh, by the way, there's some heavy opposition -- Hennig describes the villain as a "ruthless, rogue paramilitary leader with a private army and relentless ambition."

How that directly affects your moment-to-moment experience is that the plot now allows for a refreshing change for both the enemies and the settings. Co-lead designer Neil Druckmann comments that the bad guys aren't just "pirates wearing t-shirts." During the gameplay demonstration, Nathan encounters military fellows --some clad in full body armor. "You'll be able to instantly recognize the varying types of enemies, and know how to deal with them. It's not just guys in shirts absorbing twenty rounds from an assault rifle," quips Druckmann.

For the settings, the team wanted to step away from creating yet-another-luscious-jungle, and Marco Polo helps in that regard. Polo's travels through the Silk Road provides a logical, internally-consistent reason for Uncharted 2 to have Nathan scamper and shoot about in locations like a war-torn city in Nepal, a murky swamp (a.k.a. the ugly cousin to the previous game's lush jungles), or a train zipping through the Himalayas. The plot context for the Nepalese city that was used for the presentation is that Nathan (and his opponent) are searching for a specific temple that is hidden somewhere within a city undergoing civil war, so not only will he jump and climb around an urban environment, but he'll have to contend with both invading, and rebelling, soldiers.

No. 2 -- Nathan Drake is now "dark", but don't be angry yet!
One interesting detail that Hennig discussed in her presentation is Nathan's "dark past." The first Uncharted only displayed hints of said past -- mostly in how Nathan talks with his buddy Sully, or his nonchalant manner in taking on assault rifle-toting pirates. There wasn't much room to explore how seedy contemporary treasure hunting is during the previous game. But with Uncharted 2, both the locales and the characters that Nathan deals with will show more of what kind of character Nathan is.

Hennig re-affirms, "In this game, we wanted to see what it means to be a treasure hunter in the modern world. This isn't a retro story or period piece. What does it mean to be one, and who do you interact with? You're talking about a pretty black-market underworld of people who smuggle and steal things and break the law a lot. That's the world you operate in, and that's much more interesting a world to explore from the start than setting off in a more traditional manner."

Upon receiving questions about this "dark past", Hennig quickly notes, "[While] the idea of a sequel that goes darker is immediately pejorative, that's not at all what we're doing. We want to show that Nathan has more colors to him, and is a more interesting, complex, and contradictory character than what we introduced in the first game -- we only got a little bit of that color in the beginning, and then we were on the rollercoaster ride of adventure. We saw a little bit of potential dickishness in him, occasionally, but that's not 'darkness', it's just that he's a real guy, a flawed, fallible guy."

Hennig concludes, "It seems to be happening across most media; look at The Dark Knight and Casino Royale, and note the tendency to take tried-and-true ideas of genre and make them contemporary. That's what we're trying to do, but not in some sort of emo way."

No. 3 -- Chloe Frazer is not Elena.
Speaking of illustrating Nathan's character and the contemporary world of treasure hunting, that's how the new character, Chloe Frazer, steps in. She's not just Elena with a different hair color though; during the demonstration, her mannerisms and word choice are more like Nathan's, in fact. "She reflects a different aspect of Nathan that we haven't seen before," comments Hennig. Hennig elaborates, "She's his equal in every way, if not exceeding him in a lot of ways. But she's more impulsive and reckless than Nathan, which makes her exciting, unpredictable, and even more dangerous than he is."

Case in point: the first time we (as in the media at this Uncharted 2 presentation) see Chloe is when she uses a rocket launcher to blow up a car full of military dudes. A far cry from Elena, who's never really handled a pistol before.

No. 4 -- The new buzzword is "traversal combat."
In terms the moment-to-moment gameplay, this perhaps the most significant change in Uncharted 2. Simply put: Nathan can defend himself at all times. Game director Bruce Straley comments, "'Cover-based' isn't 'ground-based', 'cover-based' is ledge-based -- it's sign-based. It's while I'm traversing and if an enemy comes out while I'm brachiating across, I want to be able to defend myself. It's knowing that when an enemy pops out, I'm not going to be completely defenseless-- I can pull my gun out and shoot him." Co-lead designer Richard Lemarchand quips how cool it is to have a Nathan hanging from a sign, and then be able to aim downward and pull off some headshots.

Straley points out that due to this new system, practically any surface that Nathan can either grab onto or sidle up against, is considered fireable cover. At times, he can even make his own cover (a few times during the demonstration, Nathan flips over tables or other large detritus to instantly make a cover point). The ultimate goal of "traversal combat" is to give players lots of options for combat, and not feel locked into a repetitive cover-combat grind. Which also leads to the next point:

No. 5 -- The stealth system is "action stealth", not "slow stealth."
This is another feature born out of Straley's desire to give players more options. But he doesn't want to turn Uncharted into a game of sneaking around tediously, or constantly monitoring light/sound/stealth meters, or failing when the baddies find you. "It's [just] another tool in the toolbox; if you want to go in guns blazing, have at it. If you want to go around the environment, get familiar with the layout, and figure out a new tactic to take them down quietly, then go for it."

The "action stealth" as a system looks pretty subtle. It doesn't use any sort of HUD or "stealth mode" toggle, it's more of a gut-feeling kind of thing. If the enemies aren't aware of Nathan's presence, it's as simple as he crouches lower and moves a bit more cautiously. During the demonstration, Nathan quietly shimmies across a ledge to line himself up below some hapless guard, and quickly jumps up to grab said guard and pull him over the edge, resulting in a quick (and undetected) kill. Or a simple case of managing to make his way behind another guard unawares, and quickly grabbing him to quietly snap his neck. Another subtle change I notice during these stealth kills are that the baddies drop maximum ammunition and grenade drops -- generally making stealth kills a guaranteed profit when it comes time to managing your ammunition.

No 6. -- It's an even more cinematic experience.
While there are a lot of changes and improvements to Uncharted 2, it still maintains that cinematic feel, which is one of the touchstones that Naughty Dog is going for. The dialogue between Nathan and Chloe still has that fast-paced, romantic/screwball comedy sense of timing. The technology has been beefed up to make it just look better overall; I don't understand all the talk of shaders and other gobbledygook when co-president and technology lead Christophe Balestra describes the new features of Naughty Dog Engine 2.0. But what I do understand is seeing just how good the snow looks, or seeing the colors pop off the screen during Nathan's gunfight in Nepal, or seeing the sun's rays refract when Nathan looks up at a helicopter. Wells displayed the original trailer from the Spike VGA Awards, but in real-time, to prove that the trailer isn't a typical "bullshot" one -- it does look that good running in person. Uncharted was already a pretty damn good game, and these changes, even though they were seen and not played, are already making Uncharted 2 look like another grand adventure.
http://www.1up.com/do/previewPage?cId=3172597
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Old 02-03-2009, 06:44 PM
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No offense, but the article lacks grammar.

Don't they have the time to do some proofreading, like in the good old days?
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Old 02-03-2009, 06:49 PM
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Can't wait. Uncharted suprised me with how good it was. Fucking loved it.
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Old 02-03-2009, 07:06 PM
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Hopefully, Chloe is much hotter looking than Elena - like a spinoff of Laura Croft.
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Old 02-03-2009, 10:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nighthawk View Post
Hopefully, Chloe is much hotter looking than Elena - like a spinoff of Laura Croft.
Elena actually grew on me by the end of the game. I was hoping she would be in the next one. But I guess a Pimp like Nathan Drake can't be holding onto the same ladies in every treasure hunt he goes on.
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Old 02-03-2009, 11:12 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Blinx123 View Post
No offense, but the article lacks grammar.

Don't they have the time to do some proofreading, like in the good old days?
Not when you're in competition with other media outlets to try and get your article out first. Corners can get cut in the never-ending race to generate more hits so your marketing people can trot the numbers out when discussing advertising rates.
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Old 02-03-2009, 11:47 PM
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I know the press is a short breathed business, but don't they even have time to correct some minor spelling and grammar errors?

I don't think a short proof read of some sort would take any longer than 3 minutes. It's arguable, if any other site would've distributed their review in that short time period.

Well, perhaps I'm just too snobbish for that. I still prefer print magazines like PC Gamer, which are known to have a longer schedule.
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Old 02-03-2009, 11:50 PM
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hte problm is we live n a time of age where no 1 seems to care abt spelling. U no wut I mean?
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Old 02-04-2009, 12:07 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Deathmerchnt View Post
Elena actually grew on me by the end of the game. I was hoping she would be in the next one. But I guess a Pimp like Nathan Drake can't be holding onto the same ladies in every treasure hunt he goes on.
My guess is that she is still very much in the game, considering Naughty Dog won't neither confirm or deny.
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Old 02-04-2009, 12:57 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheAnalogKid View Post
hte problm is we live n a time of age where no 1 seems to care abt spelling. U no wut I mean?
No, certainly not.

I do not know what you mean, fine sir.

Perhaps, you should eat up whatever you're eating and stop the mumbling.




Besides that. If you want to rape a language of it's beauty, better do it with some less favourised one, say German.
Granted, you can not rape that language of it's beauty, because it doesn't have any.
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