Squint a little while looking at the original Uncharted, and you’ll see it for what it really was: Tomb Raider, minus two boobs, plus better writing. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is a more polished, expansive, and overall satisfying experience. The game opens with Nathan Drake, the male version of Lara Croft, unshaven and drinking alone in a bar. (This is movie-speak for “Help me, I’m in an emotional tailspin.”) A Brit named Karl arrives, along with a raven-haired woman named Chloe, and they manage to convince Drake to help them steal an item from a Turkish museum that could be a clue to locating Marco Polo’s 13 lost ships.
From there, double-crosses arrive on a regular basis, with enough alacrity to induce whiplash. The plot and writing are easily superior to almost anything playing at the local multiplex. Everything in the game is rendered with a conviction and confidence rarely seen in games.
Nathan is off on a globetrotting quest to locate a lost treasure before an assortment of villains do. From dank Moroccan caves to snowbound Himalayan villages, no matter where the game goes, the locations always feel germane to the plot. The gun battles verge on becoming tedious, as they did in the original, but this time, developer Naughty Dog seems aware of this issue, and almost always whisks you away before boredom sets in.
The developers clearly took pleasure in beating the tar out of Drake, shooting him, and dropping him from great heights, in the tradition of Sam Raimi’s sado-comic abuse of Bruce Campbell in the Evil Dead trilogy. But the real triumph is the painfully real way Uncharted 2 portrays human relationships. People come together and fall apart in devastating, believable ways. The relationship between Nathan and Chloe feels both old—these two have a history together—and new again in an exciting way. It’s the sexiest, most convincing relationship in gaming history.
Of course, Uncharted 2 includes more typical things, like man-vs.-helicopter battles and the requisite number of explosions. But the character interaction and the superb story will stay with players long after they’ve escaped its final trap.