Game Review: Uncharted Dual Pack (Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune & Uncharted 2: Among Thieves)

Nate hanging out

Before playing Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception, I was warned by a friend that I should probably play the first two prior to playing the third in order to understand the relationships and back stories of the main characters in the series.  I ignored that advice, and honestly… it didn’t make much of a difference to me.  I was able to understand the relationships, more or less, and still had an absolutely great time while playing the third in the series.  And really… the games borrow so heavily from so many well trodden tropes in the action/adventure story telling vein, the previous installments just felt unnecessary.

Necessity, however, is rarely a motivator when thinking of playing any game… but the desire to revisit Nathan Drake’s world drew me into purchasing the Uncharted Dual Pack containing both of the preceding adventures, Drake’s Fortune and Among Thieves.  This desire… plus the $40 price for two games… hard to turn that away. 

Although this was not my first adventure with Nate, Sully and Elena… it was my first time going backwards in a series.  When it comes to technology, it’s amazing how much can change in two years, much less four… and it was four years back from the third where I started with Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune.

Much of the gameplay I was familiar with was present in its first installment, as well as much of the humor and great voice work.  The controls felt a bit clunky at times and the camera angles were less smooth and appealing, but overall, it was a great time.  Unlike either the second or third, Drake’s Fortune takes place primarily in one location… a tropical island.  After a great opening sequence where we meet Nate and Elena as they recover the coffin of Sir Francis Drake from the ocean floor… Nate being a supposed descendant as well as an explorer, and Elena the documentarian filming the excavation… we then get a pirate attack and the discovery of Francis Drake’s diary… and the location of El Dorado, the lost city of gold!

We meet Sully… they ditch Elena… and off we go to the island for some adventure.  Like Raiders of the Lost Ark (sorry, but I can’t talk about Uncharted without bringing up Indiana Jones in some way), there is a rival archaeologist in search of El Dorado who will eventually dog Drake every step of the way with the help of a host of mercenary pirates. 

The game takes about eight hours to get through… although clunky compared to its most recent outing, I’m sure it was a revelation upon its original release.  I won’t bother going into any of the plot points throughout… but I will admit, some of the plot would have been much more riveting and exciting had I not played Drake’s Deception.  It’s hard to concern yourself with someone’s death when you know they live.

I was originally planning on taking a little break between games (I’ve said this after each game), but that break lasted a few hours … maybe a day at best.  Uncharted 2: Among Thieves immediately felt like a completely different beast than its predecessor.  Although it still lacked the fine tuned movements and graphics of the third, this sequel seems as though it was a quantum leap from the first.

Among Thieves starts you off with a wounded Nathan Drake in a train dangling over a cliff in the Himalayas.  Via flashbacks, we learn how he got into that predicament and what it is he is currently searching for.  This time around, we meet Chloe and Flynn; Chloe, an ex-girlfriend, and Flynn, a shady former associate of Nate’s.  I knew Chloe from Drake’s Deception… but it was a treat to see that they had more than just a professional relationship.  The original plan was to steal a lamp… but once Drake discovers something that could lead to the treasure of Marco Polo’s lost fleet and ultimately to Shambhala (aka Shangri-La), the hunt is on.

The humor is cranked up (make sure you swim in a pool… Nathan with start goofing off and calling out “Marco… Marco… Fish out of water”), the action is over the top and surprisingly difficult at times, and the globe trotting begins in earnest… from Turkey, to Borneo and to Nepal… we encounter a Serbian war criminal, some double crosses, a possible triple cross, and what may one of the better set pieces of the series… a grand fight on a train as it speeds through the Himalayas, bringing you back to the beginning… and that’s right around the half-way point!

Sadly, Sully is not in much of the game.  He is along for the ride through Borneo… but after a great joke recalling Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, we are left to our own devices… until that documentarian Elena Fisher shows up in search of the Serbian war criminal that happens to be either one step ahead or behind Nate the entire game.

The story is compelling… the humor is solid… the banter is fantastic… and the gameplay is a great deal of fun.  I know that the series had a few complaints regarding the fact that the developers, Naughty Dog, seem to come up with the set pieces first then wrap a game around those, but I never got that sense playing the second chapter.  I found the puzzles challenging, the twitchy gunfights invigorating and the cut scenes cinematic to the nth degree.  But most surprising to me… the emotional punch that Among Thieves wields is mighty.  It seems odd to talk of a video game’s emotions, but believe it… you will eventually care for each of these characters… whether you love or hate them; you will care one way or the other.

So yes… I would highly recommend playing both of these games.  Among Thieves clocks in around 10 hours or so (took me a little over 12 hours… but I’m lame) and feels much more like the third than the first… but if you are a fan of the third, you should go back and play the first two.  If you haven’t played any of these games, you have either been; living under a rock, playing only on an Xbox, or are new to gaming like myself.  Either way… treat yourself to some high adventure and buy the Uncharted Dual Pack.

No ticket,
Cornelius J. Blahg

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