The last boss is a bit rubbish. There, that’s my single most damning criticism of Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. It’s not the only bone I have to pick, but I’ll hand in my reviewer’s badge before any of the other niggles keep this sun-and-snow-beaten, vertigo-inducing panorama of an action-adventure from a perfect score.
As joyous a romp as it was, the original Uncharted had a depressing “me-too” quality which forbade excessive rooting around in the adjectives bin. Whatever its audio-visual glories and beguiling references to throwback action flicks, it was a cover-based third-person shooter at a time when cover-based third-person shooters were all the rage – a critical darling, yes, but an assault on well-trodden territory.
The sequel has been brewed up from the same base ingredients, but it’s much more of an independent entity. It also has one of the best kick-offs ever penned. Hardened but boyish adventurer Nathan Drake regains consciousness in a battered train carriage dangling over a freezing abyss. There’s no preliminary exposition, and little explanatory musing from Drake as you fumble your way out of, around and up the flank of what may, in mere moments, become your tomb. The escapade reacquaints you with both the game’s context-sensitive climbing and Naughty Dog’s love of tight but well signposted scripting, as pipes and rails sag out from the car under your weight.
On gaining the relative safety of the cliff, you bounce into a couple of firefights with mysterious paramilitaries, discover a jewelled dagger and are promptly tumbled into the first of the (fully playable) flashbacks which make up two-thirds of the story’s runtime. Drake, it transpires, is on the lookout for a giant sapphire called the Cintamani Stone, hidden for centuries in the ancient, mythical city of Shambala.