By Robert Bayley
Generally, I am going to bang on and on about Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, but there is reason and warrant for this. It is the character and story, here’s why.
The character one plays, Nathan Drake, has just had a hairy (a pun!) encounter with a set of yetis that are not actually yetis and escaped from a Himalayan snow temple. Upon his return to the village he set off from, he finds it not the safe, peaceful sanctuary of before, but a war zone that has been overrun by the villain Zoran Lazarevic.
Now the people of this Tibetan village took Drake in. They found him almost dead in the snow after having slaughtered several dozen soldiers. Now I should say that at this point I did actually question this when Drake comes round in the village in the first place. How do they know that this guy isn’t the villain? They must naturally assume the best in people, an immediately likable quality, and such is the level of storytelling I actually thought to question this in the first place.
So they took my character in, they showed him great warmth and hospitality and nursed him back to health in this setting of tranquillity (I should also mention here that I personally spent some time living in the Tibetan settlement of McLeod Ganj and mostly Tibetan Darjeeling, and I totally fell in love with the culture and people I met there, so perhaps I had another level of personal involvement here). And then, upon my return, was this army of mercenaries tearing it apart, making it the opposite of what it is and should be. Defiling it. The scum. And this comparably terrific rage was met by a feeling of abject guilt. Nathan Drake did this. I’m Nathan Drake. They were chasing me. If I had never been on this greedy mission for a gigantic opal then I would have never seen those I cared about being slaughtered.
And that is how I felt. I actually started swearing at them. I apologise for the colourful language, but I believe it necessary to illustrate the point: When I saw what the evil mercenaries had done to the village I literally sat bolt upright and said verbatim, loudly “You f-ing did what!? No you do not! F**k that!” And I think that adequately proves my point. Great characters and story telling immerse you so much more than simple gameplay mechanics.
But then, because of how angry I was, it actually affected my gameplay. I was actually really angry, and because I inhabited such a fully realized role I completely got all Stanislavsky on it. I became Nathan Drake and whereas I’d previously fire off precision, well-timed shots, rolling from cover to cover, I found myself blind-firing from cover to make enemies duck just so I could charge in and beat the life out of them with my own bare fists so it would hurt more. I found myself furiously running directly into oncoming fire just wanting to hurt those who had hurt my saviours. Usually, upon running out of ammunition I would dive to cover and reload before tactically picking people off. Now however, I legged it towards the mini-gun wielding foe, blasting armour plates off with my shotgun, running out on ammo, ditching it, blasting the helmet off with my Beretta, running out of ammo, ditching it, then just smashing him in the face as I got up close and personal. I’d take massive punishment, only ever ducking out when the screen was totally black and white and the pulse monitor going ten to the dozen, but it didn’t matter because all I wanted to do was batter the scumbags who ransacked the village.
This is why story and character are so important in gaming. A story, in whatever format, film, book, album, game, is supposed to make you feel something. For that section of Uncharted 2 I really felt, more so than I had done from any film, novel, comic or album in a long time. Game-play didn’t dictate what I could do; emotion dictated what I wanted to do.
To finish, I was looking for a screenshot to accompany this and did a quick Bing for “Uncharted 2 Tibet” and apparently, I’m not the only person who felt this way about this section of Uncharted 2.