Preview Aggregate 001: Among Thieves
Aggregate Preview is a collection of details and information, in the form of a videogame preview, gathered from all across the web.
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is one of the most exciting games of 2009 for the PlayStation 3 (PS3). Mostly because the first game, Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, in this franchise was so wildly popular and successful. An aspect of the first game that so many players loved was the characters. Uncharted 2 will continue this tradition by further expanding the characters and their personalities. Particularly Nathan Drake's, the player controlled protagonist, character. Creative director Amy Hennig explains we will see more of Nathan's "dark past" in Uncharted 2. "In this game, we wanted to see what it means to be a treasure hunter in the modern world. 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," says Hennig. Hennig passionately continues about how deep they want Nathan to be, "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."
A new character joining Nathan in his adventures is Chloe Frazer. Hennig reinforces that Chloe is dangerous and and spontaneous character, "She reflects a different aspect of Nathan that we haven't seen before. 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." During the gameplay demonstration, the first time you see Chloe she fires an RPG at a vehicle full of soldiers. This girl isn't a pushover. The last character that was briefly mentioned was the villain which Hennig describes as a "ruthless, rogue paramilitary leader with a private army and relentless ambition." Little else is known about this character but I'm sure he or she will be a dozen times more dangerous than Nathan or Chloe and perhaps a little bit greedier.
Up to this point everyone was worried that the stealth gameplay that Naughty Dog, the developer, had mentioned oh so long ago would ruin what is a great game in Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, but as revealed yesterday the stealth elements are completely optional. They are only in the game if you choose to use them. However, Nathan does animate differently depending on whether or not the enemy is aware of his presence. While the enemies are unaware of his presence he will move softly and cautiously, sticking close to walls and other forms of cover. Game director Bruce Straley elaborates on what they think the stealth adds to the game; "We feel that providing the option of action-stealth improves upon the pacing by allowing the player the choice to get more invested in the set-ups and get to know more about the environments than a straight gunfight would allow. It also allows us to embed more narrative and story into the game play. By showing what enemies are doing before you're engaged in combat and by overhearing some light conversations, you'll be able to see more of the story in context to the environment or situation. It also reinforces the story needs by allowing us to make set-ups more appropriate to the tone of the story."
The enemies in Among Thieves are getting a hefty upgrade to their intelligence, their artificial intelligence (AI) that is. Straley explains how the AI works, making it easy to understand; "There are two new behaviours added to enemies, 'investigate' and 'hunt.' With 'investigate' the enemies have peripheral vision just like humans. When Drake enters this peripheral vision the enemies will look over in the direction they think they saw him in and depending on how long he was in this vision cone, they may just look or they may walk over and check out what they think they saw. With the 'hunt' behaviour the enemies have already spotted Drake and are in combat with him. While in combat the enemies make certain assumptions on where Drake is based on his last known location. If they lose eye contact with Drake for a few seconds, one or more enemies will start hunting around the area, starting with his last known location, and then spread their search out if he's not found." Not only is the AI smarter when dealing with Nathan but it's also smarter when it comes to chasing Nathan. If Nathan climbs up a building to evade the enemy they'll follow, and if they think they can get a better vantage point on Nathan by climbing up a hill or circling around an obstacle they'll do that too.
Probably the most exciting new feature in Uncharted 2 is what Naughty Dog is calling "traversal combat." "Traversal combat" essentially means that no matter where in the environment Nathan is he can engage in combat with an enemy. For example, if Nathan is hanging from a street sign he'll still be able to pull out his guns and fire down on an enemy. Couple that with the organic evironments that Naughty Dog has created and you have Nathan firing from and jumping to the most unlikely of places. During the demonstration Nathan kicked over a table to use a piece of cover, he also ran up the front of a riot shield flipping over the enemy holding it, then killing that enemy and using his shield as mobile cover. It's the ability to interact with seemingly everything that makes the world in Uncharted 2 so appealing.
Nathan Drake will continue to be a great character going into the sequel and I'm sure Chloe will be just as interesting. The improved enemy AI working together with the new stealth element is sure to please players like myself who like to get the jump on their enemies. Top that with the "traversal combat" and hyper detailed in-game model that are also used during the cinematics (yes, they're that good looking) and it's nigh impossible to think Uncharted 2: Among Thieves will be anything but great.