Uncharted 2: Among Thieves • Page 2

Ice ice baby.

It's hard to tell how just how well that will work when we're only being shown the exploration and the puzzling. Still, those particular elements are certainly very impressive. The ice cavern itself is stunning, not just in terms of the huge scale but the amount of stuff crammed into it. Elaborate stone carvings line the walls, menacing statues stare down at you and giant Tibetan prayer wheels hang from the roof. There are grinding cogs to cling to and collapsing bridges to leap from and spinning blades to avoid being sliced into bits by. There are enough pillars, poles, ledges, levers, ropes, chains, switches and pressure pads to keep even Lara entertained for a good while.

Nathan might not quite have her grace and elegance, and he might look a lot mincier when trying to balance on a narrow beam, but he's definitely equipped with acrobatic skills. Meyer accidentally kills him more than once due to mistimed jumps, but on the whole the control system appears to work well. The animations are excellent, and Nathan moves fluidly and realistically around the levels. Meyer explains this is thanks to a new process they've introduced to the development cycle.

"Now we record our motion capture and our voices at the exact same time with the actors, so we're getting the same performances you see in the cinematics," he says. "It creates very natural, fluid cinematic moments."

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If Nathan and Lara had a baby, bet it could climb sheer walls like a monkey dipped in glue.

But for all his fancy moves, Nathan isn't the biggest star of the demo - that accolade goes to the environment. It's beautifully lit, full of detail and packed with an enormous variety of stuff to run, jump, hang, swing and fall off. Meyer's not afraid to blow Naughty Dog's own trumpet when it comes to how pretty the game looks: "The graphical upgrades and updates have been tremendous," he says. "The way we've brought the narrative together with the story, both within the game and our cinematics, is a huge step forward from Uncharted: Drake's Fortune."

But how much has the gameplay changed? Not a great deal, by the looks of things. There's an awful lot of ledge-hanging and gap-jumping. It's familiar stuff, not just with regard to the first Uncharted but... "Isn't it very similar to the Tomb Raider games?" asks another, braver journalist in the audience.

"The genre and the universe we created has really been about the combo of action with combat, exploring and fiction," says Meyer, who sounds like he's heard that one before. "We're combining it in a way that has not been seen before." Has he played the Valhalla level in Underworld, by any chance? "No, I have not."

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Have you noticed how these captions are all obsessed with Nathan? Perhaps he's our new Ben Fogle.

In any case, Valhalla never looked this good. And an action-adventure fan complaining about too much ledge-hanging and gap-jumping would be like an FPS lover bemoaning the emphasis on guns. To explore such a beautiful, variable environment should be a real treat for those who like their games all runny and jumpy. Plus, although the focus for this demo is on exploration, there's certainly more to Among Thieves than what we're being shown today - as you'll know if you've seen the dramatic E3 video where Nathan has a row with a helicopter.

As for you cynics, you and your "Oh no, not another ice cavern" - the thing is, ice caverns are fun. Besides, this is by no means the only location Nathan will get to explore. Other locations mentioned so far include a Tibetan museum and the swamplands of Borneo. If Naughty Dog really is following the Ten Commandments to the letter, we'll get a driving level and a mine cart race too. Even if we don't, it probably won't matter; Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is shaping up to be a stunning reminder of just how far the action-adventure genre has come.

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is due out exclusively for PS3 later this year.

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