Thinking Out Loud – Repairing Uncharted 2

January 5th, 2018

In the last few years I’ve moved away from including game repair ideas in my critiques as any suggestions on my part ultimately reflect my own tastes. However, these alternative visions can still make for good food for thought, particular when the my own views are quite different from the game in question. Uncharted 2 is one such game. The following notes were written back in 2013.

All Gunplay and No Interplay

Realistic gunplay lacks interplay, so when the player can fire high-impact, fast-moving projectiles at their enemies, there’s not much room for back-and-forth interactions. The inherent limitations of bullets can potentially limit the dynamism of the gunplay. Uncharted 2 already includes a few dynamic interactions (such as shooting soldiers off ledges), but not many. The following ideas could make the shooting much more responsive:

These recommendations would not only make the game more dynamic, realistic, and engaging, but they’d also allow the player to explore the inventive side of Drake’s personality, creating their own mini-set pieces.

Bending Realism for the Sake of Difficulty

Uncharted 2‘s hard mode floods the battlefield with soldiers which can sustain multiple head shots and take incredible amounts of damage. By the end of the game, the number of these superhumans ramps up significantly. This lazy form of difficulty adjustment has a number of problems:

Scalable difficulty would allow the game to better address the needs of amateur and advance players while also fitting within the game’s existing context. Here is one potential application:

Nothing Climbing

Spot an obvious-looking grapple point and push a button to have Drake jump to it, that’s about all that’s involved Uncharted 2‘s climbing sequences. The problem isn’t the contextual nature of navigation or the mechanics, which are direct and generally intuitive. It’s just too easy.

The developers could increase the challenge by de-optimising Drake’s climbing mechanics. Zelda: Skyward Sword does this with the energy metre (which adds a timing and risk/reward element to climbing). This widget could be a good fit for Uncharted.

Alternatively, the developers could repurpose the climbing sequences so as to reduce the number of cutscenes and support the game’s primary function, shooting. Most climbing sections precede shootouts, so they’re well positioned to function as a scaffold. Climbing sequences could give the player a good view of the upcoming arena and inform them of enemy patrols, cover spots, and the locations of explosive barrels prior to arrival. This reorientation in climbing would positively impact the game in a number of ways:

In order to facilitate the use of climbing as scaffolding, the levels would need to be reworked to include more dimensionality or openings through which Drake could climb past undetected. More opportunities to shoot whilst climbing or even shoot to open up areas for climbing would go a long way in adding more dynamic interactions to these rather static sequences.

Functional Approach to Chapter Design

Critics generally believe the two train chapters to be the best sequence in the game. Unlike most other chapters where the gameplay lacks a coherent direction, Locomotion and Tunnel Vision benefit from a functional design. The developers based the two chapters around a clear set of interactions which they then apply to a variety of increasingly complex gameplay scenarios (Adventures in Games Analysis will contain a full critique of Locomotion). Here are two theoretical examples of how Uncharted 2‘s levels could be orientated around a particular set of interactions.

By incorporating some more dynamic elements into the shooting gameplay, the developers could also increase the sophistication of the gameplay challenges while still keeping the action grounded. For example, using grenades to flush enemies out of cover (AI) or exploiting the lack of mobility of enemies caught in knee-high water (environmental element).


Gunplay and interplay, scalable difficulty, easy climbing gameplay, and functionally organised gameplay are issues which extend beyond Uncharted 2 and into a variety of other games (Prince of Persia: Sands of Time and Timesplitters 2). Likewise, I took many of my suggestions from games which I believe address these challenges well (Resident Evil 4, Evil Within, Perfect Dark, and Zelda: Skyward Sword). Of course, without implementing these ideas and testing them in practice, they are simply food for thought.