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Naughty Dog's 2009 epic has it all: masterfully designed action set-pieces, humour, heart, and yetis. I'm even willing to overlook the fact the game starts in media res on a wrecked train and then flashes back... which is probably one of my least-favourite narrative devices of all time, up there with amnesia and "it was all a dream" fakeouts.
Uncharted as a series is made up of some of the most inventive and explosive action sequences in gaming, of course, but Uncharted 2 really kicked things up a notch. It's a game packed with stunning vistas, tense shootouts, and ambitious platforming challenges, but nowhere did these qualities combine quite like the incredible train sequence halfway through the game.
You all remember Chapter 13 - Locomotion. In pursuit of the bad guys, our hero Nathan Drake finds himself moving through a freight train full of enemies that's speeding through the jungle. It's an incredible level that manages to weave in waves of enemies with some light platforming as Nathan gradually fights his way towards the front of the train to face off with a missile-firing helicopter. It's ridiculous and completely over-the-top, and also the best moment in the whole damn game.
Action scenes set on speeding trains were hardly a new idea at the time, but they'd never looked anything like as good in a video game before Uncharted 2 came along. That's because Naughty Dog worked to make sure that the train was travelling through an actual environment that really was headed towards its destination, rather than simply providing us with a looped backdrop. In other words, the train was actually barreling through the world - and that sense of locomotion made all the difference.
YouTuber Freako released a fascinating video on the train sequence back in 2018 that takes a look at exactly what tricks Naughty Dog used to take players on Uncharted 2's commute from hell.
Using tools that allowed them to break the game's camera, Freako was able to zoom out and discover that the train track is built on a series of massive loops, giving us the illusion that we're actually headed somewhere. Naughty Dog also included a bunch of other tricks, like making some of the train cart walls so high that you can't actually see over them into the vast void of nothingness.
As you can see above, the environments Naughty Dog built for this one level are absolutely massive. It also finally gives us a look at how ridiculously long that damn train really was this whole time. Pretty bloody long, it turns out.
If you'll excuse me, I think I need to go and celebrate Uncharted 2's 12th anniversary the only way I know how: by playing it for the rest of the day.
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