Jay Castello
Freelance Writer
jaymcastello@gmail.com
@jayplaysthings

“Are You Freaking Kiddin’ Me?”: Drake is Me in Uncharted 2

I’ve lost sight of the tank.

I know what you’re thinking. “Jay, it’s a tank, how did you lose it?” But I refuse to accept responsibility. I lost the tank because this level is terribly designed and I can never tell where the tank is until it’s already killed me. More importantly, I have no idea where the RPGs placed in order to allow me to destroy the tank are, so I don’t even know what direction I should be heading in whilst avoiding the invisible tank.

You’ll notice I’m writing this in present tense. That’s because I’m writing the first draft of this piece while the game is paused, something that I rarely do. Taking very brief notes, usually handwritten, sure. But stopping playing to write; having to engage very different skills that totally remove me from the headspace of playing the game? That’s generally not good. But it’s exactly what I need right now because I’m only one hit away from killing the tank (or at least I hope…god, I really hope) and I need to calm down before I do it because if I don’t get it this time I’ll end up ragequitting the game again and at this rate I’ll never finish it.

Alright, I’m gonna go unpause the game now. Bear with me.

Hey, good news! What? Oh, no, not that kind of good news. I didn’t find the tank. But I did find a silver cup! Yeah, I was immediately mown down by tank fire afterwards but that collectable is stored away now doing exactly nothing for me. Sorry, did I say good news? I didn’t mean it. Just to rub it in, before I died an in game hint* became plastered to my screen - “use an RPG-7 to damage the tank”! I know what I need to do, game, just show me where the bloody thing is! (These hints are actually great in terms of accessibility and reducing frustration, though they are so much better for this in the first game. In the second one, they’re usually late and misunderstand what problem I’m having, like this one.)

Okay gang. After writing this I went to make a cup of tea, did some proofreading, and eventually returned to the game and beat that chapter. Following this the game rapidly improved and the last few levels were actually enjoyable. But I have never felt the need to consistently post short text post updates on how much a game was making me suffer as I did with Uncharted 2, so let’s examine that, shall we?

Firstly, let me tell you the story of how I eventually blew up the tank. I tracked down an RPG because someone was shooting it at me. I tracked it through a long winding route in which I was blown out of cover and into oncoming fire by the tank many times despite this being a cover based shooter. Eventually, I jumped towards the roof where the RPG man was, Drake glitched, hung in the air for a second, then fell to the ground. I had to backtrack and try again. By this point the RPG man had fired probably six or seven rockets at me. When I finally got my hands on the RPG, it had just one shot left in it, like all of the ones on this level. So I had to glide down a wire to another location with more RPGs.

I think this was supposed to be a badass moment, but it was honestly comical, playing into some of the worst ludonarrative dissonance in a game full of it (like the time you carry a man incapacitated by a bullet wound through the streets, in the process picking up at least a dozen bullet wounds that do nothing to you). Drake leaps for the wire, yelling for his companion to cover him. Now, covering fire probably works great against real life human opponents who don’t want to risk popping up into a hail of bullets. I imagine, however, that it doesn’t work so well against a tank, which is what Drake is currently skimming across the top of.

Regardless, I landed. Then, immediately, and unavoidably, got a shotgun to the face.

Second time lucky and I finally landed the last shot on the tank - it was four needed, not three like the golden rule states - and I felt nothing. Because I had spent hours finishing this chapter and there was no payoff. I just had to move onto the next section of being pinned down by hoards of enemies.

I really want to like this game. Its story has some glaring issues but is fun regardless, and had the middle third been cut out it would have been an enjoyable game to play. I loved the first game; I fell in love with Elena and even grew begrudginly fond of Drake and Sully. But Uncharted 2 took the exact same mechanics and used them for endless, draining firefights punctuated by opaque platforming sections.

And what gets me - out of all of this, what really gets me - is that for some reason Nathan Drake calls the whole thing out throughout the game. In every firefight he will ask “where are all these guys coming from?!” and “are you freaking kidding me?!” I understand that this was intended to portray Drake’s confusion at the situation he’s gotten himself into, all it did was draw attention to the fact that the mechanics and pacing were poor. When Drake asks “there’s more of them?” all I’m thinking is “yes, and I wish there weren’t.” It amplifies all my frustrations and disappointment with the game, because even my player character is complaining. At one point I was completely unable to take cover because, as Drake said, “Dammit, they’re on both sides!” All that line did was catalogue the poor design choice of the moment, and make me roll my eyes at the entire situation.

Ultimately, the game did pull it around. The final few chapters had good platforming, and actually furthered the story rather than trying to one up the drama of the previous chapter leading to meaningless diversions. But I will always be soured on this game because the middle section that frustrated me so much will be what I remember first about it. Moreover, I started 2 immediately after finishing 1, but I’ll be taking a long break before picking up 3, since my enduring memory of this game is Drake and I saying, in unison, “Are you freaking kidding me?”

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