(“Levels I Love” is a new feature I will be doing from time to time that will focus on a particular level that is a favorite of mine. As a result it will include spoilers for that level and the game it is from, so make sure you’ve played it before you check these out. These won’t be in any particular order. I will probably just do them after replaying them or when something motivates me to write about the level or game in question. Anyway, I hope you enjoy these.)
There are a lot of great Uncharted levels, but Uncharted 2’s Desperate Times stands out from the pack for me because not only is it a spectacular level, but it feels like a perfect slice of Uncharted. It includes all of the things that make Uncharted great. If you were trying to sell someone on the series, I feel like you hand them the controller for this level and they’d know exactly what they could expect from these games. Because it captures the essence of Uncharted.
Desperate Times, Uncharted 2‘s sixth chapter, is centered around one of the series’ big epic setpieces and arguably the best in the series. Drake and Chloe find themselves crossing rooftops as they try to make their way to a temple in the distance. One of Lazarevic’s helicopters finds them and a chase ensues. This ends in a classic action movie type moment as you fight enemies in a collapsing building while avoiding fire from the helicopter before jumping to safety.
While that is the most memorable sequence of this chapter, it is the sections that surround it that solidify this as one of my favorite levels. The level opens with one of Uncharted’s big arena type combat setups. There are a lot of different cover spots and weapons littered around the area and different ways for you to move around and take out enemies. If you are actually a fan of Uncharted’s shooting and combat like me, this is a nice way to open a level. It is followed by a climb up a hotel which does a good job of combining some traversal with various combat encounters and vertical level design. Like many others, I wish this series’ platforming was more challenging, but when you look at it as a way to add verticality and options to the combat, it’s actually pretty successful in that regard. And this level shows this aspect off a bit.
This hotel climb leads into the aforementioned helicopter chase, but there is a section that follows as well which includes a bit more shooting and jumping about rooftops as well as a final fight against the helicopter. There isn’t much to it as you send the bird spinning down into the city below with a grenade launcher (and climb over top of it later), but it acts as a punctuation mark to that standout sequence that preceded it.
The level is then capped off with a cutscene that includes Elena’s first appearance in the game. Those who know me, know how much I love Elena’s character which would make this scene a winner on its own, but it contains some great interactions between her, Drake and Chloe. There’s the famous “last year’s model” line, Chloe’s surprise that Nate would go for someone like Elena or Elena’s reaction to Drake being involved in the Lazarevic mess.
And there are a bunch of other great little moments sprinkled throughout the level as well. A couple of humorous ones stand out in my mind. Like when Chloe gets stuck in an elevator and Nate remarks, “Great, power’s out, and a girl’s trapped. I swear to God, if there’s a zombie around the next corner…” which is a funny reference to the original game. Or Drake’s insistence that Chloe to respond to his calls of “Marco!” if you hop into the pool on top of the hotel and Chloe’s complete disinterest in humoring him before begrudgingly saying “Polo” in return. Even just the vista that stretches in front of you as you peer off the top of the hotel’s roof which shows off the game’s beautiful graphics.
Desperate Times really encapsulates all the key elements of Uncharted and packs them into one exciting level. It feels like a perfect vertical slice of Uncharted’s fun gameplay and top-notch presentation and visuals. And it stands as one of my favorite levels in gaming.
Do you have a favorite level from the Uncharted series? Let me know in the comments below. Thanks for reading!