Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
a heuristic published April 7, 2011

© Naughty Dog 2009

Heuristic #1: User Control and Freedom

Test Case #1:
The user should understand that the color yellow means a climbable surface.
Findings: During the introductory train sequence and shortly after in the sewers, most of the metal that was supposedly climbable or traversable terrain. Due to the realistic nature of the game, the muted yellow tones usually mixed with the background all too well. Playtesters were not able to be trained properly because of this.
Result: Fail
Recommendations: Make grabbable surfaces like the railings pop out a little more. It doesn’t need to be as obvious as the grabbable surfaces in Mirror’s Edge with bright glowing red, but a little glow or slightly brighter than its surrounding palette at least during the tutorial section would have helped train the player better.

Test Case #2: Linear traversal options for the player
Findings: Players often tried to get places they were not allowed to go to.
Result: Fail
Recommendations: Open up the design of the levels a little. Giving players a bit more lenience as to how to go from place to place will help not remind them so often they are playing a game.

Heuristic #2: Aesthetic and Minimalist Design

Test Case #1:
Findings: The lines between cinematic cutscenes and the gorgeous set pieces are blurred here beautifully.
Result: Pass
Recommendations: None. The game was easy to play and health was not an issue.

Test Case #2: Conversations during the cutscenes.
Findings: All of the dialogue and script was easy to hear and follow. The voice actors were distinct and the story was B grade, which meant it was simple to understand. While Naughty Dog hired decent voice actors and the dialogue was easy to understand, the plot leaves something to desire. If this game was a movie it would be straight to DVD.
Result: Pass
Recommendations: If the game genre wants to be taken more seriously, it will needs more than to just be cinematic. A more dynamic story would help boost this games narrative aspect.

Heuristic #3: User Match between system and the real world

Test Case #1:
Unlocking doors requires the user to climb up walls to find hidden mechanisms.
Findings: Users laughed at the fact that any place would design a system that requires its janitors to be acrobats to operate doors and gates.
Result: Fail
Recommendations: Put door unlocks in normal areas that a player might traverse, like right at eye-level as it is ridiculous to have people scaling walls. If the player needed to turn off an alarm or reconfigure a sprinkler system, then that would make more sense.

Test Case #2: Shooting a weapon requires the player to first press a button to aim.
Findings: Users seemed to naturally press the correct gamepad button as indicated on screen to aim and shoot at the first latch on the locked door to continue.
Result: Pass
Recommendations: None. It made sense to players that you needed to aim the gun first, and pressing the button to aim before pressing the fire button seemed natural and fluid.

Heuristic #4: Flexibility and Efficiency of Use

Test Case #1:
Force the user in the train tutorial section to learn the controls of the PS3 pad.
Findings: All players went through the tutorial and did not become stuck, but it was cumbersome and the player moved a bit too slowly. In the very first minute, hanging on the railing of the train car, even though you have to go left, the game forces you to go right first to activate a quicktime event where the railing bends and almost breaks, forcing the user to then go left.
Result: Pass
Recommendations: Allow experienced users to skip or advance through the train tutorial a bit more quickly by allowing them to go left from the get-go since that is where you are supposed to go anyway. If players find the broken rail by accident it is more exciting then forcing them to see it.

Heuristic #5: Consistency and Standards

Test Case #1:
Encountering chest-high walls and corners mean you can take cover behind or around them.
Findings: Every box the players encountered was able to be used as cover, and enemies were not able to see Drake when he was around a corner unless they were in direct line-of-sight.
Result: Pass
Recommendations: More varied types of cover would not hurt. There are some pots and plants scattered about, but varied terrain would help expand the environment.