In Uncharted 2’s opening sequence, Naughty Dog wastes no time throwing treasure hunter Nathan Drake into harm’s way. Only this time, he isn’t the bulletproof protagonist we knew from the first adventure. Beaten, bloodied, and left for dead, he’s been humanized. The emotional timbre is engaging and powerful. Yet this opening sequence isn’t a movie to watch with bated breath. It’s gameplay, and you’re controlling Nathan in a nearly unconscious state.

The divide separating video games and motion pictures is expansive, but moments like this one bring them closer together. I’m not saying games should be movies, or vice versa, but exploring characters in different conditions, emotional or physical, can open the doors for more dynamic storytelling and gameplay in games. Uncharted 2 is testament to this idea.

Many of these gameplay moments bleed directly out of the story breaks. With the notable elimination of loading screens and no discernable difference between the cutscene and gameplay graphics, I often found myself tapping the analog stick during a conversation or action sequence just to make sure I wasn’t supposed to be playing. In some cases, I was supposed to be playing! Ditching load screens may seem like a trivial technical merit, but it greatly enhances the game’s pacing, flow, and overall cinematic impact.

Without skipping a beat, this adventure rolls like a boulder chasing Indiana Jones, picking up momentum and bouncing unpredictably every step of the way. Naughty Dog’s scribes penned a fascinating, tightly wound mystery centered on Marco Polo’s lost fleet. The set pieces accompanying this tale deliver the sense of miraculous discovery, and are instrumental in evolving both the characters and gameplay. Nathan, who is voiced brilliantly by gaming vet Nolan North, turns in one of the most believable performances I’ve seen from a game character. His emotions are fully established, and his comic timing is spot on, often bringing about big laughs in stressful situations.

Not once did I feel that the plot was altered to fit the gameplay. This was one of my big complaints with the first game; it just didn’t move naturally. In Uncharted 2, every aspect of the game is harmonized. The environments players traverse embody a higher level of realism, meaning you won’t see man-made barriers positioned strategically for a gunfight in a lush jungle. Small touches like these remove predictability from the equation.