Naughty Dog’s Uncharted series occupies a rather special place in the hearts of most PlayStation fans.
The first instalment was easily the first game that made the PS3 worth buying after its release, while Uncharted 2: Among Thieves was a contender for the best game of 2009 (if Batman: Arkham Asylum and Street Fighter IV hadn’t seen release that year, it probably would have had a straight run to the gold).
Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception wasn’t the unqualified critical hit its predecessors were, but the game’s sales – and the level of ire some fans aimed at less-than-enthusiastic reviewers – marked it out as a success.
Over a period of four years, then, Uncharted joined the likes of God Of War, Killzone and Gran Turismo as one of Sony’s flagship console franchises. With that in mind, it’s hard to imagine that there are any PlayStation owners in existence who haven’t played them.
Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection – Newbies
Of course, if you’ve never played an Uncharted game before and you own a PS4, Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection is utterly essential. There’s a reason Uncharted 4 is one of the most anticipated games of 2016 and if you’re in the dark as to what that is, this remastered trio of PS3 exclusives will give you more than a decent indication.
The core appeal of the entire series has always been tied to Nathan Drake, its cocksure, roguish protagonist, and the assortment of ne’er-do-wells he comes across on his adventures. The performances in the Uncharted games are some of the best ever captured in the medium; Nolan North’s turn as Nathan Drake made him one of the first bona fide celeb actors in the gaming industry. The supporting cast are equally strong, as is the script, which contains enough snappy dialogue and one-liners to turn Joss Whedon green with envy.
One critic called the Uncharted games ‘the best movies you’ve ever played’ and they’re not far wrong. The whole series makes the player feel like they’re starring in their own Saturday morning high adventure show. Between the characters’ banter, the eye-popping action set pieces and the exotic locations (admittedly more of a feature in the second and third game), players will likely not even notice that the plots driving the games’ narratives are utterly preposterous.
However, they’re likely to pick up the fact that this franchise has never really been a hotbed of innovation. When the player isn’t platforming through an environment, they’re either solving a puzzle, running for their lives or taking down bad guys with guns and fists. There’s a couple of turret and rail-shooter sections scattered here and there, but Uncharted never pushed the boat out in terms of game design.
To be brutally frank, the only games Uncharted has influenced in the years since its release is the most recent series of Tomb Raider games – which seems fair because Nathan Drake owes more than a debt of inspiration to Ms Croft.
Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection – Veterans
Remasters of older games are a tricky prospect for long-time fans. Unless the new package contains new content in some shape or form the question facing the veterans is: ‘is it worth dumping a sizeable chunk of change on games I’ve already played just because they’ve had a visual scrub?’
In the case of this new collection, it all really depends on how keen players are to revisit the Uncharted games on the PS4. The developer behind the remaster, Bluepoint, has certainly done a bang-up job of sprucing up the presentation across all three games – although in the case of the first two instalments, the visual bump doesn’t look quite current gen.
Character models look a lot more convincing and Bluepoint has worked hard to eliminate frame-tearing and clipping. Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune is still the runt of the litter, but that’s also because players spend most of their time surrounded by jungle foliage or cave walls.
Drake’s second and third adventures look far more sumptuous, helped in no small part by the fact that both entries build on the more solid foundations of their source material. Both Uncharted 2 and Uncharted 3 were huge leaps forward in terms of presentation and mix of environments, both of which stand their remastered variants in good stead here.
Unfortunately, some of the games’ weaknesses haven’t been addressed in this remaster. The combat is still one-note at best and at worst (on higher difficulty settings) is a war of attrition. It’s hard to become invested in gunfights when they all follow the same template – shoot enemies that pour into a small area until all are dead, rinse, repeat – and most encounters have the dramatic heft of thin air.
Furthermore, the prettier visuals aren’t backed up with a lot of content. Both Uncharted 2 and Uncharted 3 were originally released with rather good multiplayer modes, and sadly both of them have been stripped out of this collection. The absence of the two Uncharted games that landed on the PS Vita is also rather glaring – especially when one considers that the two God Of War handheld games received the home console port treatment.
Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection – Conclusion
Those grievances aside, there’s still a lot to enjoy in this package, especially for players coming to this series for the first time. It’s true that the games feel a little dated in terms of their mechanics and structure, but that’s a small price to pay for getting acquainted (or re-acquainted) with one of the best and most endearing set of character in gaming and some of the best storytelling in the medium.