Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection PS4 Review
As the romping theme song blared into my ears, I took a second to ponder on the impact the Uncharted series had on the wider gaming industry. From their somber days developing Crash Bandicoot and Jak & Daxter, developer Naughty Dog had come out of the PlayStation 3 generation as the best developer in the business, ending with the masterpiece that was The Last of Us. As we move towards Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, it was great to get the original three games remastered on PlayStation 4 and running at a smooth 60 frames per second. Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection, a title mirroring it’s Xbox Halo Collection counterpart, reminds me of both how good this series was last generation and, contrasting to today’s gaming scene, how other developers have not been able to catch up to games Naughty Dog developed years ago. It truly is a marker of the studio that many aspects in the previous Uncharted’s are better than in most games of 2015.
Starting with the studios debut title on PS3, Drake’s Fortune received the biggest boost graphically of the three games. The jungle sections are teeming with bursting colors and the character models are not too bad as well. Later levels offer dull greys which don’t serve the new coat of paint as much as the intro. Funnily enough, the remasters feel a lot more whacky and random in terms of weird little animation glitches and enemy ragdolls than the original PS3 versions of the game. Drake’s Fortune is without a doubt the hardest of the three games, with the studio working out what went right and wrong in their first effort, often throwing waves of enemies at the player with reckless abandon. Although the shooting mechanics are not that great and the sandbox of weapons is limited, the writing and banter between characters in the various cut-scenes are surprisingly much better than I remember, mirroring the two masterpiece’s to come next. Drake, Elena, and Sully improve each other performances with their brilliant on-camera chemistry and of course, Drake’s signature wit.
But it was in the second entry, Among Thieves, that lifted Naughty Dog to the precipice of the industry. A huge graphical leap followed as Uncharted 2 eclipsed its predecessor in every department. The gameplay and shooting mechanics were tighter, the set-pieces were leagues ahead, and the cast of characters might be the best of the last generation. Keeping away from spoilers, the games climaxes are in its jaw-dropping set-pieces in the various environments and countries Drake travels too as he seeks the treasures of Shambhala. While the story might carry on too long at the end, with what seems to be clue after clue delaying the conclusion, the plot keeps the player infatuated throughout with a great villain. Secondary characters in the second half of the game, particularly a Tibetan named Tenzin, add to the already phenomenal cast and as Naughty Dog admitted, it was a precursor to the two-person journey of The Last of Us as Drake and Tenzin mirror Joel and Ellie as both pairs interact in gameplay.
Coming to the final game of the collection, and the most controversial, Drake’s Deception on PlayStation 4 looks like a game built from the ground up for the system, a testament to Naughty Dog’s technical team and port studio Bluepoint’s attention to detail. The ‘Chateau’ sequence in particular amazed me as I used the game’s added photo mode to take some snapshots. And speaking of additions in this collection, there is also a statistics page to compare records between friends, and a speed-run mode that was fun while it lasted. Sadly there are no commentaries or developer diaries and behind the scenes looks to speak of, which is disappointing for a collection of PlayStation’s now flagship series. Coming back to Uncharted 3, it expands on the series’ storied set-piece history with the most insane sequences in gaming history. The plane scene in particular will have you thinking it is all just one elaborate cut-scene, even though every second of it is player-controlled. The controversy of Uncharted 3 comes not in its refinement of shooting and melee mechanics or its stunning animations and character models, but in its plot-hole filled story. While the writing and character dialogue is top notch, the overarching plot leaves much to be desired. Not only did I have questions when I first played the game in 2011, but found even more plot holes and bizarre story decisions when I returned on PS4. That and the relatively short length of the game have caused many to proclaim Uncharted 2 to be the best in the series, and while I enjoy Uncharted 3’s flashy lights and pretty environments it is hard to argue with that sentiment.
Nevertheless, Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection is a bringing together of what is probably the best set of games of the last generation. Developer diaries and commentary additions withstanding, the three games hold up in 2015 and, leading up to Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, offer those who did not have the chance to play last generation to experience Drake’s entire tale before what could be his final outing.