Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection (REVIEW)

written by Justin Prince (@prince_justin)

Looking back on last generation, Naughty Dog’s Uncharted series serves as a paramount example of what was possible on the PS3 and further pushed the envelope of what can make a truly engaging gaming experience. Much like what they did with The Last of Us, the adventures of famed treasure hunter Nathan Drake are given the HD coat of paint.

For the uninitiated… the Uncharted series follows the exploits of Nathan Drake, a descendant of famed explorer Sir Francis Drake, as he trots around the globe, raiding tombs (see whatIdid there?) while discovering the secrets of long lost civilizations. The Uncharted Collection spans three games in Drake’s ongoing treasure hunting narrative. Drake’s Fortune follow Drake, his longtime mentor Victor “Sully” Sullivan, and plucky investigative journalist Elena Fisher as they search for the fabled El Dorado; though what most expect when thinking about El Dorado turn out to be something far more sinister than initially believed. The follow-up, Among Thieves, takes the formula of the first game and dials it u to eleven; everything is bigger, louder, flashier, with a setting taking place at multiple locales around the world. Among Thieves featured a larger cast and introduced a bit of duality in the women in Nathan Drake’s life with Chloe Frazer as the sort of anti-thesis to Elena Fisher; tasked with tracking down the Cintamani Stone and the lost city of Shambhala, Drake and company need to find it before a crazed Serbian war criminal with aspirations of world domination get there first. In Drake’s Deception, the PS3 Uncharted trilogy comes full circle with more insight into how Drake met Sully and the true nature behind the ring of Sir Francis Drake that Nate wore around his neck since the events of Drake’s Fortune. Leading Team Drake all over the world (again) in search of Iram of the Pillars, a lost Arabian city known as the Atlantis of the Sand. Much of the cast returns and while many will tout the second game, Among Thieves, as the best game in the package… personally, I loved Uncharted 3 so much that it sits as my personal favorite in the series.

"I've got a bad feeling about this" cliché

"I've got a bad feeling about this" cliché

For reviews like this, the main thing I focus on are what make it different… SO! With the whole narrative business out of the way, let’s focus on what’s new. Having played these games in their original form during the PS3 era, you may wonder if a brand new coat of paint is enough to warrant a purchase. The biggest change is how unified the control scheme is across the entire package, to make it a simple swap to go from Drake’s Fortune all the way to Drake’s Deception, various gameplay tweaks were made in respect to camera movement, aim assist, and movement. This is further felt when forcing myself to go back to the PS3 version of Drake’s Fortune. Grenades no longer have to be equipped in the first game, plus… the grenade gameplay falls more in line with Uncharted 2 & 3 than it did in the original package.

games now-a-days are all about giving players impressive set pieces... the Uncharted series arguably did it best…

For me, the gameplay stands up. The improvements to Drake’s Fortune make playing through much more satisfying than it originally was. The bullet-hell approach to combat does get a bit old, especially in the first game where each lull in the action seemed to just bide time in between seemingly endless waves of damn near indestructible baddies while I scramble for cover. This got old fast in Fortune, but once I made it to Among Thieves and Drake’s Deception… these concerns floated away.

the duality of the women in Drake's life

the duality of the women in Drake's life

The biggest part that stands the test of time, and still feels fresh when jumping from last gen to current gen, were the game’s incredible set pieces. While Drake’s Fortune had some great sequences, most of the game was getting from one battleground to the next with waves of armed-to-the-teeth baddies all gunning for Drake’s head. For those who played the series before, you’ll remember the train sequence from Among Thieves or the ship graveyard from Drake’s Deception. While games now-a-days are all about giving players impressive set pieces to play through, the Uncharted series arguably did it best… even going so far as to inspiring the Tomb Raider reboot… which is kind of funny because the puzzles and gunplay of Uncharted was heavily influenced by the classic Tomb Raider games. Like a circle of intellectual property inspiration.

my favorite TV spot of the game

Visually, all three games in the package benefit from the processing power of the PS4. Running at full 1080p and at a snappy 60fps, everything looked prettier than I could remember. Higher quality texture maps and redone in-game visuals make this such a pretty package. Unlike other high res updates from last gen to now, Uncharted benefits from this pretty new coat of paint since it was a PlayStation exclusive, and like its zombie inspired kissing-cousin The Last of Us, it gives already impressive looking games the perfect amount of spice, almost looking right at home on current gen machines. Improved details, reduced anti-aliasing, and dramatically improved detail make this a game so damn pretty to look at. Though all three games look fantastic, Drake’s Fortune benefits from this the most, Among Thieves and Drake’s Deception were beautiful games when they first came out, and the sentiment continues to persist in this HD package, but the first entry which launched early in the PS3 lifecycle looks like a more cohesive part of the package.

Uncharted: Drake's Fortune PS3 and PS4 comparison

Uncharted: Drake's Fortune PS3 and PS4 comparison

Going back to my earlier statement… the query stands, is this game for me? With the Xbox 360 reigning supreme last generation, there were a lot of Xbox players who jumped from the big green to Sony’s powerhouse this gen, these are the same players who I would have suggested The Last of Us Remastered to and the sentiment rings true with The Nathan Drake Collection. For those who have played the games previously, aside from snappier visuals and a new coat of paint, there isn’t much else here for you. If you were a huge fan of the franchise before; buying this is a no brainer… but if you were just OK with the Uncharted series, you’re better off waiting for a price drop.

The most puzzling exclusions from the package are a HD remake of Golden Abyss and the multiplayer from Uncharted 2 & 3. Naughty Dog’s community manager Eric Monachelli said:

“We don’t want to split up our awesome U2 and U3 MP communities that we have right now either. Everyone who buys collection will get U4 MP Beta access and it’ll be a fun way to get ready for U4!”
how the hell will I get out of this one...

how the hell will I get out of this one...

While I guess I can understand the sentiment, what puzzles me is that they released the multiplayer from The Last of Us with their PS4 remake; how is this that different? There are still so many players from last gen who never played the series, while generally mutliplayer feels tacked on (I’m talking to you Ubisoft and Assassin’s Creed) the Uncharted 2 & 3 multiplayer was sublime, a bullet hell romp through objectives with friends… what’s not to love? While I loved the entire package, the exclusion of Golden Abyss and the multiplayer modes does leave a sore spot for me personally.

VERDICT:

This is the definitive version of Nathan Drake’s exploits on the PS3, each game was lovingly recreated with an astounding attention to detail and high production value. While I highly suggest it for those who never owned a PS3, players who enjoyed the games previously may want to save the $60 and wait on a price drop or Black Friday deal. The absence of just the multiplayer mode is enough to question their motives, and though I can understand why they didn’t port Golden Abyss; it’s still a puzzling decision. If you are a die-hard fan of the series like myself, those prettier visuals might just be enough to make you pull the trigger.

PROS:

+ Exciting gameplay across all three games
+ Improved visuals
+ White-knuckle set pieces

CONS:

- No multiplayer
- No Golden Abyss