Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection Review
Reviewed on Sony PlayStation 4
Back in 2007 when the PlayStation 3 was the exciting new kid on the block everyone was waiting for someone to harness the power of that mysterious Cell processor and show us what the new generation could really be. Naughty Dog did that with the introduction of Nathan Drake and his first adventure, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. It was stunning. A Tomb Raider-like third-person adventure with some of the best graphics seen on a home console, marvellous mocap animation, all allied with terrific storytelling and fine quips littered throughout the game’s dialogue. This was followed in 2009 with the genius that was Uncharted 2: Among Thieves and bookended in 2011 with Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception, a sterling effort from the B-team which whilst fine in its own right, was not on a par with the second iteration. With a new generation and the universal love of remasters (from Chief Financial Officers across the globe) any owner of the PlayStation 4 now has the chance to play or replay the whole trilogy before. We got to have a go at The Digital Fix and you know what? It turns out that the Uncharted Games from Naughty Dog are still absolutely, and flabbergastingly, amazing.
Perhaps what’s most amazing is the effort that Sony and Bluepoint games have gone to here in order to make this generation-spanning collection one of the finest examples of remastering in the business. The choices that have been made and the skill applied to bring it all to life is impressive. The games are locked to 60fps ninety-nine percent of the time, everything looks like it belongs on a PlayStation 4 (perhaps even at the top-end?), gameplay has been improved to fit in with 2015’s gamers and activities for the completionists have been updated, or added to. The bottom line is that if you’ve played these games before, then getting to do so again on your newer, shinier, console is a joy. If you’ve not played them at all (as apparently eighty percent of PS4 owners haven’t), well, your life is about to become rather special.
In case you’re one of the players who is yet to experience Nathan Drake, let’s try and explain. Drake is the flag-bearer for Sony in the new world, more so than any other pretender such as Sackboy. With three games across the PS3’s lifetime - leading the way for the highly regarded The Last Of Us - they serve as key data points in the success of that console. Each one always set the bar for levels of demonstrable technical performance on Sony’s platform. The coding capability of Naughty Dog is second to none, surpassing as it does any other talented contender - Sony Santa Monica, for example. This was put to good use in supporting a wonderful tale that played brilliantly and starred a set of characters from lovable rogues to true villains. The games are all narrative-driven, and wholly linear - some might term them on-rails after multiple playthroughs but until that point it’s an unutterable term - fun, enabling gamers to become Indiana Jones in effect.
The Indiana Jones point is important. Nathan Drake cracks wise and has a wonderful charm thanks to the writing and the way it’s brought to life by Nolan North. He gets to star as the action hero doing all kinds of stunts, surviving setpiece after setpiece and shooting an unhealthy number of scum and villainy. The setpieces are the uncredited star turn of the series as a whole; from jumping out of a burning plane to clambering up a train carriage that overhangs a vertiginous cliffside all the way to a sinking cruise liner-escape, Drake defies belief to get the gold and the girl(s). All of this was marvellous first-time through, is magical this umpteenth time over and perhaps now is even better thanks to the remastered controls and extra fluidity (with reduced latency) the increased frame output enables.
Each game is around ten to fifteen hours of gaming on any of the difficulty levels. If you then choose to go for all the trophies - including the extra ones added for this remastered collection - you’ll get over sixty hours from the whole package easily. The first game is a small-scale introduction to Drake, Sully and the others, set as it is in fewer locales than future games. The second is a real globe-trotting adventure with wonderful pacing, beats and bravery (chapter sixteen will live long in the memory), plus a fabulous cast of characters both new and returning. The final episode is technically superior but flatter than the others thanks to the previous frontrunners having moved onto Ellie and Joel’s adventure, alongside some obvious missteps (you’ll know when you see them). But all in all the games are engaging, intriguing, funny, entertaining, big, brash and ballsy. They are still three of the best games around (the second standing tall as one of the greatest) and need to be played before we follow Nate on his fourth outing in 2016.
This package is more than we could have ever hoped for and should be levelled to all others as the benchmark for future remasters - probably combined with a request to Bluepoint Games to oversee the whole thing. Each game has clearly been handled with care and attention as it has been transferred to the PlayStation 4. The graphics are spectacular without exemption and the gameplay is improved wherever it could be (no motion control needed for walking over logs and we have a button for grenades now rather than sixaxis). The challenge has been altered (with new Brutal difficulty, speed run challenges and more) and in some ways extra fun has been injected in case folk wish to partake (care for a playthrough as donut Drake, a man who looks like he’s from Michelin, or perhaps Elena or Sully?). Three of the best looking, most fun and widely loved games all on one disc? This should be on everyone’s list.