Uncharted: The Lost Legacy Review
Sony PlayStation 4
Back in 2009 Naughty Dog delivered Uncharted 2 to market. The game received a rapturous reception. It was masterful in its storytelling, brilliant in its gameplay, triumphant in its action sequences and unafraid to do things differently. It truly kickstarted the action-adventure gaming scene as it stands today. With Uncharted 4 in 2016 the team provided the denouement to Nathan Drake’s story. Whilst providing an epilogue which many felt was just right, and the game itself being full of brilliant moments, the whole jarred slightly after it overstayed its welcome and passed through a multitude of moments where it could have - indeed, should have - ended. Uncharted: The Lost Legacy began life as planned DLC for Uncharted 4 but grew into something bigger, deserved of a full game release in the eyes of the development team and Sony. How right they were. For in Uncharted: The Lost Legacy we have perhaps the finest outing in this world since the aforementioned Uncharted 2.
As you’d expect for something which began life as an add-on, the running time is brief, and the game benefits from this. Most folks will finish between six and ten hours after starting, dependent on skill, difficulty level and how much time you spend in the open world part of the game. Yes - open world. We saw something akin to this in Uncharted 4 but here the team has had fun building one level into a big and sprawling jungle landscape with things to do in addition to the main mission, of which there are multiple parts anyway. If it’s your thing, great. If you’re enjoying the game you’ll want to spend all the time in the world there doing some treasure hunting with minimal stress. Sure, there are baddies trying to stop your progress on the optional objectives but it feels much more relaxed and fun. As you reach end game in the main missions things are tense, challenging and thoroughly engaging. All of this is built into some fine scenes which hark back to Drake’s adventures of old. But updated and changed to make for a truly satisfying and intense finale. Your jaw will most likely drop; your oxygen intake will be upped and your fingers will slip from the controller as your palms sweat leading your charge to the end. It’s tight and taut and great for it.
What that doesn’t mean is that it’s all-action. Naughty Dog does things other companies don’t have the confidence to do. In The Lost Legacy there are a few design choices, beats and moments which are all about the story, the characters and the experience. You don’t just play the game, you experience it. You play as Chloe Frazer, a returning character originally seen in Uncharted 2. She’s older and wiser now. Less the wisecracking Drake-like female character and more a wizened pro with focus and experience. She’s partnered by Nadine Ross from the more recent Uncharted 4 and the partnership works well over time, with their relationship evolving and revolving over the running time. There are moments when you can activate extra dialogue between the pair as we’ve seen before - firstly in The Last Of Us - which adds nuance and intrigue to the overall characterisation. You get asked to take photos at once enabling Naughty Dog to display its technical and artistic brilliance whilst also demonstrating the encouragement of exploration that you’ll perhaps forget to do otherwise. It slows the game down, allowing you to stop and look around in case you miss something. Hell, the game forces you to do it. There are times during the game where the story slows and the action slows as well. Like some beats in a movie you have quieter moments here in the game. Naughty Dog is expert at this and unafraid to do it. There is no game for a while. Uncharted is not an interactive novel but it is effectively a movie experience and like movies, downtime is needed. It might be to rest, or it could be the calm before the storm. It might just be to tell some more story (although most of that is via cutscenes). Whatever the reason in The Lost Legacy it’s all good. The storytelling mastery from the devs’ B team here is impressive (the A team are away doing Ellie and Joel’s adventures part two).
The game uses the same engine as Uncharted 4 unsurprisingly and looks and sounds amazing as a result. The depth of quality on screen is clear for all to see. It’s not exactly like its bigger brother though. Characters have been created via mocap as is standard and that means the movement of each and the facial activity of everyone is different. Chloe moves differently to Drake; she fights in another manner too - not the perturbed brawler we’re used to but a more focused fighter with clear training. Gunplay works brilliantly too and all types of combat are woven into the story at the right times and with new levels of variety as well as differently. It’s great fun.
The best part of the gameplay might well be the platforming though, at least it was for me. Whilst we know what types of wall to look to climb and that every so often the thing we grab will break, it still feels fresh and fun here. The routes you take, the steps in which things happen feels new. I could have happily kept on climbing and jumping and exploring. It’s real raiding and treasure hunting. When this was combined with the gunplay it worked fantastically too. Often it can fall flat and feel like the two are together just to add a bit to the level but at times here the two were combined in symbiosis to deliver a greater whole.
Uncharted: The Lost Legacy is an impressive game. It gets most things right, and the credit for this must go to the dev team firstly and the environment created by the leaders at Naughty Dog secondly, an environment which allows the creatives and the technical experts to do what they think is best, even if that’s unusual. Ultimately we have here up to ten hours in a beautiful world with stunningly well-executed gameplay all bound up in in an engaging story with character depth and action setpieces which enthrall, thrill and are fresh. Naughty Dog is at the top of its game and this little gem is not lost on us.