Coming back to Naughty Dog’s Uncharted series after a significant break was like coming back to college to the three best days ever, your first weekend on campus. You walk into your dorm room and meet up with an old friend, partaking in rollicking adventure after adventure before an avalanche of homework and late assignments bury your treasured free time. You’ll crack great jokes, look your best all the time (because you’re significantly better rested), and maybe you’ll even trip out a little. Sure, you’ll run into a little hiccup here and there, such as parties with too many people crammed into one spot, but that’s the point; it’s life, nothing is perfect forever. When your weekend is over, you’ll look back on it as some of the most fun you’ve had all year.
PlayStation’s seminal series may be the best trilogy of games from last generation. Following the adventures of Nathan Drake, Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection treats players to a cinematic romp through abandoned, haunted jungles to war-torn streets chasing treasure, to the scorched deserts of the Middle East. The collection includes all three releases from the PS3 era, and nothing significantly has changed. This is a good and bad thing. While it is a delight to see such iconic set pieces and characters beautifully rendered on my PS4, I wish there were just more little features that simply allow me to play the game in different ways, such as short DLC co-op chapters or the arena mode from Among Thieves and Drake’s Deception, to complement the breakneck pace of the campaign.
However, the campaigns have a significant amount of replayability, thanks to varying difficulties, treasures and Easter Eggs to find, and different tweaks and skins to toy around with. But the aforementioned additions, once again, merely complement the experience. The campaigns are just plain fun. They’re meaty, challenging on higher difficulties, insanely hard on Crushing and Brutal, but always fun. The constant banter isn’t annoying. The story is exciting, and the games are linear to perfection. In a gaming climate that feels somewhat saturated with multiple open world adventures, it is more than refreshing to go back to a series that perfected linearity in gaming with such a confident tone. I’ve never felt drowned in exposition or gameplay options, while enjoying the diverse amount of weapons that can help me take out the endless waves of henchmen.
Out of all three stellar entries, Drake’s Fortune “wins”, i.e. gains the most out of a proper remaster. PS3 proprietary technology has proven to be hard to remaster, but the complex technology means games from the earlier generation age terribly. Drake’s Fortune looks just as good as any top notch PS4 game out there. The lush forests believably brush up against Drake and the other characters. Facial designs looked fleshed out and redefined, and giant vistas, such as the rusted Nazi U-Boat or the abandoned castle, inspire a great sense of awe on current gen hardware.
Even though I greatly prefer Drake’s Deception to all three games, one could make a convincing argument that Among Thieves is a better game. The Uncharted Collection ends this argument. Playing Drake’s Fortune and Among Thieves back to back, I thought the second game was a bit too similar to the first. It had a supernatural element that provided exciting late game thrills, endless waves of enemies that pinned Drake down for a little too long, and Sully is out of the action for way too long. Except in Among Thieves, it feels a little too unfocused. However, the game is still great, with exciting set pieces and more witty banter, while representing one of the first major AAA projects to prominently use motion capture, a standard both for Naughty Dog and the industry.
Playing the games back to back allowed me to see how Naughty Dog’s varied level design fared over the years. From the isolated jungles of Drake’s Fortune, which featured quite a bit of backtracking, to Drake’s Deception, as you jumped from cinematic set piece to set piece, it’s a breakneck pace that hardly slows up. While it may seem mindless as enemies flood into each arena to replace their fallen comrade, the gun mechanics are tight, basic, and fun. Line up the circle with the enemy and press shoot, that’s all folks. There are cover mechanics, which still feel a little wonky, that are also necessary, especially on the higher difficulties. It helps to know the lay of the land when you go back and play on Crushing and Brutal, but it’s not necessary. Stealth mechanics still feel forced and clunky, but the game doesn’t punish you if you go in guns a-blazing. Once again, not a whole lot has changed, for better or for worse.
The slight additions to the famed entries in the Uncharted series, as mentioned before, complement your experience. Speed runs and brutally challenging enemies won’t define your adventures with Drake. Instead, they’re incentive to play through the games in a different way. The speed runs add an additional sense of urgency, skins allow for cameos such as Navarro and Chloe, and the treasures are fun little collectibles that allow for a greater appreciation of the game’s design. I always enjoyed rummaging through the world for secret artifacts or donning different character skins, but the additional features never defined my playthroughs.
I’ve used the word complement throughout this entire review, and it speaks to an important impression The Uncharted Collection left on me. The games doesn’t need a whole lot of fluff and extras to rationalize an HD collection to the PS4. Stripped of all treasures and options of speed runs and tweaks, Drake’s adventures look and play great. They’re cinematic adventures that I feel just as comfortable putting down and walking away as I do binging the collection throughout an entire weekend.
The Uncharted Collection is one of the best HD collections on the PS4. Nathan Drake’s adventures look beautiful on the PS4. It feels so great to go back to play the iconic series in the best possible way. Whether you’ve never cracked a dirty joke with Sully or are a series veteran, you owe it to yourself to play all three of these games again, as they are true masterpieces of their time.
+All around great games
-Among Thieves feels like a bloated version of Drake’s Fortune in some parts
-No co-op, arena, or any mode that allows you to simply play outside of the campaign
-Occasional hiccups and glitches
Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection features three games with great gameplay and compelling stories, making for one heck of a globetrotting affair.
Liam Crossey is the Executive Editor of Features for The Game Bolt. Follow him on Twitter for too many retweets.