Review: Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection - A Great Beginning for A Thief's End
Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection
Bluepoint Games, Naughty Dog
Sony Computer Entertainment
Review copy provided by the publisher
Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection has probably been one of the most rumored remasters of this generation, and finally PS4 owners can play the earlier adventures of Nathan Drake before delving in their (alleged) conclusion next March.
The collection spans the three PS3 games, from Drake’s Fortune to Drake’s Deception, passing by Among Thieves, which also happens to be, according to me, the best Uncharted game so far, and remains the best even in the collection.
Unfortunately, it skips the lonely PS Vita entry Golden Abyss, which in my opinion would have made for a very worthy bonus, especially considering that it’s probably the Uncharted game that sold less, meaning that more people would have had a chance to experience it for the first time.
I know many tend to scoff at remasters, and they’ll probably scoff even more when they’ll see the score at the top of this review. Fact is, that there are a metric ton of PS4 owners that never even touched a PS3, and not providing them with a convenient chance to play some of the best last generation games would be a disservice.
Your mileage may vary on whether the collection is worth a purchase if you already played the games on PS3, but that really just depends on how much you love the franchise and on your disposable income.
The story, focused on the adventures of Nathan Drake, is known by most. Our intrepid adventurer goes on bombastic romps in the most unexplored and impervious areas of the world, and is protagonist of what could be defined the most improbable sequence of near-death situations of the history of gaming.
Even when no one is shooting at him (and people tend to shoot at him a lot), Nate risks his life so much and so often that he redefines the idea of “Occupational Hazard.” In comparison, Indiana Jones‘ occasional close encounters with snakes and perilous rides hanging from the cannon of a tank seem rather mild. And yet, the narrative is so tight and simply so fun, topped by some of the best and most well rounded characters in the genre, that it all works almost magically, a testament to Naughty Dog’s ability as storytellers.
Speaking of magic, maybe it’s the games’ occasional supernatural element that feels a little disconnected, but this is mostly a personal gripe, and it’s definitely quite minor.
The quality of the narration is high through all three games, even if there is a rather wide range of variation between them. The first Uncharted is definitely lighter and more cartoony in its approach, while things get progressively more involved, deeper and more personal as you progress towards the third. Drake’s adventures become less about the adventures themselves, and more about his past and relationships.
This means that you’re going to experience three fundamentally different games in their narrative style, and considering that the storytelling is one of the most prominent elements in Uncharted, this adds value to the whole package. Playing the three games in sequence, without years between each playthrough, definitely helps in noticing just how much Naughty Dog has grown.
So far I only mentioned Naughty Dog, but fact is that most of the work on the collection has been done by Bluepoint Games, which by now can be defined with a pun “the masters of remasters.”
I’ve seen many say that the package doesn’t include much in terms of visual improvement, but I can only chalk that to the typical rose-tinted glasses people automatically wear when thinking about games they loved in the past.
Bluepoint definitely did not just up the resolution to crispy 1080p and the frame rate to 60 FPS with remarkably consistent stability (there are some very rare drops, but they’re almost unnoticeable), but they also used massively improved models and textures, particle effects and draw distance.
Screen tearing (which was pretty nasty in some cases on PS3) has also been dealt a deathblow, and the whole visual package looks pretty close to a native current-gen game.
The benefits of those improvements are extremely visible in Drake’s Fortune, and gradually decrease in impact as you progress through Among Thieves to Drake’s Deception, but the latter looked extremely good for a PS3 game, and the room for improvement is understandably narrower.
The changes aren’t just limited to the visuals, though. Bluepoint normalized the shooting mechanics across all three games to something very similar to Uncharted 2. It actually feels even slightly better, but that’s rather difficult to gauge, as it could simply be due to the massively improved responsiveness and deadzones of the DualShock 4.
As usual, the first game is the one that best benefits from these improvements, including the non-dumb way of throwing grenades, alongside the removal of tilt-controlled log walking, which was also quite dumb on its own. I can understand why Naughty Dog introduced it to begin with, since at that time they had to promote the features of the Sixaxis, but such things belong in the past, and luckily in the past they have been left.
Cover shooting in Uncharted games has never been this fluid and fun, even if the enemies feel like bullet sponges at times. That said, the addition of two levels of difficulty (“Explorer” for those who just want to breeze through the games to prepare for A Thief’s End, and “Brutal” if you want a real challenge) help a lot in tailoring the experience to your personal taste.
We also get a lot of smaller extras, like a speed run mode (which is slightly pointless, and probably underdeveloped, since it simply adds a timer to the screen with leaderboards attached), and a lot of unlockable goodies (including a whole ton of skins) you can access through gathering collectibles in the games. After all, this is a series about exploration, is it not?
Since this is a collection, we also get a few “making-of” extras, in the forms of lovely artwork sets. They’re a very good way to check out the evolution of the characters and of the art style, and it’s a very welcome addition.
Photo mode is another nice touch. We’ll never know if Sony started it with inFAMOUS: Second Son as a quick and dirty experiment, or as the beginning of a grand plan, but the fact that most of their first party games now get this feature is simply awesome.
In this case, though, it isn’t 100% perfect. While it’s mostly functional, there are quite a few instances in which it’s inaccessible. The most relevant case is when you’re aiming your gun. It’s probably a limitation that has to do (in some mysterious way) with the engine, but it does get mildly annoying from time to time.
So, what about the multiplayer? Well… There’s no multiplayer. The mode has been fully removed from the games. The value of the package is so high that the lack of multiplayer doesn’t really hurt, but it’s worth mentioning that, if you want to shoot at other people in Uncharted, you’ll have to keep your PS3.
The only “multiplayer” aspect is asynchronous, in the form of extremely detailed leaderboards that let you check out your performance across a myriad of factors against your friends. It might not be the same thing, but it’s a welcome little touch.
Ultimately, Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection is a remaster done right. While it’s not a full remake, it includes some elements of that as well, and comes at you with a ton of value in a tight package.
The first three Uncharted games are among the best titles on PS3, and they hold their own majestically on PS4. If you didn’t play the games on Sony’s older console, and you’re even remotely a fan of the genre, purchasing the collection is a no-brainer.
If you already purchased the three titles separately on PS3, then the reasons to double dip are more limited, but if you love the series, this is definitely a very solid buy.