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Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection

Platform(s): PlayStation 4
Genre: Action/Adventure
Developer: Bluepoint Games
Release Date: Oct. 9, 2015


PS4 Review - 'Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Oct. 21, 2015 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection includes the single-player campaigns for Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, and Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception.

The adventures of Nathan Drake took a little while to get going in the previous console generation, but now, he's probably one of PlayStation's biggest names. Aided in no small part by the technical wizardry of Naughty Dog and the excellent voice work of Nolan North, Drake has become an iconic character. With the PlayStation 4 attracting a lot of new players to the platform, many have not had the chance to experience Drake's adventures. Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection lets them do just that, and while it isn't perfect, it's a great way for newcomers to experience Uncharted for the first time.

Drake is a self-proclaimed descendent of Sir Francis Drake and has made it his life's calling to seek out treasure, often for a hefty profit. Along with a recurring cast of friends and foes, he travels across the world, battling fellow treasure hunters and occasionally supernatural dangers as he seeks lost treasure. Each of the three games is a self-contained adventure, though they refer to previous stories, and newcomers to the franchise should start with the first Uncharted title, if only for an introduction to the characters.

All three Uncharted games are cinematic shooters with an emphasis on story and set pieces to emulate the style of films like "Indiana Jones." The gameplay switches between three styles: cinematic scenes, platforming/climbing sequences and combat. The game swaps between all three at a moment's notice, so it feels like a Hollywood blockbuster.

The cinematic scenes are probably what people think of when they think of Uncharted. The dramatic scenes are "guided" experiences that are provided in such a way that they don't feel like it. Whether you're running away from explosions, falling down a mountain or escaping from a train that is about to fall off a cliff, the scenes are cool and memorable. Drake and his friends quip and argue their way through even the tensest moments. These are not serious games, and their few attempts to delve into drama fall flat compared when compared to Drake making a snarky comment before diving into another bit of danger.

Platforming and climbing are simplistic and puzzle-oriented in that you must figure out how to get from point A to point B without falling to a painful death. The environment is designed in such a way to guide you where you need to go. Handholds are differently colored and stand out from the environment, explosive barrels or other shootable objects are easily noticeable, and platforming segments reward acting on instinct. The sometimes-finicky targeting can lead Drake to miss a jump you know he should have made. Fortunately, death tends to be minor issue, and at worst, you're sent back a couple of minutes to repeat the segment.

Combat is the most polarizing part of the franchise, and even die-hard fans tend to feel iffy about it. While Uncharted has cover shooter gameplay, it encourages constant movement rather than hiding behind a wall. Drake's ability to blindly fire while moving can keep enemies stunned or pinned down, so you can easily close in and take them out. In the later games, you can flank them to take them out more easily. Simply ducking behind cover and aiming for headshots leads to enemies feeling like "bullet sponges" and is one of the least effective gameplay methods.

The first game, Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, has aged the poorest. The makeover and minor gameplay adjustments are nice, but they can't hide the fact that the original game is almost a decade old and wasn't the strongest game when it initially hit the market in 2007. It's still an enjoyable romp, but the enemy and level design is significantly worse than in subsequent games, the jet ski segments drag down the game, and the core visuals are miles behind its sequels — even with the HD remaster upgrades. I was slightly bored with the game, which isn't the case with either of the sequels. It's not a bad experience but is the worst title in the collection.

In comparison, the sequels have stood the test of time extremely well. They have their weaknesses, but 2009's Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is still a fantastic game. It lacks some of the combat improvements that Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception brings to the table but makes up for it with the strongest story and level design in the franchise. Uncharted 3 suffers in direct comparison but has some much-needed tweaks in melee and ranged combat, so it's more enjoyable on a mechanical level. Uncharted 3 also benefits a lot from the HD remaster. Much like The Last of Us, the core visuals are so good that it would be pretty easy to mistake it for a game designed from the ground up for the PlayStation 4. Both are worth playing on their own and help sell the collection.

Unfortunately, there is one glaring omission in The Nathan Drake Collection, and that is multiplayer. While the first Uncharted was a single-player experience, the two remastered sequels have no multiplayer. It doesn't have any meaningful impact on the single-player portion, but it could be annoying for fans who wanted to revisit the multiplayer. It's understandable, since revamping the multiplayer gameplay of two games would be a serious undertaking, but that means two of the games in the collection are missing a pretty big chunk of content. To me, Uncharted 2's multiplayer was half the value of the game, so it is sorely missed. The inclusion of an Uncharted 4 multiplayer beta key may help to lessen the sting.

In terms of new features, The Nathan Drake Collection has a handful, but none are too significant. There are new difficulty modes to give players more leeway when it comes to finding enjoyable gameplay. Explorer mode should be ideal for those who just want to experience the story without the mild frustration of combat. There's a new Speedrun mode, which is designed for those who want to see how quickly they can get through the game. Photo mode is nice addition that really shines in the later games, which showcase how good the franchise can look. There are minor tweaks to all three games in terms of targeting and mechanics, but for me, the best feature was the removal of the awful SixAxis controls from the first Uncharted.

The real stars of the show in The Nathan Drake Collection are the remastered visuals, which are phenomenal. All three games have been given a fantastic boost to run at 60 fps and 1080p. Even the dated Uncharted: Drake's Fortune looks way better than the original, but the two sequels benefit the most from the updates. I didn't notice any meaningful dips in performance, and for the most part, the game was buttery smooth. There is a definite improvement in draw distance and pop-in. Considering that Uncharted 3 was one of the best-looking games on the PS3, it's impressive how much the update has done to bring it up to next-gen standards. Even if nothing had been changed, The Nathan Drake Collection would be worth it for the updated visuals alone.

Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection is a fantastic purchase for fans of the franchise or newcomers to the PlayStation. The $60 price tag gets you hours of gameplay in three of the PS3's classic titles. While they haven't aged perfectly, they're all worth at least a single playthrough, and the improvements to the graphics and gameplay make these the definitive versions. Some noticeable absences, like multiplayer, drag down the collection but it's still worth a purchase. If you've been curious about Uncharted or want to revisit Drake's adventures, there's no better way to do it than with Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection.

Score: 9.0/10

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