Uncharted is one of those games that I got into in a strange order. You see, Uncharted 3 came out on November 1, 2011. I hadn’t heard of the series, and in fact, had only recently gotten a Playstation 3 at the time. A friend told me how much they really enjoyed the series and lent me the third installment. I played through it and had a blast. Then another friend later lent me Uncharted 2. Years later, I finally played through Uncharted 1 with this collection. Yeah… I played through the series backwards. Oops. Anyways, a couple months ago I figured with the coming release of Uncharted 4, I should finally get around to playing through the first game in the series and refresh myself with playing through the other two again. I should note that I actually started playing through this series about a month prior to the release of Uncharted 4, but I had some technical issues. My Playstation 4 BROKE and I couldn’t get it replaced for a good several weeks. So, unfortunately, instead of having a Uncharted the Nathan Drake Collection review weeks ago and Uncharted 4 this week, we’re doing it a little bit late. What can you do, right?
Gametype/Genre: Action Platformer, Third-Person Shooter, Adventure
Developer: Naughty Dog, Bluepoint Games
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Reviewing: Playstation 4 version, remaster is of PS3 games and only on PS4
Since this is a series of games, we’ll look at each one in order from the first to the third one. In Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, in the middle of the ocean just off the coast of Panama, Nathan Drake and a journalist named Elena Fisher have pulled up the coffin of Sir Francis Drake, an English explorer from the mid-to-late 1500s. Located inside of it is a small notebook instead of a corpse. Before the two know it, they are under attack by a fleet of pirates who set their ship on fire, destroying everything but the notebook and Elena’s camera. Once they fight off the pirates and escape to safety, Nate and Elena meet up with Nathan’s old friend, and thieving mentor, Victor “Sully” Sullivan. Privately, Nate and Sully discuss the notebook with Nathan theorizing that Drake faked his death to cover up the discovery of El Dorado, the ancient city made of gold. Following clue after clue and being set upon by foes who are also seeking the same treasure as them. The story is a thrill from start to finish with hardly any down time in the action.
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves starts with an ‘in the middle of the story’ introduction. I don’t wanna spoil the beginning but after a few moments of being engulfed in action, the game does a flash back to where everything all begins. Nathan is approached by a former associate named Harry Flynn and his driver, Chloe Frazer, to help steal a Mongolian oil lamp from a Turkish museum for a high class client. This oil lamp supposedly belonged to Marco Polo and holds the key to his doomed voyage from China back in 1292. They plan to find Marco Polo’s ships and his lost treasure and cheat the high class client. Similarly to the first game, they aren’t the only ones after the treasure, however they mostly bring it on themselves as the high class client is probably the one who is going to be pretty angry. The build up to finally seeing how Nathan got to where he was at the introduction of the game is intense and very worth the wait. It makes the slight spoiler that they reveal to you in the beginning well worth the wait.
Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception begins two years after Uncharted 2’s conclusion. Nathan and Sully enter a London pub to meet with a man named Talbot who wants to purchase the ring which belonged to Nate’s ancestor, Sir Francis Drake. After a fight ensues, Nate and Sully are subdued outside the pub by Talbot and his cohort, a man named Charlie Cutter. Talbot’s client, Katherine Marlowe, appears and takes the ring from Nathan. The game cuts to a flashback of how Sully and Nate met, when Nathan was 15 years old and first acquired Francis Drake’s ring. After the flashback ends, it is revealed that the meeting was an elaborate set-up by our two cunning thieves. They track down Marlowe where they manage to find T. E. Lawrence’s notebook and a map displaying Sir Francis Drake’s secret voyage to Arabia. Clues help Nathan theorize that Queen Elizabeth I and John Dee commissioned him to search for the lost city of Ubar. The group and Marlowe clash over and over during the course of the game going after the lost city.
Overall, the story and presentation got better and better with each game. It really shows that Naughty Dog had figured out the way they wanted their world to progress, even if the whole “Treasure hunter protagonist stumbles onto a lost map that leads to a lost treasure or city while bad guys are also after it too and they must compete for it the whole game” shtick has been done four times by this point with the introduction of Uncharted 4 to the series. But that’s the story they want to impress upon us, and the adventure and intrigue with discovering ancient kingdoms that in the real world are just myths or legends.
Characters and Visuals
Uncharted has a pretty sizable cast of characters, and you meet the main cast in each game early enough that I can actually talk about each of them without spoiling anything. First and foremost, we have Nathan Drake himself. Over the course of the games, he’s become more witty, fun, and interesting as a character. I found he really hit his stride in the second game and onward. In the first game he wasn’t quite as personable, I feel, but his personality did show through and you knew who he was as a character; he loves treasure and the thrill of discovering these lost cities and places. Next you have his mentor and best friend Victor Sullivan, or Sully. He’s and older fellow, but he’s a gentleman. He’s also somewhat of a pervert. He’s mildly sarcastic at times and seems to really care for Nathan, referring to him as Nate or ‘kid’. He’s trustworthy and loyal. And in the first and second game, he has shown up at the nick of time to save Nate’s skin. Elena Fisher you can tell from the onset is, of course, going to be the love interest, but that’s not all she is. She’s very committed to her work, as even after being set upon by pirates in the first game, she still wanted to come along and risk her tail. She even shows up in the next games to do much the same thing, all in the pursuit of journalism; that’s some dedication. She’s also a good shot, and knows how to get her way. There are various other characters that I don’t want to get into more than I have these three, as these characters have been in all the games including the recent Uncharted 4. Each supporting character and even the primary antagonist are interesting with unique motivations and goals, just as our main cast of characters.
Not only are the characters interesting but the landscapes, structures, ruins, buildings and other set pieces are gorgeous. Jungles and forests look lush and full of color and life, though no wildlife is usually present. Weather effects between the three games are very well done and well implemented. I remember how the games looked before the remaster and even at that time, I’d say they hold up decently well to today’s standards, but the remaster definitely gave it that little bit of polish to make them hold up even better. Character models are also very well done, with the characters having various facial expressions and animations that seem lifelike and not stilted or strange.
There’s honestly not much to report here, actually. The game runs at a solid 60 frames per second at a resolution of 1080p. The original games all ran at 30 frames per second at a resolution of 720p on the Playstation 3. I never experienced any frame rate dips, or glitches or bugs while playing this game. It’s a very solid remastering and port.
The voice acting is spot on in this game. The voice work definitely helps you to understand the personality of not only the main cast, but the supporting cast of characters within this game. We have some pretty well known talents within this game, with Nolan North doing the voice of Nathan Drake and Emily Rose doing the voice of Elena Fisher along with Richard McGonagle as Victor Sullivan. You also have Robin Atkin Downes who does various characters in all of the games.
The main Uncharted theme, which is slightly altered for each title, is one of the most iconic songs in gaming. It really gives you a feel for adventure and mystery and action. When you hear that song, you know things are going to get good. The soundtrack overall gives off the action adventure kind of vibe that movies try to go for, with the sense of discovery pumping through it. It’s a blend of traditional orchestral instruments with unusual ethnic instruments that can be found all around the world that are used at points where they make complete sense, such as using the saz which is a Turkish string instrument, didgeridoo, conch shell, harmonic flutes, shofar, frame drum, and other instruments that aren’t even named. All music is used at precisely the right moment to evoke the most emotion.
Gameplay and Mechanics
The gameplay and by extension the mechanics of this game are very simple. Nathan Drake begins with a basic handgun and as you kill enemies, you get access to other more unique guns, such as Shotguns, AK-47s, RPGs, SMGs, and even Grenade Launchers along with just basic grenades. Nathan can only carry two weapons and four grenades. One of the weapons has to be a handgun or other small weapon, while the other one can be any large weapon that requires two hands. Nathan Drake does have a cap on how much ammo he can carry for each of his guns.
You switch between your guns with the left and right D-pad buttons. Nathan can do a dodge roll with the Circle button. He can also melee enemies with Square and, aside from the first Uncharted, he can block and counter attack enemies with Triangle. Circle also let’s Nathan hide behind cover while triangle picks up items when no prompt is displayed. The trigger buttons lets Nathan aim with L2 and then shoot with R2. When in cover, Nathan can blind fire with R2. The X button can be used to jump and mantle over obstacles and up ledges. This game is filled with platforming, either in the shape of walls and ledges you have to parkour up, or gaps you have to jump across. There are a few times when you have to run away from something big and nasty chasing you or structures collapsing around you, under you or even as you climb them. This is a large portion of the adventuring in the game, as this is an action platformer afterall. There are various puzzles found within game that you have to solve to progress and you must use Nathan’s journal to find the clues you need to figure them out.
The first game was slightly lighter on complicated parkour sections with a larger emphasis on the gunplay, having more enemies come at you in encounters to an almost obnoxious degree. Luckily two and three toned that down drastically and improved the puzzle play with climbing or discovering the mysteries of the locales. Most of the times, you’ll know you’re about to get into a fight when you find loads of chest high walls, and areas to grab some cover or additional ammo. Because of this, for the most part there isn’t really enemy placement. There are areas where enemies are placed strategically so that you can sneak up on them and stealth kill them with melee, with enemies most of the time having a patrol that you can watch and take advantage. Enemy AI is pretty decent, with enemies that will attempt to flank you and throw grenades over your cover if you aren’t coming out enough. If you stay out too long, you will be filled with bullets so you must use cover.
The variety of enemies is actually pretty sizable. You have basic enemies that use handguns, then enemies that spray with automatic guns. Just about all enemies use grenades as well. Then you have snipers who will stay just out of range or eye level, but are given away by their laser sight. Grenade launcher and RPG users will attempt to do much the same as them. You also have heavily armored guys who will slowly advance towards you with a shotgun in tow. Aside from how enemies work, there is usually at least one unique boss enemy at the end of the game and a few unique enemies leading up to the final encounter, all of which only appear in their own games and never in any other. Enemies will sometimes also have a barricaded gun turret or vehicles such as tanks, helicopters, boats or trucks with mounted turrets.
Miscellaneous: Multiplayer and Replayability
While Uncharted 2 and 3 originally did have a team multiplayer element, and the new Uncharted 4 does as well, Uncharted: the Nathan Drake Collection does not. The game does have multiple difficulty levels. Some of them are so difficult that Nathan will die in a few shots and takes careful and skilled gameplay to succeed. There is also an even harder difficulty mode than that. Then, there’s also an easier mode called explorer that makes combat super light if you just wanna enjoy the story, platforming and puzzles. There’s also a speed run mode where the game will show your best times for each chapter and the completed game. Because each game is such a thrill and so action packed, I’d say it’s worth returning to even if you don’t go play in a new mode. There’s also collectible treasures you can find throughout the game that unlock special skins that you can use in new playthroughs.
Uncharted: the Nathan Drake Collection is one of the best remasters we have. The characters are all wonderfully voiced and animated. They truly make you care for their personality and motives. The landscapes are gorgeous and the various ancient ruins you come across during your time in the game are simply amazing. The gunplay and platforming are some of the best around and the only other game that does anywhere near as good is the recent Tomb Raider reboot and it’s sequel. These games definitely hold up today’s standards after being remastered so well. Most remasters and collections see fit to bundle the games together and slightly clean them up before releasing them on a new platform, while this game polished it and re-rendered the cutscenes and even boosted the resolution and the frame rate of all three games. Enemies are varied in design and have pretty intelligent AI and with the various difficulty modes, this game can be so challenging to the point of being nearly impossible.
Though it doesn’t have a multiplayer element to it like the original Uncharted 2 and 3 or the recently released Uncharted 4, I don’t think it really needs it. There’s more than enough content in this game, with each game being around 8-10 hours long depending on how much collectibles you actually go after. This is a great series and I’m stoked to begin playing the fourth entry and review that one too.
Game: Uncharted: the Nathan Drake Collection
Genre: Action Platformer, Third-Person Shooter, Adventure
Platforms: Playstation 4, though originally Playstation 3 before the remaster
Reviewed: Playstation 4
Released: NA October 9, 2015, EU October 7, 2015
Size: About 44.5GB
Retail: About $29.99, not sure outside of the United States
Uncharted the Nathan Drake Collection review was completed with a retail copy of the game purchased in physical form at a local game store.
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