I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t suffering from a bit of remaster fatigue. For the last couple of years this generation of consoles has been inundated with polished-up, re-hashed games carried over from the Xbox 360 and PS3. Some, like Grand Theft Auto V and The Last of Us have been welcome, others like Saints Row IV and the Prototype games, not so much.
Fortunately, we have another very welcome remastered package in Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection.
This three game collection consists of all of Nathan Drake’s adventures to date, scrubbed-up and polished for their first appearance on the PlayStation 4. Superb games the first time around on the PS3, they not only look amazing remastered, but also serve as a great jumping on point for new fans looking forward to Uncharted: A Thief’s End early next year.
Bluepoint Games, the undisputed kings of game remastering, are the wizards responsible for bringing these classic PS3 games to the PlayStation 4. This is the same outfit responsible for the PS3’s God of War Collection, The Ico & Shadow of the Colossus Collection and the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection.
It was Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune that pushed me to buy a PS3. I’d been holding off, happy with my Xbox 360 for years when my Tomb Raider-obsessed cousin started singing the praise of what would become Nathan Drake’s first adventure.
In Nathan Drake, the lead character in the series, Naughty dog managed to channel Han Solo’s scoundrel with a touch of Firefly’s Malcom Reynolds (so much so that Firefly actor Nathan Fillion still is a fan favourite to play Drake in the long awaited big-screen adaptation).
Joined by his mentor, Victor Sullivan, the two of them team up with leading ladies, Elena Fisher and later, Chloe Frazer, as well as shifty cohorts Harry Flynn and Charlie Cutter. Along with top-notch writing, the supporting cast are superbly fleshed out adding to the series’ unique atmosphere.
The game drinks from the same pool that gave us Allan Quatermain, Indiana Jones and, more recently, Lara Croft. Drawing on mythology, each game places Drake in a race to fulfil a quest in a race against time up against a formidable enemy. The carefully-constructed story offers players just the right balance of thrilling action-adventure and comedic interludes. The result is a series of superbly written cinematic adventures that puts Hollywood to shame.
Whilst very narrative driven, The Uncharted games are fundamentally platform and puzzle games. Both the combat and puzzle elements are never really taxing, but they are punctuated with some of the most spectacular set pieces I’ve ever experienced. These are gameplay experiences that stay with you.
The first game in the package, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, has our hero following in the footsteps of his alleged forefather, Sir Francis Drake, in a quest to find the treasure of El Dorado, the mythical city of gold. He is aided on the adventure by his friend and mentor, Sully and journalist, Elena Fisher.
Originally released on PS3 in 2007, the remastered PlayStation 4 version of Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune is the least graphically impressive game in the set. Still beautiful to look at, the game is clearly a great first go at a franchise that would improve with every iteration. The gameplay in this first instalment still holds its own, but the controls, compared to the later games, are a bit sloppy. By today’s standards Drake’s movement feels a bit jerky and unrefined. Still better than most games, but noticeable, especially as you move onto the later games.
The opening of Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is epic. With Drake regaining consciousness in the wreckage of a catastrophic train crash in the snow-covered Himalayas, we are treated to a few hours of flashback gameplay in order to find out what chain of events lead to that stunning intro.
This time Drake is on the trail of Marco Polo, on a quest to find out what happened to the famous adventurer on his fateful return voyage from China. It’s an adventure that takes players from Istanbul into the Himalayan mountains on a search for the mythical Shambhala.
For this second outing, Naughty Dog refined both the graphics and gameplay. The visual improvements are really noticeable in this remaster, as the more detailed models and environments have given Bluepoint a lot more to work with, polishing up Naughty Dog’s already beautiful-looking PS3 game making it a stunning, almost photo-real-in-places, PlayStation 4 experience.
Playing Among Thieves straight after Drake’s Fortune really highlighted how much the controls were improved for Drakes second outing, almost eradicating some of Drake’s clumsier movement traits.
Full of jaw-dropping set pieces, Uncharted: Among Thieves serves up an action-adventure game that ticks all the boxes. The most memorable sequence for me is Drake’s fight along a moving train and the crafty way the lush jungle landscape rolls continuously by before transitioning mid-fight to a snowy vista as the train snakes its way up the mountain. Then there’s the frantic dash though a collapsing building as well…
By the third game, Naught Dog had pretty much mastered their craft—which would have them go on to create possibly the best narrative adventure game yet in The Last of Us. The remastered Uncharted: Drake’s Deception looks as if it was designed for the PlayStation 4, visually and gameplay-wise standing head-and-shoulders above most new-gen console offerings. Everything about the game is improved over its predecessor. From Drake’s more natural movement animations to the enhanced melee combat system, this final game in the collection is an absolute stunner.
Drake’s Deception offers up a partial origin story for own hero, with Drake is continuing an adventure that he started as a young boy, during events that would see him taken under the wing of a much younger Sully. Following clues left by T.E. Lawrence, Lawrence of Arabia, Drake sets out following Sir Francis Drake’s secret mission to Arabia to find the lost city of Ubar.
The gripping adventure story is, once again, punctuated by some incredible gameplay sequences and set-pieces. Most notable is a fight on board a C130 transport plane, with the rear cargo door open and traversing an upturned cruise ship that has sunk to the bottom of the ocean.
The games are complete with all the unlockable extras such as character skins, art, videos and render modes. Unfortunately, for this collection we have lost the multiplayer modes from the second and third games and the 3D mode in the third instalment. These omissions are not the end of the world but do somewhat detract from the collection being the definitive versions of the games.
It would have been nice to for them to have included some new extras, instead, a featurette maybe showing the remastering of the game, or looking to the future with A Thief End. Still, you can’t really grumble as the games run at a solid 1080p60 and all feature the popular photo mode that can be found it many of Sony’s AAA titles.
With the release of Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection, there is now little reason for me to ever return to my PS3. This is an epic collection of games that represents some of the best of the PS3 games remastered for the PS4. I can’t recommend this collection enough. This package is an absolutely essential purchase for all PlayStation 4 owners.