Uncharted really knows how to do openings. From the first time we see our intrepid hero Drake, we get an idea of what the series is all about. On-board a beat-up looking boat with series heroine Elena Fisher, Drake wastes no time getting into trouble with a band of pirates out at sea. Without thinking about it, he hands a pistol to Elena; the two otherwise cheery characters now armed and ready to fight.
“Just point and shoot, right?”, Elena responds when asked if she knows how to fire a gun – a charming moment before she and Drake gun down more than a handful of enemies without flinching. Uncharted has always possessed a weird disconnect between its loveable characters and its otherwise murder-focused shooting, but it’s only a nostalgic look back that makes this more apparent.
That’s present in all three adventures bundled up in the Nathan Drake Collection, but it’s one softened by the inescapable fact that all three games are essentially shooters. In this regard, this curation by remaster veterans Bluepoint Games is a notably great one, with refinements across the board making the third-person action a little less floaty and a lot more precise. Shooting, especially in the first Drake’s Fortune, still feels a bit off, but it’s a stark contrast to playing the 2007 game again on PS3.
This is complemented by an excellent implementation of touched up environmental detail, coupled with the locked 60FPS gameplay at 1080p. Simply put, all three games look absolutely gorgeous by modern standards, with even the eight year-old debut sprucing up its lush green rainforests for an incredible amount of visual detail. Uncharted 3 stands even taller here, with arguably one of the best looking PS3 titles around truly shining with the extra layer of polish. Naughty Dog are masters in art direction and stylisation, and this collection makes a strong statement about their skill yet again.
But the sprucing up has come without its fair share of faults. The added fluidity of the doubled framerate is certainly better, but it does make some of the older animations and movement systems far more apparent. Drake’s Fortune again struggles the most with this, with Drake feeling imprecise in his movements and inconsistent with his platforming.
Being the first game in the series there are a lot of elements from Naughty Dogs first foray into Uncharted territory that screams mediocrity so many years on. It’s an oddly-paced adventure that takes many even weirder leaps of logic, like the short time of grievance Drake seems to hardly endure after his long-time partner has bitten the bullet. Add to that sections of gameplay that just feel out of place (that jetski chapter is a particular nuisance), and you’ve got a debut that worked at the time, but doesn’t shine at all now.
The later two games, however, don’t suffer from this. Uncharted 2 in particular is still the polished jewel of an adventure title that it was when it first launched, and makes an even stronger statement on being the best in the series here. It’s not so much the remaster at work, but rather the testament that good design never ages. From the climactic train chase sequence to the quieter, more character driven platforming segments directly afterwards, Uncharted 2 is a whirlwind of excitement and near-perfect pacing – and it shows a massive leap forward in understanding of the genre from the first game.
Uncharted 3 keeps this momentum going, save for a few pacing missteps along the way. It’s still an excellent title with the most perfect balance of gunplay and bone crunching melee systems (which was ported into all three titles thanks to the masters at ), but suffers with predictable story beats and peculiar set-pieces. Still, both games manage to succeed Drake’s debut by leaps and bounds, showing how finely Naughty Dog managed to tune their craft before embarking on The Last of Us (and soon the concluding chapter of Uncharted).
But it’s through looking at life after Uncharted that you soon realise how much the industry has changed around he franchise. Uncharted’s whimsical band of characters brings the narrative to life through witty and humorous writing but disconnects entirely when actually stepping into the boots of Nathan Drake. The Last of Us, in comparison, featured violence in an otherwise violent world. It thematically made sense, while Uncharted struggles to justify its frequent rampages with the story that envelops it (a fact pointed out in Uncharted 2 by the villain himself no less).
Still, it’s only looking back that these issue seem glaring, considering the age the games come from. In that regard, the Nathan Drake Collection simply is the best possible remaster of the series you could’ve hoped for. If you want nothing more than to relive some of the best moment in PS3 gaming history and experience Drake’s tale one more time before next year’s conclusion, then there really is nothing to fault here. The same goes for anyone who hasn’t yet experienced the trilogy, as last week’s statistic made so clear.
But it’s with the latter group that these problems will be more prominent, as the teachings of modern design have made us more attuned to recognizing the key roles that gameplay and narrative so closely perform together. In that regard, Naughty Dog has some thinking to do – and it’s going to be next year’s Thief’s End that ultimately answer whether Drake is a relic of a generation past or not.
Last Updated: October 12, 2015