Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection - Review

http://invisiblekidreviews.blogspot.de/2015/10/uncharted-nathan-drake-collection-review.html

Not only the Uncharted games but developer studio Naughty Dog itself has rightfully earned its reputation of one of the world's most talented and praised video game developer in the world. From accomplishments like the PS1's Crash Bandicoot games, over the PS2's Jak & Daxter series, to the PS3's Uncharted trilogy.
Yet its definitely the Uncharted franchise along with its iconic protagonist Nathan Drake that made Naughty Dog a household name in gaming today. In combination with the huge sales lead of the Playstation 4 and the upcoming Uncharted 4, what time could be better to compile all three main Uncharted games into one - Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection.
Question is, did developer Bluepoint Games make this a remaster worthy of such a generation-defining game trilogy?     



Uncharted: Drake's Fortune

The Original Game

Having been released relatively early in the Playstation 3's life cycle, Uncharted: Drake's Fortune was one of the first truely new IPs having been developed for the PS3 and to make it a "system seller".
With that said, the first Uncharted actually did great in hitting all the right notes to introduce gamers to its new franchise with a vast array of charismatic characters as well as a suprisingly intriguing and easy to get immersed in storyline.
Focussing on treasure hunter Nathan Drake, his journalist friend Elena Fisher and his mentor Victor Sullivan, they embark on an adventure to find the lost treasure of El Dorado, all the while struggling with a large group of pirates aiming for the same goal.
Though nobody knew about the impact the franchise would eventually make on the video game market, Uncharted's cinematic Indiana Jones vibe was already very well established in this very first entry.
Further making Drake's Fortune "a game with something for everybody" is the its great blend of puzzles, platforming and third-person-shooter action. In that sense, it's easily said that Drake's Fortune first an foremost tried to be an all-rounder in cinematic video game entertainment and mostly succeeded in doing so, though (especially compared to its sequels) Drake's Fortune's gameplay pacing and level design nowadays might easily feel a bit too "videogamey" and artificial for today's standards.
Nevertheless, the original Drake's Fortune itself is a remarkably enjoyable game that easily scores a 9 out of 10.

"Greatness from small beginnings."


The Remaster Updates

Though, as already said, not the most well paced game in the franchise and very straightforward in level design, Drake's Fortune is easily the entry with the most obvious improvements when comparing the original PS3 version with the remastered PS4 version from the Nathan Drake Collection.
Every Uncharted game has been a huge graphical accomplishment for console games, yet with The Nathan Drake Collection, Drake's Fortune has gained a serious upgrade. While the original wasn't a bad looking game, the tropical sceneries in Drake's Fortune really have become more vivid in the PS4 version.

Most notably the lush tropical jungles look much more alive on the PS4.

While obvious things like general textures are way more detailed and sharper, especially water surfaces and waves are now looking much more detailed and well..."fluid", along with the flora of the tropical jungle levels looking way more realistic and alive. Additionally, of course character models have also received an upgrade making them look much more on par with their more enhanced versions from Uncharted 3.
Having been released about 8 years ago, The Nathan Drake Collection does very well in making you forget this fact about Drake's Fortune. Sure enough, no remaster is on par with the graphics of currently released PS4 games like The Witcher 3 or The Order: 1886, yet Drake's Fortune, despite its age, has several moments spread throughout its journey that'll make even longtime-fans who already played the games have some "Wow!"-moments. These are especially highlighted (literally) by the drastically improved surfaces and lighting in the game. These become most notably well put in place during the game's tomb levels with flares realistically reflecting off the antic and harsh tomb walls, or during action set-pieces with lots of explosions and fire involved.
What lastly sells the entire visual package here (just as with the other two games in the collection) are the consistent 60 FPS of course.

Drake's Fortune benefited the most from the remaster-treatment.

Gameplaywise, Drake's Fortune hasn't changed all that much - for good and for bad. While some of the (by now) rather artifical feeling level designs here and there (like some levels featuring a bit too many repetetive waves of enemies) are still present like they were in 2007, controls have been much improved in The Nathan Drake Collection. Climbing mechanics in particular sport the same layout and everything but have been made much more responsive, making longer climbing sections way less tedious, faster and more intuitive to get through.
Speaking of doing things fast and smooth, Drake's Fortune, just like the other games, also comes with a newly added "Continuous Speedrun" mode, which is a nice addition, but overall it's honestly just a timer running in the corner.

Climbing mechanics are also way more fluid.



Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
 

The Original Game

What Terminator 2 is to Terminator 1, Uncharted 2 is to Uncharted 1 - its bigger and better in every imaginable way.
Without any disrespect towards the very well laid out foundation of Drake's Fortune, with Uncharted 2, Naughty Dog took every weak aspect from the first Uncharted and vastly improved upon it, while it essentially perfected every great thing from the original. There are millions of reviews for Uncharted 2 on the internet singing praising songs up the wazoo for this second entry in the franchise, even calling it one of the best games ever made - and they are all true!
Uncharted 2 is one of those rare games that are simply just as much fun to watch someone play as it is to play yourself. From graphical excellence, over superb writing to absolutely amazing level design that strikes the perfect balance between free-roaming and streamlined gameplay, it sure enough will take quite some years for other games (and even Naughty Dog themselves) to top or even reach the same level of quality of this video game marvel.

It's a long way to the top, but once you're there...

This time being set primarily in the mountains of Nepal, Nathan and his friends try to find the lost city of Shangri-La.
Uncharted 2's story is littered with so many well choreographed set-pieces and greatly built levels that it would take way too long to name even the best of them here. What elevates the game's story as a whole above the other two entries in the franchise though, is its great writing that finds the perfect balance between character development, adventure story focus and action set-pieces. With that said, the occasionally rough transitions from the first Uncharted that made it sometimes feel like single levels put after one another, are not present in Uncharted 2. Instead, the levels seemlessly flow into each other in a much smoother way making the game avoid feeling artificial but simply like a great story that you are taking part in.
Uncharted 2 is one of those game's that have your jaw drop and fill you with joy as the credits roll - and then you just replay it again because it was just so good.
It is to this day THE game to own and play on the PS3 and is well deserving of its high praise and reputation. It's a no-brainer that the original Uncharted 2: Among Thieves scores a perfect 10 out of 10.

Needless to say that Uncharted 2 was widely awarded Game of the Year 2009.


The Remaster Updates

Already having been such a big landmark game during its original release time, expectedly the improvements on the PS4 version of Uncharted 2 are not as obvious as the ones from Drake's Fortune - but they are still there.
Visually, most of the work focusses on the game's slightly sharper textures, enhanced models and surfaces. The entire game has a much smoother feel to it now, since jagged or sharp edges on models have been smoothed out considerably through Anti-Aliasing and the overall higher 1080p resolution, which goes along very well with the collection's consistent 60FPS. Other than that, it becomes actually quite hard to notice too many graphical improvements here given the high standard already set by the original PS3 version.
Gameplaywise, Uncharted 2 feels just as great as it did back in 2009. With all of the greatness from the original still intact, the added somewhat a bit snappier feel of the aiming mechanics and more fluid climbing are only the cherries on top.
Yet, this is also makes it the more unfortunate that the original Uncharted 2's very fun multiplayer is sadly not included in the collection.

Adventure awaits!



Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception

The Original Game

Topping the huge (and partially very unexpected) success of Uncharted 2 on basically all fronts was a sheer impossible task to do - even for Naughty Dog. Thus, with Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception, Naughty Dog created a satisfying albeit not necessarily better entry to the franchise.
While technically or gameplay mechanically speaking, Uncharted 3 was a slight step ahead of Uncharted 2 (especially regarding small but effective additions like the ability to throw back grenades), Uncharted 3 put the story definitely first above all other things, yet succeeded with mixed results.
Now having Drake and friends hunt for the Iram of the Pillars (the Atlantis of the Sands), the story itself sure enough puts a big emphasis on the game's characters and relationships to each other this time around. Most of all, the relationship and backstory of Drake and Sully plays a huge role in Uncharted 3's story.
Despite being relatively satisfying in the longrun, Uncharted 3 marks the weakest story in the franchise, since some of its fun yet storywise completely unnecessary filler levels like the ship graveyard- or pirate level, and the rather disappointing final quick-time-event boss fight make Uncharted 3 in many aspects feel a bit like style over substance.
Nevertheless, gameplaywise, it is mostly more of the same of what Uncharted 2 delivered, which is a very good thing, even if its level designs occasionally can't keep up with the game's superb mechanics.
However, even with some of its story-related shortcomings, the original Uncharted 3 has enough going for it to score an 9 out of 10.
 

With Uncharted 3, enhancements are way more subtle.


The Remaster Updates

Looking at the remaster, Uncharted 3 expectedly shows the least obvious improvements, or in other words, has the most subtle visual updates of all three games.
Of course a large portion of that has to do with the fact that Uncharted 3, being released in 2011, isn't all that old. Even by today's standards, Uncharted 3 is a very good looking game on the PS3, making the biggest improvements here the higher FPS rate and the enhanced shadows. Sceneries are mostly the same here with textures boasting only rather minor enhancements.

What Uncharted 3's remaster makes the most obvious though, is the Nathan Drake Collection's lack of any notable extras like additional behind-the-scenes videos, concept art or the inclusion of the PS Vita game Uncharted: Golden Abyss, which would've really lent itself for this collection. This is not because Uncharted 3 is a bad game by any means, but simply because especially Uncharted 3 resembles its already very impressive PS3 version so much that especially gamers who already experienced the Uncharted games back on the PS3 will wish that remaster-developer Bluepoint Games would've put quite a bit more extras into a collection of such high quality games - especially (once again) considering the complete lack of any multiplayer.

"Where are the extras?!"


The Verdict

All in all, Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection are three excellent games in one package for your PS4. With solid graphical improvements and most notably the constant 60FPS, made possible by the hardware power of the PS4, the Uncharted games have never played this smooth and enjoyable before, while the first Uncharted game definitely benefited the most from the remaster-treatment.
Yet, without any chance to enjoy the games' multiplayer, or any big extras or anything substantial to add to the singleplayer campaigns, it can be hard to recommend this remaster to anybody who already played the three Uncharted games on the PS3.
Thus, while the Uncharted games themselves should be played by everybody who either owns a PS3 or PS4, the Nathan Drake Collection specifically is best recommended to newcomers who never experienced the Uncharted games before or die-hard fans who want to prepare for the upcoming Uncharted 4 by replaying the stories of Sony's flagship trilogy in the visually best way it has been presented yet.

          

 Final Verdict: 8 out of 10 

Status: Great!




Big thanks goes out to Sony Computer Entertainment and Harvard PR
for providing us with a review copy of the game.

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