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Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection REVIEW – A perfect blend of new and old

by Eric Frederiksen | September 30, 2015September 30, 2015 7:00 am PDT

The Uncharted series is, undoubtedly, my favorite part of the PlayStation library from the last generation of consoles. I was eager for the chance to step back into the world of Nathan Drake, especially after seeing the demo for Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. Naughty Dog brought to life one of the PlayStation 3’s best mascots and built an interesting, exciting world around him, and Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection seems like a perfect way to get reacquainted with the most charming character in games and to prepare for the upcoming sequel.

At the same time, I couldn’t help but hesitate. Often times, traveling back in time breaks nostalgia goggles, leaving us disappointed with reality and wishing we could have our memories back. I wondered if Uncharted would stand up to reinspection.

Because this is a remake, though, a slightly different approach is necessary as compared to looking at a standard game. The story and characters are going to take a back seat to technical aspects. These are the parts that didn’t change in the transition, and they’re just like you remember. Uncharted 2 is the best of the bunch, with tons of genuinely funny dialogue and great tension between Drake and his traveling partners – most especially Elena and Sully.

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Right in the middle

With this compilation, Naughty Dog went for a happy medium between the total overhaul we saw with Gears of War: Ultimate Edition and the simple upgrade we usually see with compilations. They put the series in the hands of Bluepoint Games and let them loose on it.

While the games certainly don’t look like PlayStation 4 games, it’s impossible to stress just how good everything looks.

Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune benefits the most, but all three games get at least some benefit from the move.

Looking good, Nate

All three games run at 1080p and hold a smooth framerate throughout. I’m told there are a few minor dips here and there – and Sony wisely says they targeted 60fps instead of maintaining it – but I didn’t notice the dips even once with my playtime.

Drake’s Fortune has received particular attention in the texture department. Bluepoint actually went in and not only put in higher resolution textures but actually re-worked many of them to bring them more in line with how Drake himself has evolved across the series. His leather bracelet has detailed stitching, his underarm holsters have the sort of patina you’d expect from heavily-used leather. A plane that shows up for one or two scenes before it is promptly shot down (Drake’s usual method for landing aircraft) has metal sheets and bolts that give a better idea of how much use it has seen.

These kinds of changes can be hard to spot – because our memories are so terrible – that I’d even encourage looking up footage of the originals if you can. Bluepoint has resolved issues with screen tearing in Drake’s Fortune, lighting and particle effects have been improved, draw distances on some of those gorgeous vistas are better.

In short, the whole series looks exactly as I remember it, and much better than it actually looked.

Sharp shooting

The series has seen a mechanical overhaul, as well.

The upgrade to 60fps and improved responsiveness of the controller gives everything a bit more weight, and the game feels better than ever to play. Whether or not you feel bad shooting hundreds of men in the head, actually doing it feels great.

That’s in part because this is not just a remaster of the series, but sort of a best-of situation. Rather than leaving us to slog through outdated shooting, running, and climbing, all of which Naughty Dog made huge improvements to over the course of the series, Bluepoint took what worked best from each game and spread it across the series. That means that some parts might feel different from the original, but they feel better than we remember for the most part. Sony specifically calls out the weapon feel and aiming, and this is immediately apparent. Going back to Drake’s Fortune and then jumping to the second game wasn’t jarring.

For those who demand absolute faithfulness or want history to be preserved exactly with all its bumps, that might seem like a misstep, but it makes the older games that much easier to revisit. Gamers who can only bear to play a series from the beginning will have a much more enjoyable time with Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection than they might’ve otherwise. Meanwhile, the originals are intact (and likely on PSNow) for those who want to go back.

Even gamers who have been through the series multiple times have things to look forward to. I ended up playing through the original Uncharted 2 three or four times to get all the trophies. The new Speed Run mode, which times your play, provides a new experience, while additional playable skins and photo mode will give truly hardcore Uncharted fans something to do.

They grow up so fast!

As a longtime fan of the series, though, the best part of checking out all three games is seeing how Naughty Dog grew throughout the series. Drake’s Fortune is still a lot of fun, but it feels pretty primitive even compared to Among Thieves. Nathan climbs so proficiently that a monkey would get tired just watching. The camera moves like, well, a video game camera. It doesn’t fit the cinematic feel of the series, and often feels like it’s trying to say “HEY, hey, look over here. Look at this thing. Look at it.” The second and third games have Nathan and the camera both moving with far more fluency and confidence. Encounters and setpieces like the second game’s iconic opening and train stage dwarf anything in the original. Rather than feeling full on Uncharted, I’m now more excited than ever to get my hands on the fourth (and presumably final) game.

Remakes and remasters don’t usually fall into “must buy” territory, but the fact is, this is the best of the PlayStation 3 better than it’s ever been and all in one place.

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Disclaimer: We received a copy of Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection for the PlayStation 4 from the publisher. We played sections of all three parts before writing this review.

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Eric Frederiksen

Eric Frederiksen has been a gamer since someone made the mistake of letting him play their Nintendo many years ago, pushing him to beg for his own,...

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