Review update: Since posting this review I’ve gone back and played through most of all three games via the PS Vita’s remote play function. The good news is that it still looks and plays really well on the handheld, but aiming with the Vita’s inferior sticks can be a pain in the arse. The controls are easy to get the hang of; you’ll need to dive into the options menu and change R2 and L2 to R1 and L1. This puts firing and aiming on the Vita’s triggers while moving reloads and grenades to the bottom quadrants of the touchscreen. Worth giving it a go if you find the telly being hogged by someone else.
It’s not easy to review a remaster. What do you review? The game or the efforts put into taking it apart and putting it back together for a new platform? It’s a hard one to figure out and it has left me sort of unsure of how I feel about Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection.
It’s the same three games from the PlayStation 3, so if you’ve played them before then you already know the stories being told. There’s nothing added, nothing taken away, which is good. I never actually finished Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune on the PS3; I actually started the trilogy back-to-front with a borrowed copy of Uncharted 3, so by the time I finished that and its predecessor, Drake’s debut was a little underwhelming and, dare I say it, crap?
It’s not that it was a bad game per-se, but once I’d gotten accustomed to the sweet graphics, gameplay and performance in the later two entries, Drake’s Fortune didn’t really live up to its name. I’m happy to say, then, that it’s a much nicer experience this time around. Hats off to the ladies and gents at Bluepoint, they did a pretty remarkable job with the port.
For starters the graphics have been given a massive bump, and though they still look rather dated by today’s next-gen standards, they’re perfectly serviceable. Unfortunately not much has been done in the gameplay department as Drake still jumps like a 3D version of that 2D dude who jumps over alligators. I wanna say Pitfall, but I can’t be sure and I’m far too lazy to hit up Google, but you probably know what I mean. You’d have thought that maybe they’d have put in a few of his more impressive animations from the later games into the first entry, but alas, it was not to be.
The general gameplay across all three games remains just as it was when we left them behind a few years ago, though the gunplay is a little bit better, but it’s still by far one of the weaker points. Yes, I said it, Uncharted doesn’t do shooting amazingly. It did it fine on PS3, so the refinements put in place by the developers on the PS4 versions can only improve it, but it’s still not as enjoyable as many other third-person shooters out on the market.
Performance across all three games is also pretty impressive, but the next-gen jump isn’t quite as pronounced as it was with Naughty Dog’s other stellar IP, The Last of Us. Mind you, The Last of Us came a while after the third Drake adventure so there was bound to be a better base on which to build for the PS4 remaster. Still, I can’t say I’m not a little disappointed. The collection looks great as a package, but there’s the niggly feeling that just a wee bit more could have been done, but that’s just me.
The move from 30 frames-per-second to the famed 60 is a welcome addition and really does make everything that much smoother. The originals suffered a bit from input lag; you’d press a button and it’d take a fraction longer than it should have to do what you wanted. That’s all but eliminated in the beefed up trilogy and it does help with gunplay, though nothing can stop enemies from being bullet-sponges. Seriously, how many bullets can a man take to the legs (I’m not a great shot) before he dies? It’s silly most of the time, but then you have moments that are just plain ridiculous. You’ll be confined to a very small area with six or seven bad guys all trying their best to put an end to your fun. It’s not helped by the fact that often times these enemies aren’t just the bog standard grunt, but are shotgun-wielding armoured bastards that take a full two clips of rifle fire before shaking off the mortal coil. Then there’s the sketchy A.I. Enemies run out towards you without fear, so you can expect to be surrounded by a group of gunslingers, yet you’ll still end up in a round of fisticuffs with some bloke while his mates continue to shoot you. As for the stealth, don’t even bother as any attempt at subtle sneakyness is nothing more than the game laughing at you. Yeah, things can get quite annoying, though this is something I mostly found in Uncharted: Drake’s Deception.
Still, the adventuring itself is good fun. Everything has been left in its place, more or less: collectibles are still scattered around and there’s even a new super-easy difficulty setting for those who just want to be a treasure hunter. Then on the other end of the spectrum there’s the brutal difficulty, but I’ve still yet to give that a go. Hard was a challenge for me and crushing is just a constant reminder that I’m a grown man whose reflexes are failing.
The games play great and if you’ve never played them before you’re in for a treat. The stories are well told, even if they are dragged along by coincidences and fortunate accidents. The colourful cast of characters are a good bunch and it’s easy enough to buy into the fiction. Set pieces look fantastic in proper HD and the gameplay is still pretty good with action-packed gunfights and the overly dramatic scaling of walls, buildings and even an overturned ship. It’s three summers worth of blockbusters in one nice big package for a decent price. That all being said, my biggest issue with the series, especially the second and third entries was just how many times we see Drake almost fall to his death. Ok, we get it, he can grab things and hold on. Bloody hell.
Unfortunately the replayability takes a hit with the omission of the multiplayer found in the original releases of Uncharted 2 and 3, but there are other ways to get some extra hours in. You can try out the speed-runner mode if you’re into completing games super fast, or you can simply test your mettle with the increasing difficulty settings. There’s also a ton of collectibles, trophies and trinkets to find. However, personally, with story-driven games I’m pretty much done after the first run and won’t come back for a good few months. Then again, all those extra character skins, weapons and tweaks might just pull me back in sooner rather than later.
Disclaimer: Reviewed using retail copy as Sony must have, ahem, forgot to send our review code.