“But the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did.” – T.E. Lawrence
It’s quite hard to believe that we are approaching eight years since the release of a little title known as Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. Naughty Dog, the developer of lovable platformer franchises such as Crash Bandicoot and Jak and Daxter surprised loyal fans by entering the foray of third-person action/adventure games. Perhaps even a surprise to the developer, the wisecracking treasure hunter and thief would become the most iconic character on the PlayStation 3 as well as one of the most beloved characters in Sony’s history.
His name is Nathan Drake.
In effort to celebrate the long-standing success of the Uncharted franchise, and also to celebrate the upcoming release of Nathan’s final adventure in Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, Bluepoint games, one of the best port studios in the industry, masterfully transitions Drake’s Fortune, Among Thieves, and Drake’s Deception to one PlayStation 4 disc with The Nathan Drake Collection. While the collection doesn’t do much in the way of extras à la the Mega Man Legacy Collection, it proves to be the best way to experience one of the greatest franchises PlayStation has to offer.
The Uncharted collection brings Nathan adventures to modern consoles by way of an enhanced frame rate, raising the titles from 30 FPS to 60, as well as up-res’ing graphics to better fit the current generation. While the games still show their age as compared to various PlayStation 4 titles, particularly Drake’s Fortune, they look and perform better than ever with the new hardware support. The franchise’s notable and seamless battle and chase sequences were meant to be experienced at the new frame rate being offered. What is particularly enjoyable is to play the games in chronological succession to observe how far the games have come in design and graphical fidelity. Seeing the juxtaposition of Drake’s Fortune to Among Thieves is to witness the serious shift in quality that would make Uncharted a franchise to be reckoned with.
While the collection would seem to appease long-time fans, an interesting article was released to indicate that Sony is attempting to reach fans who missed out on the franchise. It’s a bit unorthodox to include research material within a review, but a recent piece by IGN indicates that “80% of PS4 owners have never played an Uncharted game.” Therefore, I aim this review not only to Nathan Drake aficionados, but to PlayStation newcomers who have never met the bandit. The Uncharted games are third-person shooting adventures that involve puzzles, platforming, and treasure hunting. Each game follows a similar model of finding clues left by long-dead explorers, solving their lost puzzles with the help of Nathan’s journal, and fighting the inevitable thugs looking to steal the discovery out from underneath you. While full-fledged reviews are to come for each individual title, here are a few brief synopses of the included games:
Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune
The self-proclaimed descendant of Sir Francis Drake, Nathan, sets out to uncover the truth behind the lost city of El Dorado. With the help of his dearest friend and teacher, Sully, as well as the beautiful and antagonizing reporter Elena, Drake will uncover clues, make unexpected enemies, and discover things never meant to be found.
The first title is Naughty Dog’s exploratory steps into the genre. While the game suffers from quite a few missteps in regards to plot pacing, janky gunplay, and a few dull puzzles, it is a good introduction what the Uncharted games are all about. In addition to the technical revisions, Bluepoint also went through great efforts to match the gameplay of all three games for more comfortable transitions between the games. While by no means the best game in the collection, it is the best way to play the game that started it all.
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
Possessing one of the most thrilling video game introductions to date, one ought not spoil a second of Among Thieves’ charm. Nathan Drake is tipped off by newcomer Chloe Frazer as to the whereabouts of the fabled Shangri-La. Following the footsteps of explorer Marco Polo, Nathan travels across Asia ultimately seeking the lost Cintimani Stone. Old friends in Victor Sullivan and Elena Fisher return as well to bring us one of the greatest games ever made.
Bearing in mind the flaws that Drake’s Fortune possessed, it is safe to say Among Thieves carries none of those. The second title in the Uncharted franchise marked a new type of Naughty Dog; the one who would bring us a few of the greatest video games the PlayStation has to offer. Nathan’s second adventure displays a startling upgrade in both visuals and gameplay. If the first game was the developer finding their way, the second was a display of master craftsmanship.
Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception
If the Uncharted games lacked one thing, it was emotional range in the storytelling. By the end of the second iteration, Drake is a lovable, cocky wise ass that players wouldn’t have any other way. However, the inevitable stress of dealing with pirates, crooks, and villains who will kill for the wealth and treasure Nathan makes a job of finding is bound to take its toll. Surely it would affect Nathan’s relationship with those around him should he decide to go too far for the sake of glory. Drake’s Deception touches on these themes, giving players insight to where Drake’s story began as a child, his fateful meeting with Sully, and the journey to discover more about his ancestor Sir Francis Drake. It turns out Nathan’s iconic ring is more than just an accessory, and may be the key to discovering the Iram of the Pillars, a lost city mentioned in the Quran.
While there is tremendous debate as to which of the two latter games takes the prize as victor, Drake’s Deception ultimately displays all of the fantastic charm Among Thieves possessed and more. The third title sees a Naughty Dog comfortably in control of what an Uncharted experience should be, while offering more exciting, cinematic, and emotional sequences than ever before. The third game is the culmination of Drake’s adventures, perhaps only to be succeeded by the upcoming A Thief’s End.
The Nathan Drake Collection is a successful gathering of the Uncharted franchise. It brings together three of Sony’s most enjoyable games into one seamless experience. Players are even able to rapidly load either of the other two titles from the start menu while in-game. For trophy hunters, each game comes loaded with a new trophy list. For the difficulty obsessed, crushing will be available from the get-go. However, this is merely because the collection boasts a brand new ‘brutal’ difficulty for those looking to go further beyond. Have fun with that trophy.
Aside from this, the collection disappointingly does not offer anything else in the way to celebrate a memorable franchise. One cannot help but to think back to other collections that offer extras in the way of things such as music players, concept art, history, behind-the-scenes production videos, etc. Any one of these additions, or all of them, might have helped to make the collection feel a bit more special. A series with the gravitas of Uncharted deserves the royal treatment. This would be especially nice as the multiplayer modes are not included with the games. However, for those who pick up the title prior to December 4, you will get to play the Uncharted 4 multiplayer beta for free.