Going back and playing older games, even some of your favorites, can be a bit jarring. Ultimately nothing looks and feels quite as sharp as you remember. That said, Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection offers all three numbered entries in the series exactly as I remember them, and, given the distinct rosy-tint of my glasses, that’s saying a lot.
With a welcomed boost to 1080p for the resolution and a doubling of the frame-rate to 60 fps, the three Uncharted games look and play as smooth as any modern games out there. The fantastic storytelling, memorable characters, and near perfect mix of platforming, exploration, and cover based shooting shine now just as they did when each of the games first came out.
Along with upping the frame-rate and resolution, developer Bluepoint Games also went through and retouched textures, shadows, hair and facial details, and lighting across the board giving the games a fresh coat of shine worthy of a current-gen title. Seeing as the Uncharted games were already HD, many of the changes and new touches are subtle, but overall lead to a much more pleasing visual experience. Most importantly, the retouched graphics keep the characters just as real and keep the vistas and environments Uncharted is known for just as impressive.
These visual upgrades help the most in Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. Released back in 2007, the first of Nathan Drake’s adventures, Drake’s Fortune follows Nate as he traces the final voyage of his ancestor, Sir Francis Drake, hoping to find the lost treasure the explorer was carrying. Though the game does shows its age with a few stiff character animations and relatively straightforward environments, it’s a true joy to play, even by today’s standards. The shooting and platforming as satisfying now as they were in 2007. All this, plus the removal of motion controls and the added ability to switch between using L1/R1 to aim, and the now much more common L2/R2, this is simply the best version of the game.
An incredible amount of work went into modernizing the graphics of Drake’s Fortune, a fact plainly evident in Drake himself. Everything from the stubble on his chin to the dirt on his face and clothes looks remarkable, so much so in fact that the lack of just as detailed reworking in other characters is noticeable. It’s only a small hiccup in what otherwise is a seamless experience, but plain enough to rub some gamers the wrong way.
And that brings us to Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, the highlight of the collection. While old enough to really still benefit quite a bit from the graphical enhancements, Among Thieves is also recent enough to work with many of the things we have come to expect in a modern action-adventure game. Maintaining the phenomenal storytelling and characters of the first game, Nate’s second outing, revolving around a secret voyage of Marco Polo, pushes the envelope in almost every other way. It introduces new enemy mechanics, big cinematic boss fights, more varied weapons, and even far larger and more varied environments.
Uncharted 2 is the massive summer blockbuster every other action-adventure game wants to be, and to this day, is still a crowning jewel for the genre. The enhanced version found in The Nathan Drake Collection only solidifies it.
And finally there is Uncharted 3:Drake’s Deception, easily the most ambitious game of the three not only in terms of spectacle and gameplay, but also in terms of story. Borrowing heavily from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Drake’s Deception centers on a multi-generational mystery spanning centuries, all tying in with Nate’s first teenage foray into the treasure finding business. From the onset, especially given the fact you aren’t handed a gun until nearly an hour into the game, it’s very clear the Drake’s Deception is a very different beast than its two predecessors.
Focusing more on Nate, his relationships, and the largest, most well-developed supporting casts of the three games, the shooting and action take a back seat. While this can seem strange given the perfect balance of Uncharted 2, Uncharted 3 takes a different road and focuses on what makes these characters tick, all while ultimately in the end offering just as many high-adrenaline thrills as the first two entries.
If there is anywhere The Nathan Drake Collection leaves something to be desired though, it’s in its complete disregard for the surprisingly fun competitive and cooperative multiplayer of Uncharted 2 and 3. While the narratives of the Uncharted games have always been the strong selling point, the strengths of the games’ mechanics burned brightest when diving for cover or scaling walls, jumping through the air in great multiplayer matches. All this made fresh and unique by the verticality the platforming brought to the table. While it’s understandable that a suite of multiplayer features wouldn’t be the focus of such a collection, especially with Uncharted 4 on the horizon, it’s a shame I can’t relive my fondest memories of the Uncharted series that were made with a friend playing by my side.
Overall, The Nathan Drake Collection enhances three of the best action-adventure games ever made all on one convenient disk. Along with the graphical improvements and removal of less enjoyable mechanics such as motion controls, the collection also adds new trophies, a suite of speed-run tools, and new hardest/easiest difficulty settings. Naughty Dog’s Uncharted games were part of what made the PS3 great for many gamers. And thanks to Bluepoint, the developer has insured The Nathan Drake Collection is hands down the best way to play them.