Thin motes of dust slowly drift down from the ceiling, caught by the light emanating from the single aperture above. An ancient stone floor long undisturbed now bears a set of footprints in the film of grime, a testament to the presence of an intruder. But as archaic traps spring into motion so too does the lone adventurer, desperately hurling himself forward across the crumbling ground. With a final leap, his hand grasps a thin ledge in the wall of the temple, and with the sounds of falling rubble slowly subsiding, only his heavy breathing remains as his feet dangle towards the inky blackness beneath.
For those not already familiar with the Uncharted games, they follow the epic adventures of Nathan Drake as he hunts for treasures long considered no more than a myth, aided and opposed by a colourful assortment of rogues and villains along the way. The characters in these stories are wonderfully written and animated, and the witty banter that is sprinkled liberally throughout is a refreshing change from many of the grim humourless shooters that populate storefronts currently.
Comparison to the Indiana Jones franchise is unavoidable, but rather than trying to distance itself, Uncharted embraces this connection wholeheartedly, almost to the point of mimicry. Whether Drake is engaged in a fist-fight atop a speeding train or swinging on a vine across a yawning chasm, there’s no doubt where the team at Naughty Dog have drawn their inspiration from.
Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection is a mixture of puzzle-platformer and shooter, with Drake constantly cheating death as he traverses lush environments, all the while trying to outwit and outshoot the many henchmen of his treasure-hungry competitors. This gameplay has remained relatively unchanged for the re-release, and while it is generally excellent, it is not without a few shortcomings.
The first game is definitely still the weakest link here, with the platforming mechanics feeling imprecise in places and causing unnecessary deaths. To add to this, there are long swathes of shooting gameplay which have uninspired level design and repetitive hordes of generic enemies. While the story is a good deal of fun and there are some flashes of brilliance, Drake’s Fortune has aged considerably, and it does feel like a chore at times.
The two latter franchise entries are a far more refined experience, with Drake’s Deception in particular holding up very well indeed. The level design is incredibly imaginative in the puzzle sections, and the shooting segments are also greatly improved. While these games also have the odd area which is poorly designed or unintentionally frustrating, these are quickly forgotten as the next exhilarating challenge comes hurtling like a runaway boulder.
For players who have already played the trilogy there are a few new game features that are worth mentioning. Two new difficulties have been added to the existing repertoire, which is expanded further with a photo mode and a time trial mode complete with leaderboards. There are also a few other deal-sweeteners thrown in such as extra skins for your character, and a reworked trophy set.
While the Brutal difficulty will punish even the most skilled of players again and again, the new Explorer mode significantly eases the hazardousness of the combat sections, benefitting people new to console gaming. These are nice touches and will allow more people to enjoy the series, but players who already own the games may struggle to be enthused over such small additions.
The graphical and audio updates to the collection will not fail to impress, however. The graphics improvements are enormous, and extend far beyond a few new textures and a higher resolution. The lighting engine has seen a major overhaul with improved effects and shadows, and the object geometry and characters models have had a complete makeover. The remastered audio is also excellent, with 7.1 surround now catered to for those who have such speaker setups.
All three games are now running at 1080p/60fps, and the truly amazing art direction and backdrops are finally done the justice they deserve. Drake’s Fortune was almost unrecognisable in places, and certainly benefits the most from the extra eye candy that it has been infused with. And while the latter games may not have the same wow factor in their improvement, they were already better-looking to begin with, and visual enhancements are still very much visible.
It should be noted that there is no competitive multiplayer available in this package. While the original releases for both Among Thieves and Drake’s Deception both had such modes, none of this content has been included on the disc. This may be a disappointment to some, but with the fourth game set to release early next year, it was in all likelihood considered to be unnecessary.
The biggest drawcard for returning fans will be the updated visual and audio elements. But for players yet to venture into the exciting world of Uncharted, there is no better time to do so, as they are still some of the best adventure games to appear on console platforms. With all three games now updated and improved beyond their already stellar origins, this is a treasure-laden tomb just waiting to be raided.