The wave of new editions of classic games from the last generation of consoles hasn't finished washing over us yet. But with Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection there is at least a collection of games that quite a lot of you are likely to want. The action-packed franchise from Naughty Dog is one of the best that the PlayStation 3 has to offer, and not all new PlayStation 4 owners possessed Sony's previous console and thus were able to enjoy the series the first time around.
In addition to offering a welcome introduction to newcomers, this collection also offers longtime fans an opportunity to blast through the trilogy once again, from beginning to end, prior to the start of Uncharted 4: A Thief's End. The release of Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, the first adventure in the series, dates back almost eight years. It was one of the best exclusive titles to appear during the outgoing generation, but of course it was, at that time, still only a contender. Now it's practically a household name.
Besides that first masterpiece, this new package includes both Uncharted 2: Among Thieves and Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception. On the disc, however, we're only given the story campaigns, the multiplayer modes (from both games that featured them) have been skipped by Naughty Dog. Also missing from the collection is Uncharted: Golden Abyss, a game made by Sony Bend and published as a launch title for the PlayStation Vita.
For both omissions there are good reasons. For the multiplayer the studio preferred to concentrate on the next game, they don't want to divide the community or make improvements at the expense of concentrating on Uncharted 4: A Thief's End. The Vita adventure is absent because it's not part of Naughty Dog's story arc, so says the official statement. Presumably they had no desire to spend a lot of time on this, especially because that game utilised the unique features found on Sony's handheld. It's also worth remembering that the critical reception for the handheld game wasn't as good as the others.
We can live with these decisions largely because it's the three stories that are the most important elements that needed to be included. Bluepoint Games have handled the update, a studio with the PS3 versions of God of War Collection and Ico & Shadow of the Colossus Collection on their resumé, although this is the studio's first major project for the PlayStation 4. All three Uncharted games are running at a resolution of 1080p, and at 60 frames-per-second. This goal was never reached on the old console, and as a result of this technical improvement Nathan Drake already looks much better. In addition there is a remastered soundtrack that features subtle 7.1 surround sound.
Much more important, however, are the many minor tweaks and adjustments. There are better character models and shaders. The lighting effects, shadows and particle effects have been revamped. The new hardware also enables greater draw distances and nicer depth effects, and we see finer detail thanks to more advanced rendering techniques. It also looks better thanks to their use of motion blur. Uncharted: Drake's Fortune certainly benefited the most from those changes. That first game had to deal with very different technical problems when it first launched, but thankfully that nasty screen tearing is finally a thing of the past.
Thorough technical work ensures that all three games have been brought to the same level. The trilogy has not only been harmonised from a visual perspective, but there's a few gameplay adjustments that have been made based on player feedback. In Uncharted: Drake's Fortune there were, for example, some moments that utilised the motion controls of the then new DualShock 3 controller. This nonsense has fortunately been removed, and now when Nathan is precariously balanced on a tree trunk, we no longer need to re-adjust the controller to avoid falling down.
Also the feel of the weapons and their targeting are now uniform. Minor changes have also been made to the movement of our wise-cracking hero. Sometimes the studio are only making subtle adjustments, but they feel almost invariably good. Similarly, there are welcome changes in the difficulty department; there's now a Brutal mode for people who like pain, and an Explorer mode for those who are primarily interested in the storyline and the puzzles, those who consider the fighting more annoyance than essential element.
A completely new feature, and perhaps included as a consolation prize to make up for the lack of multiplayer, is a Speed Run mode for each of the three games. This feature acknowledges the time spent playing each chapter, and your total time spent in each play-through, all in the upper right corner of the screen. This makes it easier to compete with friends if you're one of those that likes getting the fastest times. There is also a photo mode that includes many features that'll help you capture most beautiful scenes from the game, and there's bonus costumes - including some new ones - that have been added to spice things up a little.
And there's still one more carrot that Naughty Dog is dangling for good measure: with Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection - and only with this game - comes access to the multiplayer beta for Uncharted 4: A Thief's End. Anyone who wants to take a first look at that game doesn't get out of buying this collection of remasters. Otherwise you might wonder if this re-release was absolutely necessary - especially since we'll hopefully be able to play classics such as these on our PS4s very soon via PlayStation Now.
Of course this new collection includes a lot of improvements, but these masterpieces aren't that different from the originals. It was the same problem with The Last of Us, an already stunning game that only looked marginally better when it jumped between console generations. This is certainly the case for Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, and although there might be a difference, it's mainly because of the lack of graphical glitches in the updated version. Ahead of the launch of the new collection there's already a big patch planned. We hope that this removes the new visual imperfections that Bluepoint Games has inadvertently added into the game.
Improvements aside and the odd minor technical shortcoming ignored, The Nathan Drake Collection is a trilogy of action classics that series fans will definitely enjoy revisiting, and newcomers will most certainly have fun experiencing for the first time. There's three explosive and entertaining stories to play through here, which will likely be enough to satisfy any Uncharted-related urges you have ahead of Nathan Drake's return in A Thief's End next March.