While the sequel shows much better judgment as a shooter, it’s also
where Uncharted perfects its habit of unsettling the environment –
literally – just as the gunfights start feeling placid. The complex
moments, like Drake’s assault across a moving train or a brief shootout
on a stone slab, sliding down a mountain, still have a punch modern
games struggle to replicate.
The staging only becomes more extravagant with Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception, a game that cracks under pressure in trying to outdo its predecessor in every way. Though its burning French chateau is the best blend of spectacle, clambering, fisticuffs and concentrated shooting Uncharted has to offer, it’s also in this game where Naughty Dog warps its cinematic view with one too many “video gamey” concepts. The absurdly impervious boss enemies, for example, tip some of the encounters into frustration. On the other hand, it’s also the only Uncharted game with puzzles that require more than just a glance at Drake’s solve-all notebook.
The Nathan Drake collection wraps all three games in a neat menu, pinned to a convenient set of options that filter through to each game. It even indulges minor preferences, like whether you want a film-like motion blur applied to the whole scene or objects alone, and makes sensible adjustments to older games when newer mechanics just work better. The impact of firearms is wildly different in each Uncharted (and they get progressively louder), but for once the feel and responsiveness of aiming is consistent across all games. Rather than meddling or cutting, Bluepoint polishes and arranges elegantly.
Ok, fine, motion-controlled grenade tossing has been removed, but we all know that’s best buried for future generations to find. Behind traps, preferably.
Depending on your reasons for coming to Uncharted, you could criticize The Nathan Drake Collection for being an incomplete preservation of the PS3 trilogy – it drops the multiplayer components of Uncharted 2 and Uncharted 3 entirely, the latter game’s 3D mode is gone, and none of the behind-the-scenes videos make it over (likely to squeeze all three games onto a single disc). As a package of three single-player games, though, it still packs a cutting-edge wallop.
Playing every boisterous Uncharted back-to-back results in a pleasant sort of exhaustion, and maybe an unhealthy impulse to sidle alongside your bathtub and use it for cover. The narrative arc of Nathan Drake’s games pair with a technological arc of sorts, starting with the small beginnings of Drake’s Fortune and ending in the ‘climax’ of Uncharted 3’s stunning desert canyons and how’d-they-do-that lighting. If you value the craft of games and appreciate how they evolve, here’s your chance to see how Uncharted grew up.