Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection review [PS4]

Over the course of three games, adventurer Nathan Drake, the star of developer Naughty Dog’s Uncharted series, has climbed a lot of cliff faces and shimmied down a lot of drain pipes, all in the name of finding ancient treasure, most of it done with a witty quip or a punch or three.

Drake is undoubtbly one of Sony’s leading men and has been given the re-master treatment by Bluepoint Games in Uncharted The Nathan Drake Collection,  and the company has done a great job breathing new life into a series that debuted on the PlayStation 3.

Among the improvements are all three games are now targeting 1080p/60 frames a second, improved environment lighting, character models and shaders, and increased texture detail. There’s also now a speed run mode, if you’re the type of player who likes to run-n-gun it in the fasted time possible.

BluePoint has also added a photo mode, which is common for PS4 games these days, and reduced screen tearing. It’s a nice package.Oh, another nice touch is that the games keep a tally of how well you do in certain aspects (headshot, melee takedowns) and let you know how you’re doing against your online friends.

Uncharted™: The Nathan Drake Collection_20150930105359

A shot from Nepal, in one of Uncharted 2’s most thrilling levels.

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves  was always my favourite game of the series, especially its Nepalese locations and its unforgettable opening moments, and if this remaster has done one thing, it’s shown me how badly the original Uncharted has fared since it’s release in 2007. Despite the remaster treatment, Drake’s Fortune hasn’t aged well, especially in terms of game play and when put up against Uncharted 2 and 3.

Talking of game play, any niggles I have are nothing to do with BluePoint but with the Uncharted series in general. Enemies sometimes seem like bullet sponges, even when you think you’ve got them square in the noggin, and at times Nathan’s punches seem weak as a wet teabag. And whoever at Naughty Dog thought it was a good idea having chase levels where you had to guide Nathan towards the player (ie pulling down on the left analogue stick to make Drake run forward) to escape a chasing threat, needs to be slapped with a wet fish and told it was a bad, bad idea.

Uncharted™: The Nathan Drake Collection_20150926101910

Nathan Drake and Sully discover the German U-boat from Drake’s Fortune.

The three Uncharted games look great, especially Uncharted 2 and 3, with the environments now lush and vibrant (unless Drake and his pals are exploring underground catacombs or caverns so things are a little gloomier) but the The Nathan Drake Collection poses the same question that all re-masters of last-generations do: Is it worth your coin if you’ve played it before?

If you haven’t played them before then, yes, the collection is worth owning (and to be honest, the collection is worth it for Uncharted 2 alone), but if you’ve played the series before it’ll be a harder sell answered by this question which you no doubt will ask yourself several times:”Do I want to play the Uncharted games again?”

Uncharted™: The Nathan Drake Collection_20150927163122

A shot from Drake’s Fortune using the photo mode.

Personally, I’ve enjoyed my time re-visiting the Uncharted series. They look fantastic and show how good the tech boffins at BluePoint games are but at times, the game play niggles frustrated me, especially with Drake’s Fortune.

That said, Uncharted The Nathan Drake Collection is a lot of fun, despite the flaws and I’m looking forward to Uncharted 4 on the PS4.

We have to remember that this is a re-master of an already established series, not a remake, so it’ll still have some of the niggles from the the original games. I really, really enjoyed playing an hour or two of each game at a time, just to see the progression between the two. If you you do decide to pick it up, I’m sure you won’t regret it.

Here’s some capture of my playthrough of Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune captured using the PS4’s share functionality. Enjoy. All of the screen shots for this write-up were capturing using the collection’s Photo mode.

 

Funny how things never turn out quite as you expect them to

I haven’t done much video gaming lately. Maybe it’s because it’s the first-quarter lull before games start arriving.Yeah, that’s probably it.

Maybe it’s also because we’ve temporarily shifted house for five weeks and all (bar about five) my games have been packed away in cardboard boxes and are sitting in a shipping container, waiting until I can take them out and stack them lovingly on my hallway bookshelf and in my entertainment unit (the unit under the TV is where I put all my “currently”playing games; The hallway has all the I-might-play-these-some-time-soon-but-I’m-not-sure games).

That said, I took my Xbox One, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 with me to the temporary house, expecting to be playing lots of games. That was the plan, anyway.

When we did an inspection of the house it had a TV fitted to the main lounge wall so I thought “Sweet. We can watch TV on that one and I’ll bring one from home to play games and stuff on”. It’s funny how things don’t always work out as you plan.

You see, it seems the set-top box that was mentioned on the “House list” wasn’t there anymore. It had been taken away by the owners (the property manager only told me after I’d moaned about it not being there)  – and my usual set-top box has a standard aerial connection not a coaxial one, so I couldn’t get anything to work. Even when I bought an  adapter that apparently should have let me connect a coaxial cable to my Freeview box. As much as I tried nothing.

So we’ve got a lounge that has two TVs but only one of them is functional. It’s not ideal but it’s only for five weeks (hopefully less) so I can live with it: One TV with three consoles and a DVD recorder attached. There are cables snaking everywhere. It’s probably a fire hazard.

I’m still living in the land of unemployed, not having managed to have found a full-time job yet. I have been writing regular articles for Australia website techly.com.au, which is pretty cool.  Of the four articles I’ve done so far, I’ve done one on the Titanfall beta, which I loved and I’m really looking forward to the game.

Falling from the sky: Despite being multplayer-only, Titanfall is a game that I'm really looking forward to - and I don't usually do online-only.

Falling from the sky: Despite being multplayer-only, Titanfall is a game that I’m really looking forward to – and I don’t usually do online-only.

I’m hoping to pick up a copy of Titanfall when it’s out. I haven’t decided whether I want PC or Xbox One. I’ve been internally going through the pros and cons of getting either: The PC one looks better and I can still use a game pad with it, but I’ve got hardly any friends that will be playing it on PC. The Xbox One version might not look as good as on PC but I’ve got heaps of friends who will probably play it on console. I’m sure I’ll make a decision before the game’s released early this month.

King LeBron: My son's loving NBA2K14, but he's not loving being on the Minnesota Timberwolves. The team isn't very good, apparently.

King LeBron: My son’s loving NBA2K14, but he’s not loving being on the Minnesota Timberwolves. The team isn’t very good, apparently.

My son’s played more games than I have lately on the Xbox One, spending his time on NBA2K14, desperate to get his character transferred from the Minnesota Timberwolves. He got his wish yesterday when he asked for a transfer: Turns out he was traded to a team worse than the Timberwolves (the Washington Wizards or something? Is that right). He now wants to go back to Minnesota! I just laughed at him and said he should be careful what he asks for.

I’m still laughing about it actually. It’s virtual basketball and he’s so invested that he wishes he could be traded back to the team he wanted to get out of. Ha.

Left Behind: a story of two girls

Left Behind: We find out what happened to Ellie and Riley before the events of The Last of Us.

Left Behind: We find out what happened to Ellie and Riley before the events of The Last of Us.

The Last of Us was one of last year’s best games on the PlayStation 3.

Heck, it was one of the best games of the year on all formats.

Left Behind is the first – and 0nly – story-based DLC for Naughty Dog’s survival/horror (can it be classed as a horror?)  game and while it’s not long – I think it took me about two to two and a half hours to complete – it’s probably one of the most emotive pieces of DLC that I’ve played in a long, long time. If you like strong narrative and some tying up of loose ends from the main game, then Left Behind fits the bill <There could be some slight story line spoilers here so tread carefully like your wandering through an abandoned house full of clickers>.

First things first, though: If you own a PlayStation 3 and haven’t played The Last of Us I really recommend you do. It’s well, well worth it.

Left Behind is split into two tales, each intermingled. It starts with The Last of Us’ Ellie and Joel in an abandoned shopping mall. Joel is severely injured, caused by an earlier incident in the game’s Winter section. It’s alluded to in flashback form at the start of the DLC.  Ellie has to search the mall for medical supplies to stop Joel from bleeding to death.

The other story is that of Ellie and her friend Riley, her best friend from a Boston military school, and the months before Ellie met Joel. Riley is mentioned in the main story of The Last of Us but we never knew what happened to her (well, we know she died but we aren’t told how). Left Behind fills in the blanks.

Combat is less than in The Last of Us: This is DLC that is more about an emotive story than body counts but when there is combat it has a nice twist in that both human scavengers and infected  can be “urged”to fight each other, making it easier for Ellie.

In situations where you find both, if you  attract the attention of a group of clickers to where a group of scavengers are – say tossing a brick where two humans are. sending the clickers to the source of the noise – then  you can sit back and watch the two factions kill each other, often only leaving one or two of each faction to take care of.

Time to be young: Some of the most touching moments in The Last of Us take place in an abandoned shopping mall, where Ellie and Riley get to be teenagers.

Time to be young: Some of the most touching moments in The Last of Us take place in an abandoned shopping mall, where Ellie and Riley get to be teenagers.

Some of the most emotional moments of Left Behind are with Ellie and Riley in an abandoned shopping centre. They explore, they laugh, they take snapshots in a photo booth, they joke around in a Halloween-themed shop.  It’s a far cry from their reality since the infection, and while, things turn to custard  by the end,   Left Behind shows what masters Naughty Dog and its creative director Neil  Druckmann are (incidentally, I found an old newspaper clipping of an interview I did with Druckmann about the Uncharted series. This serves no purpose other than to tell you that I’ve spoken to him).

Left Behind is a nice addition to the foundations that The Last of Us built and shows that done right, video games can be the ideal medium for delivering compelling, emotive narrative.

You play your Titanfall, Twitter people, I’m playing The Last of Us DLC

Deserted playground: Left Behind deals with the relationship between Ellie and friend Riley.

Deserted playground: Left Behind deals with the relationship between Ellie and friend Riley.

Update: I’ve played the Titanfall beta – and I love it, even though I got my arse kicked the first couple of rounds and had my Titan destroyed, too. And it’s all thanks to  a good chap who I follow on Twitter called Sidawg2 (Simon Bishop to his friends and family).

He had a friend in Australia, no less, who received a PC beta code but didn’t need it – so he thought of me. I appreciate it, Simon.

I’ve played a few rounds but want to try and tackle some more today, if I can (I’m supposed to be starting to pack for a move to a rental property next week while our house gets repaired) so I’ll post my impressions in the next few days. Short version: I like it a lot so far (I mean, c’mon, it’s giant robots: What’s not to love?)

Original story: While it seems like most of my Twitter feed is playing the Titanfall beta on Xbox One or PC (and bragging about it), I’m not (although if I’m lucky enough to get a beta key I’ll be playing the shit out of it) but until that happens, I’m dusting off  my PlayStation 3 and playing Left Behind, The Last of Us’ first (and only) story-driven DLC went live tonight.

In fact, it’s at 79% complete as we speak. Come on PSN download service, you can do it.

I’m looking forward to playing it tonight, actually: It’s been a while since I’ve had any quality time with Ellie, the young girl from Naughty Dog’s great PS3 game.

Ellie and Riley at the broken highway_1392204777I know very little about it except that it stars Ellie and her friend and mentor, Riley. There’s no  Joel in this DLC. I think it takes place in some military boarding school and apparently has both infected (Oh, god how I hated those clickers) and human foes. It’s hefty, too, weighing in at a shade over 5GB in size.

Take that, Titanfall beta. I’ve found something to take my mind off all the chatter on Twitter (at least until I get a beta key myself).

It’s going to be an interesting week: E3 kicks off on Tuesday (for us in NZ)

UPDATE: I probably should have mentioned that I’m not going to E3 this year. Yeah, I’m gutted too but that’s life. There’s always next year.

This time last year (day wise, not time wise, I can’t be bothered working out what time it is in LA right now) , I was probably sitting in a coffee shop in downtown Los Angeles supping back a double shot latte and people watching – and wondering whether I’d brought everything I needed to cover E3 2010 properly.

For those that haven’t been to LA it’s an incredibly massive city with beautiful people everywhere, especially in places like Beverley Hills and Wiltshire Boulevard. It’s also where the crazy game show E3 takes place.

It would have been a couple of days before E3 started and I would have been gathering my thoughts, on how I was going to make it through four days of mayhem – and that I’d remembered to bring all the accreditation I needed to get into the press conferences and the show itself, which was due to start at the  LA Convention Centre in a couple of days.

OK, so E3 2011 is going to start in a couple of days for us: this is what I’m most looking forward to.

  • Much of the focus this year will be on Nintendo and its new rumoured console, Project Cafe. Gamers will want to know just how many of the rumours flying around the internet are actually true.  Here is some of the speculation doing the rounds: the console will use 25Gb optical discs and have 8Gb of on-board flash memory; there won’t be a built-in HDD but it will use SD cards; the controller has a touch-screen as well as a standard button layout; the console will be more powerful than both the PS3 and the Xbox 360. Whether all this is true will be revealed in a few days time.
  • This year Microsoft needs to show gamers that there is more to Kinect than just party-style and fitness games. Hopefully there will be reveals of games that hardcore gamers can actually sink their teeth into. Last year’s Xbox event showed brief glimpses of an on-rails Star Wars game, so who knows? Maybe we’ll see more of that this year. I think that if Microsoft don’t start getting some decent stuff for Kinect, the technology will be wasted and hardcore gamers – those that bought Xbox in the first place – will start to get frustrated.
  • Sony’s been rocked severely by the recent hacks to its PlayStation Network, so it will want to bring its A-game to this year’s E3 to restore the confidence of gamers in its PlayStation brand. I’ve heard that its pre-E3 press conference is several hours long – several hours long- what the heck are they going to showcase there? Last year it was all about 3D but this year I’m sure it’ll be all about the Next Generation Portable handheld (a name change would be a good start) as well as more information about the next game in the Uncharted series, Drake’s Deception.

E3, though, is mostly about the games, and here are some of the game’s I’m looking forward to hearing more about:  The Last Guardian,  Hitman Absolution, Uncharted: Drake’s Deception, Batman Arkham City, Mass Effect 3, Battlefield 3, Assassin’s Creed Revelations, Gears of War 3, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 and Deus Ex: Human Revolution.