Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune Remastered (2015) PS4 Review

During the last generation of consoles, I never played through the original Uncharted, which came out in 2007. Well, I played a bit of it but I never finished it. With the remastered edition, new life has been breathed into this first entry into the series and now the game is much improved.

But first, let’s start with the game itself. Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune is a pulpy, almost swashbuckling adventure that draws heavy inspiration from the Indiana Jones series and Tomb Raider. The game takes place in a lush Central American jungle and Nathan Drake (Nolan North), who is the kind of guy that is a bit of a douche but is lovable anyway is looking for treasure (obviously) on an expedition for a television series hosted and filmed by Elena Fisher. The two have a great chemistry and so does Drake and the older Sully. As a whole, the story isn’t complicated, but it doesn’t need to be and is a great introduction to these characters whilst still offering a very entertainingly told story, which is helped tremendously by an excellent score that from the main menu alone is sure to have you feeling excited.

As for the mechanics of the game, the game combines platforming, which is quite easy to do and intuitive on a fundamental level, however at time the controls and the timing can feel a bit imprecise, leading to many deaths that were otherwise avoidable. As for the combat, it is quite dated, this being the early stages of conspicuously placed chest high walls. Kill Switch had come out a few years before and Gears of War had come out in 2006. The combat here doesn’t flow terribly well, mostly because of Drake sticking to the cover and disengaging him from cover is clunky and slow and can get you shot with the lack of a crouch button, which lead to a feeling of weird difficulty spikes. Sometimes the cover doesn’t work well at all. This is most pronounced in the final boss fight where I was trying to roll from one cover to another and it didn’t attach me to the desired cover location, which often lead to frustration as the boss could one shot kill me. This was on normal difficulty.  The game slows down quite a bit because of this and does feel a bit whack a mole at times. However, the AI is intelligent enough and will sometimes try and flank you or flush you out with grenades. The actual shooting itself here is very responsive, the guns typically have a nice recoil and each weapon type feels different so they’re fun to shoot. You can also use your pistol whilst hanging from a ledge which is occasionally handy.

Now as for the remastering effort, which was done by Bluepoint Games. Bluepoint have done an incredible job here. Where some remasters are content simply to upscale the resolution, Bluepoint have gone through the game with a fine comb and improved almost every asset in the game from better world geometry, to much higher resolution textures and improved character models that bring the game’s visual quality up to a level comparable with it’s successors. The game also runs at native 1080p at 60fps so not only does the game look great, it performs great too. You can also tweak the motion blur options between off, object and object+camera, which is nice for those of us who aren’t terribly fond of camera motion blur in games. Digital Foundry have a good visual analysis here.

In conclusion then, this game, whilst it’s age does show in the design and mechanics as our cover shooters with conspicuously placed chest high walls have been much refined since Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune  comes out, it still remains a fun adventure that had me smiling regularly with it’s charming characters, visuals and rousing score, but also had me occasionally frustrated too. This is without a doubt the best way to experience the game if you’ve ever thought about replaying it or are playing for the first time.

7.5/10

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Hearts of Stone Expansion Review

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The first expansion for The Witcher 3 is a fantastic ride. It starts out much like any other quest: you have a contract you must fulfil, a monster to kill. But that goes sideways when Geralt is captured, then freed and has to satisfy the three impossible wishes of the immortal nobleman Olgierd von Everec that takes you to participating in a bank heist to being possessed by a ghost, to jumping into the memories of a dead woman.

Hearts of Stone in a nutshell and without spoiling the storyline too much , is simply more Witcher 3. While it has a sidequest or two, the Olgierd questline, which is quite meaty in itself, should take you up to 10 hours. The writing is excellent and melds most of the strengths of the game, although the moral dilemmas that the series is known for is more or less downplayed here. The narrative weaves the seriousness and humourous aspects of the main game deftly, with the bank heist being set up much like heist films or the hilarity that comes with being possessed by a rowdy ghost. The narrative is a joy that like the main game, pulls from folklore, genre fiction and cinema to provide an excellent adventure.

In terms of new mechanics, the game doesn’t overhaul itself although it adds one feature where your runes can be crafted together to create new abilities onto the sword. Additionally, there is no new landmass of the game, but it does take place primarily in the north-east corner of the Velen/Novigrad map, which before this expansion one was unlikely to have explored all too much, so in part the area should feel pretty fresh, especially if one hadn’t played the game since they  completed it before the expansions were released like myself.

As far as DLC goes, this is one of the better ones; the closest thing I could compare it to it the Knights of the Nine expansion for Oblivion and in terms of scale, it’s about the same more or less. It’s also only about $12 AUD so it’s not too badly priced. So if you have The Witcher 3 and liked it, then this should be a no brainer as it is consistent with the quality of the base game. Definitely worth picking up.

8/10