Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception Remastered (2015) PS4 Review

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Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune Remastered Review
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves Remastered Review

The third entry into the Uncharted series starts off in a way that is somewhat more subdued compared to the previous entry. Nathan Drake does not start dangling off a train carriage on the precipice of a plateau in the Himalayas, but rather in a rather typical London pub, doing a trade of Sir Francis Drake’s ring for cash. Of course, it quickly goes awry, with Drake and Sully embroiled in a bar brawl, tutorialising the changes to the melee combat, which this time controls a little more like Batman: Arkham Asylum but still maintain the same general feel of Uncharted.

This is also a globe trotting adventure that takes through flashback’s to Drake’s childhood as a street urchin in Cartagena, Colombia which explains how him and Sully became friends, to a decayed and overgrown French Chateau which seems like a preview for The Last of Us. Then you’re whisked away to Syria and then Yemen, with full of exciting chases, platforming and setpieces along the way, such as escaping the  whale-like skeleton of a decrepit ship, to shooting and stealthing your way through a cruise line that capsizes necessitating a thrilling escape. Another has you, with the help of on again off again girlfriend Elena Fisher, trying to catch a cargo plane and jumping on to it reminded me of the last act of Toy Story 2. Every set piece sequence, some of which might feel like repetitions of those in Uncharted 2 are still nevertheless exciting.

The general forward motion of the plot is very similar to it’s predecessors to the point of being quite predictable, down to the exact moment the supernatural element comes into plays. Nevertheless, despite being repetitious, the filled out back stories of our core cast,the vocal performances of all characters and the little touches each character has, such as Cutter’s claustrophobia and the implied engagement between Drake and Elena make for a good humoured, yet still strong emotional core to a rather predictable plot that is a joy to experience.

In terms of mechanics, the cover shooting and platforming is much the same as it’s predecessors, except much better refined with more weapons, whose sound effects pack a surprisingly heft punch. The roll here is also much less weighty and thus faster, enabling much more mobility in combat. You can also throw grenades back now with a timed bar that work much like the active reloads in Gears of War.

Naughty Dog, with the remastering efforts again done by Bluepoint Games really show off their technical chops here, with volumetric lighting being used frequently, wonderfully detailed character models and animations and exquisite texture work and realistic art direction and brilliant visual design make this quite the artistic and technical achievement visually. Considering this was originally released on the PS3 about 5 years or so ago, it is all the more impressive. And now at consistent 1080p60fps, the detail is truly incredible, down to the finest grain of sand. The soundtrack of course, is as bombastic and rousing as ever.

8.5/10

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Uncharted 2: Among Thieves Remastered PS4 Review (2015)

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Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune review

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves Remastered starts you in media res aboard a dangling train off the edge of a plateau in the Himalayans, and you having to climb Nathan Drake up and around the carriage to reach safety. It’s an exciting and almost nail biting sequence and these sorts of set pieces are the bread and butter of Uncharted 2.

The plot of Nathan Drake’s second adventure uses some familiar beats and has some inconsistency, especially in how the supernatural aspect of the plot is handled. But in essence it has a familiar goal: you are looking for an ancient and powerful relic called the Cintamani Stone which takes you all the way from the green jungles of Borneo, to the midst of a war zone in Nepal, through ancient temples and up the Himalayas aboard the train in one of gaming’s most impressive sequences that transitions wonderfully and seamlessly from jungle to tunnel to snowy mountains and to the famed Shangri-La Climbing around and fighting your way through this train is simply incredible.

The antagonist, Lazarevic doesn’t make for a particularly compelling villain, given his propensity for being an underwritten caricature of Nietzschean philosophy (which you will only really pick up on towards the end) but his appearance is suitably menacing and imposing. Whilst the plot isn’t terribly deep, our core cast of Nathan Drake, old flame Elena Fisher and the sultry Chloe Fraser that is somewhat reminiscent of classic Lara Croft (maybe because of her accent) form the emotional core of the narrative and with excellent vocal performances and animation that keep the game from becoming barely held together set pieces, so it is very enjoyable in an Indiana Jones kind of way. There’s much more detail in Drake’s journal this time around too, which flipping through provides some extra characterisation and humour that is a nice touch.

As for the mechanics of the game, it doesn’t not stray too far off from the first game, which is still centred mostly around mass killing (the statistics counter had me at almost 1000 kills by the end of the game) with cover based shooting, except for some slight changes to the melee. Everything feels much more smooth and responsive and the cover system did not put me in as much trouble as it did in Drake’s Fortune. Same with the platforming. Failures in combat and platforming actually felt like genuine screw ups on my part and a need to git gud as opposed to the game being temperamental on me. There were however some glitches and a situation or two in which I rolled into a corner with enemy in pursuit and there was no way out, and a visual glitch or two, but these are few and far between. Puzzles are also pretty simplistic and few and far between, but act as a nice change of pace.

In terms of graphics, this game is a real stunner and had I not known otherwise, I would swear that this wasn’t a seven year old game. At full 1080p, 60fps, it is a magnificent sight to behold and that’s with the makeover being much less drastic than it’s predecessor.

One thing that is missing here is the multiplayer, which is an understandable omission but I don’t think it’s enough to be a deal breaker.

Naughty Dog have made an incredible game with Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, which is the entry in which the series hit it’s stride and Bluepoint Games have done an incredible job remastering the game that it remains just as thrilling to play and beautiful to look at as it was when I first played it six years ago.

9/10

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