January 29th, 2011 @ 19:11:28

The Uncharted Collection review: A look back at the much loved series

Uncharted is one of the most memorable series of games from the last generation of consoles. Each instalment somehow surpassed the last, as it became a beacon of possibility for the PS3 and showed players and developers alike what could be achieved by Sony’s famously complicated development hardware. The Uncharted series combines third-person action/adventure with cover-based shooting mechanics in an unprecedented way, but that is not what sets them apart from the competition. What is, is its ability to straddle the line between fast paced action and a compelling narrative. If Gears of War was the highlight of cover shooters in the market in the late noughties, Uncharted showed them how to tell a story while they were at it.

The first game in the collection, for example, certainly shows its age. This was the first outing from Naughty Dog on the PS3, and it was also the first game for the company following the charming PS2 platforming series, Jak & Daxter. Needless to say, whilst Uncharted has its platforming elements, the game’s style is evidently different from the studio’s prior work.

Whilst Drake’s Fortune is a great game, compared to the outings that followed, or by today’s standards no less, it appears flawed. Moments of shock and sadness are not visibly displayed within the game, meaning the player’s emotions are not always mirrored by the protagonist himself, and there are sections of gameplay, specifically in the middle section, that feel devoid of any meaningful narrative development.

That said, the bulk of the first outing is excellent, and by the 2007 standard this was about as good as narrative-driven action game had been. More than anything else, the series’ origins only further highlight the development both of games in the last decade, and within the Uncharted series itself. If the first game shows its age, it is hard to say the same for parts two and three. Even still, playing through the Uncharted Collection from start to finish is like a timeline of game design, detailing how far it has come in the short time since 2007.

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves shows incredible depth and complexity – not only in terms of gameplay mechanics and animation (which are outstanding, by the way), but also in terms of character development and narrative. This is where the series really comes into its own. Characters make sense and complement one another, and they stand out as symbols for a specific purpose. We may enjoy Drake’s happy-go-lucky attitude, but Among Thieves reminds the player that he is, after all, a thief among many. We begin to question his motives and decisions, and this is further explored in part three, Drake’s Deception.

Both of these games stand on their own two legs – even in today’s gaming world – and feel like they have hardly aged at all. Shooting mechanics are tight; environments are detailed, sharp, and beautiful; and the series’ cinematic storytelling is still perhaps the best in the industry. Whether it is sprinting through a sinking cruise ship, fighting swathes of enemies atop a train as it skirts through the Himalayas, or climbing up into the cargo hold of a plane as it takes off, the Uncharted Collection includes some of the most memorable and entertaining moments in video game history.

Curiously, this collection is not ‘complete’ and there are missing elements from the original releases. Online mode – which was never truly the highlight of the series – is lacking, as well as the PS Vita title, Golden Abyss. It would have been nice to have a home console version of that outing included.

That said, this collection includes three of the best games released in recent memory, and they look better than ever running in 1080p and at 60fps. For those who missed their original release on the PS3, this is an essential purchase, and for those who loved the originals, this is a fine way to refresh yourself before delving into the upcoming fourth game.

Image: Naughty Dog

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