Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection PS4 Review: The Criterion Collection
Sony and Bluepoint Games bring the Uncharted series to PlayStation 4 in style.
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The Uncharted series has aged really well.
Perhaps "aged" isn't the best term for it. The very first Uncharted actually came out in 2007, less than a decade ago, with further sequels dropping every two years. That means the last main title, Uncharted 3, actually released four years ago. It's not as short-term as the The Last of Us Remastered, but Sony Computer Entertainment isn't mining the ancient archives for this Remastered Collection.
There's a case to be made for these recent remasters, especially given the lack of backwards compatibility on current consoles. Playing your favorite games with improved performance on your current console is a desirable option for many players who have moved on from PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360. In cinema, the Criterion Collection is dedicated to taking classic films and releasing them in editions that offer the highest technical quality available. Sure, there's something to be said for the original memory played back again as it was originally experienced, but I've always leaned towards that same memory, now presented in Technicolor.
Uncharted Collection is all three of the previously-released PlayStation 3 Uncharted games - Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, and Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception - packaged together and visually-improved by port developer Bluepoint Games. Despite Sony Computer Entertainment farming the port out to another studio, Uncharted Collection is a complete class act, in some cases blurring the line between a remaster and a remake.
First and foremost, every single game in the collection has been kicked up to 1080p resolution at 60 frames per second. (I don't think it's locked, but it stays close to 60 fps most of the time.) This is a significant improvement, as all three games were 30 fps in their original state. Every scene, every gunfight, every flood, and every chase is silky smooth, with solid anti-aliasing to boot. Seriously, some of Uncharted 2 and 3 elaborate set pieces are astounding in 60 fps with crisp image quality. Uncharted 2's train and helicopter attack sequences in the new presentation made me fan myself a bit.
The quality does break down in the cutscenes, which are still pre-rendered and thus feature the occasional blurriness from compression artifacts, but overall the games look great on PS4.
Bluepoint didn't stop there though. There's a few updated models and improved level geometry here and there. Some textures have been redone. Lighting effects received a bump. The most surprising upgrade was Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, which seems to have been retuned to bring it further in line with Uncharted 2 and 3. The overall game feels faster and more responsive than the PlayStation 3 original. No, it's still not up to par with its sequels, but it makes the experience far better than it was before.
All three games are tied together with a solid UI and switching titles is a breeze; it took 20 seconds at most for me to load up a different game in the collection. There's also a couple of new features rounding out the complete set. First up is two new difficulty modes. Explorer is now the lowest level of difficulty, providing an even easier experience for those who just want to see Drake's story. Then there's the new Brutal difficulty level, which unlocks when you beat each game on Crushing. (Crushing comes unlocked already, so you don't have to beat Hard this time around.)
There's the Speed Run Modes, which can be run per level or in a continuous manner. In Speed Run Mode, a clock occupies the upper-right of the screen, tracking your completion time for your chosen level and your best times overall. It's not a mode I'd personally see much use in, but I'm sure there's some hardcore players that are up for challenging their friends.
Speaking of friends, Uncharted Collection tracks a number of play statistics, including total kills, kills per weapon, headshots, time played in each game, time idle in each game, speed run times, and much, much more. If you have the option on, the game also checks your friends' gameplay stats and provides a competitive comparison via an in-game notification. Another reviewer and I were in an unspoken headshot competition in each game; I'm proud to say I won in Uncharted and Uncharted 2. At any time, you can jump into the full statistics list and check your friends list leaderboards for each stat.
Photo Mode lets you pause the game (most of the time), move the camera around, change the field of view and depth of field, and add borders and color filters. Then you can turn off the UI to take a picture via the Share button. All of the shots in the review that don't have a UI were natively captured on my PlayStation 4 via Photo Mode. Honestly, this might be my favorite new feature in Uncharted Collection, but it's randomly limited. In certain scenes, Photo Mode simply won't activate and in others where the camera is fixed for dramatic purpose, you can't move the camera around at all. I also found that occasionally the lighting would change when I switched to Photo Mode. Honestly, a more robust Photo Mode is something I think every game should have and what's here is a great start.
Finally, you can unlock costumes, weapons, and other tweaks to the gameplay by collecting treasure in each game and completing other objectives. That means you can be Drake in various outfits, Elena, Sully, Doughnut Drake, of even the game's villains if you want.
The most glaring omission in the Uncharted Collection is the multiplayer modes, which don't make the cut at all. They're simply gone, so if that's a big selling point for you, you should stick with the original titles.
If you're looking to revisit the Uncharted franchise before Uncharted 4: A Thief's End drops in March 2016, this is a worthwhile purchase. This is probably the best Remastered Collection I've ever played, outdoing Bluepoint's own older work. The Uncharted games themselves are great, so having them all in a single package on PlayStation 4 is a definite winner.
InterfaceThe shared menu is minimal and smooth, existing only to get you from game to game.
Lasting AppealEach game is around 10 hours, though you can get more out of it if you try the higher difficulty levels or attempt to collect all the treasure.
SoundThe Uncharted soundtrack still rocks.
VisualsThis collection's primary draw. Every Uncharted game at 1080/60fps is a sight to behold.
ConclusionUncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection is probably one of the best remastered collections I've ever played. If you own the Uncharted games, they look much better in 1080p at a smooth 60 fps. If you've never played them, now is the time to get in on the action. Great games, great collection.