It’s not out until 18th March 2016, though, which at the time of writing is 160 sleeps away. That's a long time to go Unchartedless.
But that's also more than enough time to get reacquainted with everyone's* favourite treasure hunter by replaying all three of the previous “proper” entries in the series (the PS Vita exclusive prequel Golden Abyss isn’t included) in one “Remastered” boxset.
* ok, you're allowed to prefer Indy or Lara. But no, you can't have Nic Cage.
A well-deserved reputation
"Now where did I park my plane?"
To the uninitiated the Uncharted series is often seen as a Tomb Raider clone with a dash of Indiana Jones’ wit and charm. That reading isn’t entirely without merit, but it also massively downplays the brilliance of the series.
So while it’s true that Uncharted would probably have never existed without Tomb Raider, it’s also true that Uncharted pushed the running/jumping/swinging/climbing action forward so much that it was Lara borrowing from Drake for her reboot last year.
But what Uncharted has that Tomb Raider never has is that humour, and interestingly that’s the quality above all else that makes the series such a pleasure to replay.
Uncharted's Drake is descended from Sir Francis Drake, as he keeps reminding everyone all the flaming time
Why yes, that is a Nazi sub in the middle of the jungle, what of it?
Drake visits El Dorado. The mythical city of gold, not the awful soap opera
Much has been made of the extent to which this trilogy has been remastered, rather than simply re-released. Resolution has been pumped up to 1080p (plus 60fps where possible), textures have been refined, draw distances have been beefed up and extra effects have been added. And that’s just the graphical improvements: features and refinements that were developed later in the series have been applied across all three games.
All of which probably means you’re expecting the first game, Drake’s Fortune, to look and feel like Uncharted 3.
It doesn’t. But it does look and feel way better than it did back in 2007.
This is sharper and more detailed than the original PS3 game, especially in the characters and scenery. The jungle is less of a blur of green and more a construct of defined, lush foliage, and Drake and his cohorts now look much closer to how they ended up looking in Uncharted 3. Controls have been tightened and the whole thing is a bit more responsive, too, which makes combat in particular a that bit more responsive.
But compared to a modern game, and even the later games in the Drake Collection, it still feels a little loose and looks a little basic. A lack of fluidity between animations looks especially odd.
The first game was always going to be the hardest to remaster, though, and the game is a pleasure all the same, mostly thanks to the charm of the characters, the chuckles provided by the script, and the surprising twists and turns of the story. A beached submarine in the jungle is just the start of the intrigue.
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is the masterpiece of the collection
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is the real masterpiece of the series, though. It builds on everything that makes the first game great and makes it bigger, better and prettier. The script is sharper, the cast of characters more likeable, the settings more varied, detailed and interesting, and the set-pieces more dramatic.
There are occasionally battles that go on a bit too long and the reliance on a supernatural enemy for the third act seems a bit too familiar if you’ve only just played through Drake’s Fortune, but this is a game that still stands out against the very best of the PS3 generation.
London's grubby backstreets make for a surprisingly enjoyable change of setting for Uncharted 3
And finally we have Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception, and guess what? It’s also a belter that, in the early stages at least, switches things up rather a lot.
The opening scenes take place in and around a dodgy London boozer, which makes a surprisingly pleasant change after playing through two games worth of jungles and temples, and the fist-fight right at the start is a masterful example of playable, flexible choreography.
The graphical step up is clear even after the polishing that all of the games have received for this collection: this is a better looking game than many that are built for the PS4 from the ground up.
The set-pieces are bigger and more spectacular here than any of the previous games (and most Hollywood blockbusters), but they’re also a little more linear. There are at least a few gunfights that are more open and flexible, and stealth works more effectively than in Uncharted 2.
The appearance of yet another supernatural enemy towards the end of the game is rather disappointing, and I’m hoping it’s a formula that’s not repeated in Uncharted 4, but by the end of Drake’s Deception there can be no denying it’s been a thrilling ride.
Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection Verdict
So even in these remastered states there are areas in which the Uncharted games show their age, and that's particularly true of Drake's Fortune, but in a way that’s part of the charm: you get to see how the series has evolved, getting prettier, wittier and more bombastic with each new entry.
The action is great, getting better with each sequel, but it’s the writing and design that shines brightest. It’s thrilling and funny in equal measure, and strikes a balance between the two that no game before or since has quite matched.
If you’ve never played them before you might initially wonder what all the fuss was about with the first one, but the story will hook you in all the same and you’ll play straight through into Uncharted 2. That’s where it will really click. That’s the point that you’ll realise you’re playing a bonafide classic. And then you’ll be straight into Drake’s Deception, and you’ll be amazed at what Naughty Dog achieved with last-gen hardware, which will get you salivating at the prospect of a proper, made-for-PS4 sequel.
This may well be the best, most consistent gaming series there’s ever been, and being back in Drake’s presence is an absolute pleasure. Here’s hoping A Thief’s End isn’t actually the end of the Uncharted series.
Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection reviewA timely reminder of Uncharted’s brilliance, and a perfect advert for A Thief’s End