EXPeriencing ‘Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection’

Cover image via NaughtyDog.

There weren’t a ton of games I felt I was missing out on by having an Xbox 360 instead of a PS3, but the Uncharted series was one of them. I knew they had Assassin’s Creed-like puzzles and an Indiana Jones-like story line. What’s not to like about that?

When Terry and I got a PS4 for Christmas this year, Terry also bought me Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection, a remastered version of the first three games. I dove right in.

Was it worth the wait?

The Gameplay

This part was not worth the wait. The only word to describe the gameplay in the first three Uncharted games is “linear.” The first game was particularly bad: kneel behind a crate, shoot at a bad guy, kneel, reload, dive to another crate, repeat. There was no strategy to how to take down enemies. They would rush you and you would shoot them. Sometimes you would shoot them with an AK-47, sometimes with a 9mm, sometimes you’d throw a grenade. Once you cleared the area, on you went. It was more mindless than anything.

As the games progressed, the combat got a little better each time – more stealthy takedowns, more weapons, more vantage points. It was still very linear overall, but it felt less like being led down a tunnel, and more an open-air hallway.

I also found the instructions could be a little vague. In the first game, for instance, I had just gone through a section where you were speeding along in a jeep and would shoot the bad guys if you had a chance. The following area saw you on a jet ski, and I was trying to book it through enemies shooting at me. Well, turns out, this particular section was the opposite of the jeep section: take cover and shoot down the bad guys before they can shoot you. Didn’t realize that ’til I’d been blown out of the water about three times.

It’s very jarring when you die in Uncharted. The screen goes black and white, a discordant brrring plays, and one of your allies yells, “Nate!” Whereas in some other games when you drop down too far, they just force you to climb up again. But when Drake falls too far, he falls outside of the playable area and it’s game over, back to the last checkpoint.

And you will die a bunch. There are a lot of times where you only really know which way to go next by dying. Either you’re running as fast as you can along a crumbling walkway and you jump in the wrong direction, or there’s a guy hiding behind a wall with an RPG that you just didn’t see until he blew you up. These types of deaths can be especially frustrating. The few sections I had to attempt over and over and over again were where these games definitely weren’t my favorite.

The gameplay aspect I liked most was the puzzles. I had been looking forward to these the most, but they weren’t as amazing as I was expecting. They really fell on two ends of the spectrum: trivial and obscure. A lot of the puzzles I was able to figure out before the NPC bantered hints. But there were some where I fumbled through by guessing and was about 5 minutes from Googling it before I got it right. There wasn’t really much middle ground. Frankly, I think some of the memory-type puzzles in Skyrim and the skill-based jumping puzzles in Assassin’s Creed were more deftly crafted.

The Story

Before you think I despised the games because I wasn’t a fan of the gameplay, I actually did really enjoy them overall. While every time I died was super frustrating, the story was incredibly compelling, well acted, and entertaining. I liked Drake and his roguish Indiana Jones-style treasure hunting a lot, especially through his excellent portrayal by voiceover extraordinaire Nolan North. Sully, his BFF, and Elena, his on-and-off again flame, are equally entertaining; the three of them make a great team. The other allies and villains were fairly well-rounded, too, although the cast was pretty whitewashed throughout the games. I could have done with more main characters of color, though I do believe there are more in the subsequent games.

I also like the Indiana Jones/X-Files mystical/alien-meets-real-life aspects of the story. They’re hunting for historical treasures, but there’s always some magical element that defies logic on top of it. It provided a good framework for the shooter-meets-crumbling-puzzle mix of gameplay.

Ultimately, like any good entertainment, you don’t play Uncharted for the mechanics, but for the story. The mechanics improved with each game, but I often found myself lamenting that I wasn’t playing Assassin’s Creed every time Drake made some physics-defying leap – or fell two feet and died. The story, however, was compelling enough to drive me forward to finish each game and relish in the cut scenes rather than scowl at the quicktime events.

I’m glad I played the games, but I’m also glad it was only $20 to do so. If you haven’t played the first three Uncharted games, now is a great time to pick them up – just know that playing through the first game might be really rough if you’re coming from Assassin’s Creed: Origins or Overwatch. If you’re a diehard Uncharted fan, I absolutely see why, and I’m glad I got to experience this story.

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EXPeriencing Console Wars & Rekindling a Love for Console Gaming

Cover photo via Pennyworth Reviews

Twelve years ago, Sony and Microsoft were engaged in a battle that still wears on today, though thankfully with less internet yelling. Nintendo dives in occasionally, too, but when I think about “console wars,” I’m taken right back to 2006 when Microsoft released the Xbox 360 and Sony fans were impatiently waiting for the PS3.

My relationship with gaming consoles before then was kind of erratic. My dad introduced us to gaming when he bought a Super Nintendo for Christmas one year. I played a lot of Disney side-scrollers in those years. I also watched my dad play A Link to the Past a LOT, as well as the original Tomb Raider on PC. Years later, we got an original PlayStation that I played until the PS2 came out, which I played until mine got stolen, then got a new one which I played until it became outdated.

That was right around 2006 when Terry and I were dating and he got an Xbox 360. The first game I played on Xbox 360 was the first Assassin’s Creed. I was hooked. From there, every new game that came out we got on Xbox 360 and called it a day.

But, not every game.

Not all games are available on all systems. That’s obvious in the case of Nintendo’s IP – Mario, Zelda, you know the drill. But while Xbox and PlayStation may have quite a bit of crossover, they do have system-exclusive titles. While I would have kept right on rolling with PlayStation, you couldn’t get Halo on that system. And while you could get Assassin’s Creed on both, you couldn’t get Uncharted or God of War for Xbox.

So, you either bought both systems, or, because you were 17 and your mom wasn’t about to spend $800 on gaming systems, you bought one, and you chose.

In 2006, we chose Xbox.

Rarely did I wish I had a PS3. Occasionally I’d go to a friend’s house and we’d play some PS3 fighters, but there was never anything I was dying to play that I couldn’t play on Xbox. Even a few years ago when we decided to invest in an additional system, we got a Wii U because it was super cheap and we wanted a Zelda machine. (Yes, we probably should have held off until the Switch, but that’s another blog post.)

It really wasn’t until Terry and I started watching Outside Xbox and Outside Xtra religiously on YouTube that I even realized how many PlayStation exclusive games I had and was missing out on.

So, this Christmas, Terry and I bought ourselves a PS4 and a slew of games to go with it: Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection, Nier: Automata, Journey, The Unfinished Swan… AAA titles and indie gems alike are loaded up onto this baby, and it’s been really fun going back to games that defined a generation of the consoles.

Now about some of those old games…

We’ll talk about those in another post.