This past week, I was grateful enough to be able to attend Fan Expo 2015 here in Toronto. Host to the fandoms of anime, comics, sci-fi, horror and, of course, gaming, I was able to preview several of the hottest upcoming holiday 2015 titles. I would like to thank event organizers at Fan Expo for granting me press access, doing so with no requirements or contingencies for specific games coverage.
When it was first announced that Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End would not be released this year, it was a major blow to the attractiveness of the PS4’s lineup for the Fall 2015 season. While Sony has since pivoted with exclusive bundles and exclusive content on multi-platform titles, they have also scheduled a release of the Nathan Drake Collection: all three PS3 greats bundled into one. I thought it would be great to check out the demo at Fan Expo and see how both the gameplay holds up, as well as to note any visual and performance improvements.
No no no no no NO!
The demo level available for play was Chapter 5: Urban Warfare from Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. I thought it would be more prudent to start where the game begins and make that daring escape from the train. However, this adventure through Nepal proved to illustrate numerous advantages of the PS4 architecture.
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First off, Nathan Drake has never looked better in a video game available to the public. His character model, along with Chloe’s, have been revamped to add more polish, sharpness and polygons to the polygon count. The result is that he looks a bit closer to the Nathan Drake we saw in Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception. He always had one of the better-defined character models in the gaming of his era, but with the 1080p uptick in video resolution, the cloudiness of the edges of his face are gone.
The lighting engine had some excellent upgrades, too. The light cascading down between the buildings in the opening cutscene of Chapter 5 feels more natural, now providing a sharp vibrancy. It helps with exemplifying highlights while contrasting with crisper shadows and general shade. The torn down Nepalese city you play in embodies this notion, with the constant dipping indoors and outdoors to escape the opposing threat.
Chloe Saves The Day
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the frame rate. At a glorious 60 FPS, Uncharted: Nathan Drake Collection will sure to provide the definitive gameplay experience of the series. Once the action starts up with Nathan Drake being chased by an oncoming truck, the increased frame rate evokes a more frantic feeling. The game feels like it runs faster, which makes the cinematic action aspects of the series that much more exhilarating.
The combat scenarios still mimic the original Uncharted 2, giving credence to a remaster collection as opposed to a remake. Because of that, it sticks with gaming conventions of 2009 gaming, with platforming areas to progress as clear as day. Just look at the part of the wall where conspicuous ledges and grooves are sticking out! One of those conventions I’m glad is staying is to give a player an area to escape from without immediately prompting where to go. The marketplace has a clear path to the market meet-up with Chloe, but an explosion knocks down debris and forces you to take the scenic, death-defying route.
I must admit, I almost got stuck there, as this is the only place where it was unclear where to go. However, thinking deep back to prior experiences, as well as how odd colorization of materials meant “traverse here,” I made my way to the street sign to climb. Looking at old walkthrough videos to compare the differences in PS3 and PS4 gameplay, I wasn’t the only one encumbered by this exact scenario.
Engaging with the enemy is just as engaging in Uncharted: Nathan Drake Collection as it was in Uncharted 2. You can try to stealthily knock out all the enemies in a combat zone, but ultimately it might be best to explode a gas canister as they stand around it. Enemies still know when to throw grenades at your position if you decide to mill around, and the guys with the shields will always be the most intelligently defended enemies in the game. Gameplay hasn’t changed; it’s just become available to an entirely new generation of gamers and console system adopters.
There are some things I noticed during my time with the chapter that didn’t seem to work well. For example, for a 1080p PS4 game, there is a stark amount of aliasing noticeable along the edges of building and other assets. It may be a lot more noticeable from this user who stood 3 feet away from the screen on a convention floor, but I don’t usually notice these things. Furthermore, I noticed some weird scan lines on some of the rock debris assets, lines that weren’t coming from the screen itself. A further look at the retail version from a further distance may alleviate these concerns.
Overall, I had a great time with the Nepalese level of Uncharted 2. The Nathan Drake Collection of Uncharted games will look to provide an excellent first time with the series, as well as an endearing trip down memory lane for those who already owned previous versions of these titles. The lack of multiplayer content will be a sting to some, although they weren’t the main attraction for most of the series’ fans.
Uncharted: Nathan Drake Collection will be available exclusively for the PS4 on October 9.
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