Many of today’s biggest games are offering public betas, but usually gamers don’t have to pay to gain access. Sony Computer Entertainment's “Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End,” the next entry in the PlayStation-exclusive action/adventure series starring Nathan Drake, will have a beta before launch as well -- but you’ll have to buy the newly-released HD remaster collection (called “The Nathan Drake Collection”) to gain access to it. The collection aims to draw players into the Uncharted world, creating a new set of fans that will eventually buy Uncharted 4. If you've already played the last generation originals, you’re effectively paying $60 for a collection of admittedly very nice but remade older games for an early look at the upcoming new game’s multiplayer features -- but is that worth the price of admission?
If you’re coming to this just to get an early look at Uncharted 4, then the answer is a resounding no. Uncharted 4’s multiplayer beta will be open December 4th through December 13th for those who purchase “Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection,” though the full version of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End releases in March 2016. Ten days of a public beta for that price won’t work for anyone but the biggest Uncharted fans, but if you’re new to the franchise it might make sense to drop $60 on this.
If you’ve already played the three originals last generation, this set of remasters isn’t offering you that much if the way of new features past the 1080p/60 frames per second native gameplay. What you get from The Nathan Drake Collection (beta access aside) is technically improved versions of Uncharted 1-3: “Drake’s Fortune” (2007), “Among Thieves” (2009), and “Drake’s Deception” (2011). Reworked textures, improved lighting and animations are more obvious the further back on the timeline you go; the first Uncharted has benefitted most radically from the modernization, completely eliminating the screen tearing and framerate issues the original fell prey to.
The Uncharted series can be very broadly described as “Tomb Raider” with a male lead: protagonist Nathan Drake explores exotic locales in search of treasures and riches, jumping across chasms and climbing peaks to chase leads. He’s a charmer with good intentions, but he uses plenty of guns to defend himself and those around him from other treasure hunters. He’s protective, and incredibly well-voiced by Nolan North (who you may know more recently as the second voice of Destiny’s “Ghost” companion ).
What you get is a collection of games that are decidedly old-school in their approach. Paths forward aren’t highlighted, hints are few and far between (assuming you even enable them), and enemy AI response is swift and merciless. The remasters offer easy modes without much enemy resistance if firefights aren’t your thing, but on Normal or higher your armed opponents will shoot Nathan full of holes with disturbing, perhaps even frustrating accuracy. Fire one shot at the back of a guard’s head, and his 15 squadmates will instantly know where you are, even through cover. Plus it will take anywhere from three to six shots to topple normal enemies, with the exception of headshots (or if the one-hit kill mode is activated).
The gunplay is offset with lengthy portions of platforming and light puzzle solving, with a number of instant-death traps and sheer cliff drops. Drake is super-athletic and can clear jumps that would make Indiana Jones envious, but a thirty foot drop is still enough to end his life.
But the story is still the best part of Uncharted. To avoid spoilers (for those new to the franchise), Nathan Drake’s adventures are equal parts character intrigue and sarcastic humor as Drake plays excellently off the supporting cast. Drake will keep you invested in the story as his witty dialogue keeps you laughing throughout. Nolan North really does breathe life into Nathan Drake, and this three game collection is an excellent way to verse yourself in his character before Uncharted 4 comes out.
That’s who this collection is for, $60 retail price and all. It’s for people who’ve never played an Uncharted game (which, according to developer Naughty Dog, is a whopping 80 percent of current PS4 owners ), and are looking for an alternative to Tomb Raider. At $20 per game, it’s fair if you’ve never experienced the trilogy (and Sony will offer a PS4 bundled with The Nathan Drake Collection ), though it would probably be better suited to a $40 tag. The main purpose is to draw players in and get them invested for Uncharted 4, beta or no beta -- and to that extent, “Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection” succeeds.
"Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection" is a PS4 exclusive, released on October 9th, 2015. Sony provided a press copy of the game for this article.