It’s been long enough since 2016’s Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End came out that I kind of missed Nathan Drake, the breezy, globetrotting, treasure-hunting star of the Uncharted series. In contrast to developer Naughty Dog’s other PlayStation series The Last of Us, a rather harrowing post-apocalyptic meditation on human darkness, Uncharted is a straightforwardly fun and light-hearted action-movie story. You never have to think too hard about what you’re doing or why, and as long as you can surrender your will to the game – for there is little room for improvisation in these climbing puzzles, shootouts and well-acted story scenes – you’ll have a good time.
Back then I was ready to see the back of Nathan Drake. His quips had started to feel predictable, the Indiana Jones setpieces of his global adventures – collapsing ledges, trap-filled tombs, cursed treasure – even more so. This game is a farewell to him, wringing a surprising amount of pathos from the cast and their relationships to each other (particularly Nathan and his wife, Elena, who share an adorable scene in front of a PlayStation in their front room in the opening hours that still hits just as well now). This series had run out of road, with no further far-flung corners of the world or secret character backstories to explore, and in retrospect it is easier to appreciate this as a victory tour for a developer that really mastered the blockbuster cinematic action game.
Then there’s 2017’s Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, also a part of this re-release package, a spin-off starring two of the series’ female characters that really became its own thing: a kind of high-octane buddy movie carried brilliantly by its stars Chloe (Claudia Black) and Nadine (Laura Bailey). The action might be largely the same, but it showed what new stars can bring to a series as character-driven as this. The premise is still a twisty-turny treasure hunt, but the action is exhilarating and the whole thing is over in six to eight or so hours; a snappier playtime that actually serves the story better. Playing it again, I actually wanted more.
The improvements that this rerelease brings to the two games feel minor. You can feel the impact of gunshots and cliff-grabs through the PS5’s superlative controller rumble; I played around with the framerate and resolution, switching between different performance modes on a giant TV, and though the difference was noticeable, it was not transformational. They always were gorgeous games. Given that Uncharted 4 is already available on PlayStation 5 as part of a wee free collection of PlayStation classics for all PlayStation Plus subscribers, it’s hard to argue that this is an essential purchase for anyone who’s played these games before. If they passed you by at the time, though, this is the best way to experience two different spins on the same bombastic action game – adventures that remind us why characters such as Nathan Drake (and his spiritual predecessor Lara Croft) suit video games so well.