Review: Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection (PS5)

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Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection is a damn good time. It bundles both Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End and Uncharted: The Lost Legacy into one PlayStation 5 package, boasting new graphics modes, a complete lack of load times, and DualSense functionality. Both games are more than a few years old now, but as far as we’re concerned, they’re yet to be topped when it comes to cinematic action titles.

For the purposes of this review, we’re going to write about each game individually, starting with Uncharted 4 — but our conclusion at the bottom of the page will take the whole collection into account.

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

Clocking in at somewhere between 10 and 20 hours, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is easily the longest entry in Naughty Dog’s treasure-snatching series — but its overall quality barely wavers across this lengthy runtime. It should be noted, however, that Uncharted 4’s multiplayer and co-op modes have been cut completely.

Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection Review - Screenshot 1 of 5

PlayStation icon Nathan Drake is back for one last adventure, and it’s one heck of a ride. The opening scene is arguably Uncharted in its purest form, as Nate and his estranged brother race towards a pirate island in the middle of a storm, their boat assaulted from all sides by armed mercenaries. You skid across the sea in a tub that grows more battered by the second, only ever stopping to shoot some bad guys. It’s a scene that immediately sets a breathless tone, but the game quickly changes course in the chapters that follow.

It’s not long until you realise that Uncharted 4 is trying to be a touch more mature than its predecessors. The next couple of hours have a pre-teen Nate break curfew at a catholic orphanage, before jumping ahead to a time when the brothers Drake are locked up in a Panamanian prison. Needless to say, these early story beats skip about a fair bit, but they successfully lay the foundations for what’s to come.

Uncharted 4’s pacing is extremely impressive. Between its character-building cutscenes, exploration-based platforming, and intense combat scenarios, each chapter feels brilliantly balanced. Just when you’re starting to think that a puzzle or set piece might outstay its welcome, the game moves on and you’re doing something different. It’s the kind of pacing that you typically find in blockbuster movies or well produced TV shows — but to make it work across a game that can last close to 20 hours is some achievement.

And investing in Uncharted 4’s overarching plot of legendary pirate treasure is easy when the cast is so well acted. Nolan North delivers his most nuanced Nathan Drake performance in the whole series, and Troy Baker is outstanding as the slightly older (and slightly slimier) Sam Drake. Elsewhere, Nate’s mentor Sully (Richard McGonagle) comes close to stealing every scene that he’s in, while Elena (Emily Rose) enjoys near perfect chemistry with her globe-hopping husband. Naughty Dog’s habit of getting the best from its performers is abundantly clear throughout.

Having said all that, the serious character drama doesn’t always gel with Nate’s often ridiculous escapades. To get the most out of Uncharted, you need to switch your brain off to some degree — just like you would if you were watching an over-the-top action movie. It’s not like Uncharted 4 has obvious plot holes, but if you start questioning every detail — especially in the game’s later chapters — it gets easier and easier to pick things apart. Why did this character do that? Why didn’t they think of this before? How has no one found this place after hundreds of years? Who the hell built all this, anyway? Just how many people has this artefact-obsessed psychopath killed up until this point? You get the idea.

The term ‘tonal whiplash’ is probably a bit too extreme when describing Uncharted 4’s inconsistencies — again, it’s basically an action flick in video game form — but the title does struggle every now and then. It’s not enough to rip you out of the story, but it can be difficult to ignore just how quickly the game jumps from Nate casually snapping seven necks in a row to having a marital spat with his wife.

There’s also an argument to be made that some of Uncharted’s tricks grow tiresome when the adventure’s stretched across a longer narrative. There are only so many times that you can watch a platform crumble under Nate’s feet and feel any kind of adrenaline rush, for example. For what it’s worth, we do think that Uncharted 4 succeeds in maintaining tension throughout, but when you’re four games deep into a series — five if you count PS Vita exclusive Golden Abyss — you can’t be blamed for rolling your eyes when Nate and the gang somehow escape certain death yet again.

It’s all about suspension of disbelief, then, and you know what? Suspending your disbelief is actually quite easy when a) the game looks this good, and b) the game’s fantastic fun to play. Nearly six years after its original release, and the action sequences in Uncharted 4 are still pretty much in a league of their own in terms of spectacle, technical excellence, and execution. The only games that come close are the other Uncharteds, and even then, 4’s commitment to dropping jaws is unparalleled.

Combat is a delight as well. Carefully crafted arenas of violence usually allow for multiple approaches, with Nate able to stealth or shoot his way to victory. As a cover-based blast-’em-up, Uncharted 4 is rock solid, but it’s Nate’s agility that elevates each encounter. When you’re up against all kinds of enemy types — snipers, rocket launchers, those shotgun b*stards who can survive a grenade — staying on the move is crucial. Ducking, diving, climbing, jumping, and making use of Nate’s grappling hook is what makes the game’s combat so dynamic and enjoyable. And if you’re skilled, you can string together some truly share-worthy moments.

It still looks brilliant, by the way. Uncharted 4 was probably the best looking game to ever grace a PlayStation console when it launched in 2016, and it’s aged incredibly well. Now, it’s not perfect by today’s high standards — some of the environmental texture work is noticeably worse than what we’ve become accustomed to, for instance — but the character models, the animation, the facial capture…it’s still one of the best around, AAA titles included.

Uncharted: The Lost Legacy

In our original Uncharted: The Lost Legacy review, editor Sammy Barker opened with the line: “Lost Legacy is like a Greatest Hits album: short on surprises but a blast from start to finish.” It’s a description that certainly holds true. Playing Lost Legacy back-to-back with Uncharted 4 makes you understand why the spin-off was — perhaps unfairly — brushed to one side when it released just 15 months after Nate’s big finish. It’s undeniably familiar and, some might argue, a tad uninspired — but it’s still bloody good.

Unless you’re going for 100 per cent completion, Lost Legacy is noticeably shorter than its predecessor — clocking in at around 7 or 8 hours. It’s also a lot more streamlined in its approach to storytelling, establishing the stakes within the first hour or so before taking you on a frankly wondrous tour of an ancient Indian civilisation.

So while it doesn’t have the grand scope of Uncharted 4, there’s a welcome cohesiveness to Lost Legacy. It’s an Uncharted title that knows exactly what it wants to do, and we daresay that its vision is excellently executed.

Nate’s nowhere to be seen this time around, and so all of the neck snapping, headshotting, and desperate clambering falls to Chloe Frazer of Uncharted 2 and Uncharted 3 fame. Chloe makes for a refreshing lead; she’s got Nate’s cockiness, but she’s shrewd in her approach to both business and people. The immensely talented Claudia Black brings Chloe to life better than ever before here, and it helps that her personality is given a lot more time to breathe.

She’s joined by the unflinching Nadine Ross (Laura Bailey), who was one of Uncharted 4’s weaker characters — at least in terms of depth. Nadine hasn’t changed all that much, but through Chloe, we actually get to know what makes her tick, and she’s way more likeable as a result. The two treasure hunters bounce off one another really well, and Naughty Dog’s sharp writing keeps things moving at a brisk pace.

As alluded, you’re in for a very familiar jaunt if you’ve played any previous Uncharted games — but the formula often feels polished to borderline perfection here. We won’t spoil any of them, but Lost Legacy has some downright stunning scenarios up its sleeve — along with some of the most eye-popping environments you’ll find on PlayStation. As a spinoff that simply offers more Uncharted, it’s almost impossible to knock.

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