It’s a difficult proposition to rank the Uncharted games. There’s a subtle diversity to the tone and sometimes quality of each individual entry, making separation a rather benign convention. But my admiration for this series deems such objective analysis a worthy arbitration, for the simple fact that I get to talk in depth about my favourite subject. And just because I love this series, that shouldn’t precipitate that it is exempt from criticism. This list will consist of only the 4 primary entries in the series so sorry to those two “Golden Abyss” fans. I’m sure many of you familiar with the series will contest my views, I’m not even sure this list could be considered definitive even to me, but it is as it is, for better or worse. So in ascending order is my list of the best Uncharted games.
#4. Uncharted: Drakes Fortune.
No surprises here. Drakes Fortune is a solid if patchy entry, that lays a suitable foundation for the more polished sequels. The search for El Dorado is arguably one of the more compelling plot devices used in the series, even if ultimately the city of gold is relegated to merely a cursed artefact embellished by sustained historical falsity. It contains many of series core mechanics still retained today, and does a great job of introducing characters that only become more enduring as the series progresses. Drakes Fortune is probably the series most measured affair, that belies it’s organically compounded dynamic utilised in latter entries. You’ve also got to remember that Drakes Fortune was being developed under intense public scrutiny and a great cost to NaughtyDog both financially and to their credibility. It was a huge gamble considering the endearing success of “Crash Bandicoot”. Without Drakes Fortune this list would feel much lighter, so it deserves a great deal of respect. But ultimately it is a forgettable romp, filled with largely irrelevant villains, expeditious conclusion, innocuous and borderline irritating vehicular sections and a rather jarring finale.
# 3. Uncharted 3: Drakes Deception.
A visceral, yet crucially venerated plot disguised as a intimate psychology of the mind of Nathan Drake and the vaguely hinted demons that inhabit it. This thinly veiled premise did a stern job of introducing some beautiful, albeit erratic smattering of locations that creates a sense of adventure, as you embark on treacherous excursions that’s conclusion is unclear. Nathan Drakes obsessive determination to find the lost city is supposed to be something of considerable pertinence to him. Something he, as well as us should feel as personally invested in. Yet this endeavour didn’t resonate with any more significance than the search for Shangri La. This, from my perspective at least felt like the first entry that really struggled to retain fluency. It felt more like a series of scripted instances, randomly generated demonstrations that illustrate NaughtyDog’s whimsical imagery, compiled together to form an amalgamation of dynamic events, as though NaughtyDog worked the story around the epic set pieces. It reminds me of Shaun in “Shaun of the dead” when he is trying to make a comparison between team and meat pie. “There’s no I in team, but there is an I in meat pie.” You understand that they are trying to make a point, but you’re not entirely sure what it is? There is however more depth and definition to the primary cast.
The characterisations are still enthralling, especially between Drake, Elena and Sully. Drake is more reckless in his approach, relying on sheer will. Elena has matured, advancing her career without risking life and limb to achieve this. And Sully has progressed from the money driven, morally repressed mentor into a more wizened, paternal father figure for Drake. Though many of the overarching conversations between them are a little more tender, this exposed sentiment really helps to elevate each and every character. The same cannot be said for the rest of the cast however. Though Katherine Marlow is a formidable foil, her subordinate Talbot is redundant. His involvement with Marlow is never really explained, neither are his vaguely defined prophetic abilities. Chloe is reduced to crew member # 4, with Cutter (crew member #3) a completely disposable confederate, merely enabling Drake to escape one of the most anti-climatic deaths scenes since every Marvel movie and giving Drake someone to converse with that is slightly more interesting than a brick wall. The biggest problem is that many elements of Drakes Deception suffers from a curious case of repetition.
We’ve seen this all before. The mystical creatures, even if they were delusions feel overused after the previous entries used them with such vigour. And when you get down to it, all of these dramatic feats, shoot outs and death defying stunts is to find a lost city, again. A city deserted because of the Arabian, supernatural entities known as the “Djiin”, which is a direct result of a demonic oppressor from the very depths of Hell! Oh wait no; it was a vase. An evil vase. An evil vase that poisoned the water of this exalted city, driving everyone insane. Well at least it culminates in a epic showdown between Drake and Talbot, locked in a brutal encounter that…no, wait. No, it’s just a series of QTE’s. Huh? Having said that Drakes Deception is more than salvaged by the incredible set pieces, with many of the stories or game-play’s incoherence instantly forgiven due to the fact that it’s such a blast to play. You could almost feel the heat emanating on the screen as you attempt to escape the burning château, the incredible sense of isolation as a dehydrated Nate staggers through the expansive desolation of dunes in the Rub Al Khali desert. The disorientation of shooting you’re way off a slowly sinking ship as it Sunday wrenches starboard.
Drakes Deception relies heavily on theatrical dynamics, it’s penchant for the dramatic and uses every conceivable excuse to ignite the highly volatile scenery rather than portraying a compelling or even competent story. Yet it’s ceaseless volatility makes it one of the more captivating and exciting entries to play.
#2. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves.
I was so close to putting this top. In fact I’m still conflicted as to whether I’ve made the right choice, but on reflection I don’t think Among Thieves deserves to be considered the top spot. In many respects it’s still the best in the series. It’s high octane, introducing some of the most theatrical, sometimes breathtaking set pieces I’ve ever experienced. The entirety of the Helicopter chase is hypnotic! For the most part you’re clinging onto the controller, praying that the collapsing building doesn’t squash you into a Drake sandwich. And the train, oh my god the train! I had by ass clenched so tight trying to navigate my way from the back, to the front carriage that I couldn’t poop for 3 days! Watching helplessly as Drake clutches onto the back of the carriage as the disconnected portion of the train comes hurtling towards you like a rogue rotisserie. “It’s not going to hit me, no. No? No! Drake! Pull yourself up its going to hit you! Drake! Drake!!! Agghhuuuhhgggbt! Oh god I need….air!” These were moments the series has never adequately replicated with the same intensity, despite subsequent attempts. But Among Thieves is well aware of the limitations of explosions by just toning things down to a more austere pace as they did with the Tibetan village. There’s a vast distinction between Drakes Fortune and Among Thieves. The disparity between the two is discernible, whereas the difference in quality between Among Thieves and Drakes Deception is negligible. Among Thieves is such a bigger, better, bolder game. It created this sense of hyperventilating anxiety, as if you were always on the cusp of losing control. Every shifting ledge, every explosive reverberation even the slightest environmental alteration had you on edge. It’s like Grandpa in the Simpsons indiscriminately pointing at different people and hysterically yelling “DEATH!” That’s how you feel trying to negotiate through war torn cities, jungles, mountains, ancient civilisation’s or any environmental hazard that “will” try to kill you!
Among Thieves was captivating and at times creepy. The moment you descend into the hidden sanctum replete in the skeletal remains of Marco Polo’s crew, each with unexplained blackened teeth and traces of blood all across the floor as if they’d all killed each other still creeps me out. The relationships are more refined than in Drakes Fortune too. The chemistry between Drake and Elena resonates with such intensity here, particularly with the addition of alluring temptress Chloe Frazier contributing additional dimension to Drake and Elena’s strained romance, with Chloe enabling Drakes reckless endeavours. It also features one of my favourite exchanges between Drake and Elena, where after sustaining serious almost mortal wounds Elena asks Drake on a scale of 1 to 10 how scared he was that she was going to die, where Drake glibly replies “4”. Elena, further trying to clarify what constitutes as a 10, Nate, without hesitation affirms that “clowns” are top of that distressing pyramid. Uncharted 2 features all the elements that truly define the series. The environments, the combat, the exploration and the characters. So how could such a seemingly perfect game only procure the silver medal in this contest? Well two crucial reasons.
The first being Sully’s primarily and largely absent participation, relegated to mere subsidiary observer for much of this entry, casually leaving early on. But easily the biggest crime is the horrendously asinine villain; Lazarevic. A derivative caricature of a villain he’s intentionally portrayed as this deranged, snarling, psychopathic killer, snuffing out members of his own inventory simply because they don’t warrant consideration. His motivations are solid enough; he wants to find Shangri La to gain immeasurable power so he can, you guessed it, take over the world. He’s heavily accented, is bald and has a pronounced scar on his face. Seriously Lazarevic couldn’t of been any more of a generic antagonist if he were sat in a swivel chair stroking a white cat demanding sharks with laser beams?! Every time he was on screen he irritated me, just devolving into this laborious plot device rather than an actual human being. Now Flynn, now that’s an antagonist. Not villain, not interlacing his fingers and exclaiming “excellent”, but a fully formed, intent antagonist with progressive motivations and context. The verbal jousting between Flynn and Drake is only further escalated when they become enemies, intensifying the collaborative dissonance between. It’s also incredibly enjoyable to watch.
Perhaps I’m being overly critical and unfairly biased to vilify the entire game based solely on these two proprietary errors. But I really do value this game despite the economic use of Sully and stereotypical antagonist. In a few years, properly motivated, a revised list may well have Uncharted 2: Among Thieves at the top of this list. But for this one it will have to settle for the silver medal…..
#1. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End.
So how and why has this ascended to the top of the thrown, usurping Uncharted 2 which many consider the unequivocal focal point of the series? Well you’re have to wait for my review, which I have decided to separate into various categories for ease of use. Basically because I waffle on for extended periods and by reducing the review into segregated portions I can at least focus on specific points with expeditious leniency. Plus you shouldn’t get as bored. It’s a subject I have much to discuss, and also one I want to be entirely sure I discuss with salient clarification. This could very well be the last Uncharted game I’ll review and I just want to get it right.
So what is your’e favourite game in the series? Let me know in the comments below. Cheers.
I’ve been patient. Very patient as it happens. Applying a rigorous discipline to my naturally agitated mindset. Enduring years of resigned vacuity, two delays and possessing enough games in my library to play so I wouldn’t be thinking about so much until finally, FINALLY, Uncharted 4 was mine! But I’ll admit that’s it’s release coincides with my own self doubt about its credentials. I’ve been complacent with my quality control before when it comes to purchasing new games, estimating something great and getting Destiny. Anticipating a unique new IP and getting Watchdog’s, taking a metaphorical dump in my PS4. There are multiple considerations that go into concluding whether or not to purchase a game. Stylistically does it meet you’re specific requirements? Is it a genre you’d feel comfortable participating in? Does the developer have a good track record of producing exciting, compelling games? Is it developed by EA or Ubisoft? In which case let’s mock and jape their squandered self respect. But from a consumer perspective you don’t want to have to research every conceivable facet. Posturing the distinguishing characteristics, calculating the differentiating variables that roughly determine the ratio of good and bad. If we did that then buying games would become more convoluted than the previous sentence! It’s difficult to evaluate a games quality without diminishing the mystique of an unreleased game. The unknown variables that determine whether or not a game is a good, surely that’s part of being a gamer?
Uncharted 4 is a game I would’ve purchased regardless of general critical consensus. It could’ve been lambasted to the seven circles of Hell and it still would have received my financial backing. It’s a pretty ignorant (and hypocritical) philosophy to have I realise, to buy something regardless of it quality. It’s the one issue I believe consolidates all of the acrimony distributed by major developers, who fail to produce worthwhile content because people such as myself will routinely buy it despite everything to the contrary advising you not too. This kind of preferential prejudice is indicative of people who just want to play something good, something they hope a developer has dedicated time an effort to coordinate a game of substance. And you can’t blame gamers for being passionate and wanting a game to be good. But developers ignorance is a discussion for another time, this is about my fears for Uncharted.
I deliberately initiated a separation between myself and any commercial endorsements, trailer’s, previews, reviews, fan speculation or coverage of any kind as much as I possibly could. Not easy when so many people are discussing it. I’ve had exposure to very non specific sequences that really only clarify how exhilarating the games excerpts are, the overall structure of the narrative and the tension the game is looking to evoke. At the same time I’ve derived my own conjectural theories, constructing inaccurate hypothesis concerning the recipient of the suggestive “Thief’s End” title for one (I’m hoping its still a reference to Drakes ancestor, Sir Francis. But now that I’ve played it, or at least a portion of it I can say with absolute certainty that my fears were completely baseless. From the diverse environments, the rich engaging dialogue, the self referential nostalgia, characterisations and even a very unexpected, inception like reference to Crash Bandicoot, or “Drakeception” if you will–that had me cackling like my drunk mother at a family barbecue, Uncharted 4 is everything I could’ve wanted. The game is a little more mature than previous instalments, yet retaining much of the levity and gratuitous cinematic fluency that has made it so endearing to fans. The thing is is that I’m invested, I’m concerned and I truly care about these characters. I’m always concerned for their welfare. The anxiety I felt was so potent though that it prevented me from playing it for a whole 5 hours after obtaining it! Which really is a credit to the creators for constructing a game series of such immeasurable pleasure, that I genuinely feared that I was going to lose some of my best friends. I’m only about half way through, currently pillaging a Scottish cemetery but can already tell this is going to be one emotional journey, one that I know I’ll finish and go right back to the start to play all over again.
Ho hum. Composing articles feels like statutory requirement rather than an endearing avidity at the moment. It happens to every blogger at some stage. You feel lethargic, with a reduced capacity for even fleeting glimpses of productivity. I have many concerns that endeavour to censure even the sporadic free time at my disposal at the moment, inducing a rift between writing and gaming. It’s nothing of any considerable intimidation, just a collection of extraneous issues that leverage more consideration as a unit than they would do singularly. The biggest issue currently resides in stable employment. I’ll spare you the tedious details concerning a job I could easily do with my eyes shut, which I tend to do frequently considering there’s little to no work available, but the notion of redundancy is a very real prospect at this time. With a number of colleague departures already this year and the company being as solvent as a Greek poet, it’s looking increasingly likely that I may have to begin searching for a job sooner than I had anticipated. I knew things were bad and I had been taking appropriate action by learning how to drive to expand potential employment opportunities, I just hadn’t anticipated such a radical decline in such a short space of time. The job itself has gone from boring to monotonous, as I’m currently occupying a position that provides a workload that’s more famine than feast. As the number of desertions expands and in the absence of any discernible work I’m reduced to brewing several cups of tea for much needed caffeine injection as well as a means of remaining “proactive”, all whilst contemplating a future with reasonable doubt. A future prohibited by years of negligible career diversity. I blame myself for remaining at the company for so long simply because I had little intention of progressing to a more prosperous institution. If I had been offered a job with prospective career opportunities I’d have taken it without hesitancy, I just felt no motivation to search for said employment before. “Trees that are slow grow to bear the best fruit” or some such adage of faith, at least that’s what I told myself. I come in every morning and wonder why I even bother? As soon as I’m there I’m already wishing away the day so I can return home. At least there my games console isn’t critical of me, abusive to my conduct and most importantly, isn’t boring. Instead soothing the tender sentiment of lethargy.
I’m considering a range of alternate vocations many of which will require provisional training as well as access to vehicular transportation, which I’m currently not licensed to do. Though I’ve summarised my life with rather melancholic cadence, my life isn’t entirely devoted to prophetic gloom. I recently passed my theory driving test achieving a near perfect score, with only 1 wrong question on the multiple choice section. I will become a father a couple of weeks sooner than I had expected due to minor complications that necessitates early inducement. And let’s not forget Uncharted 4 will be released next month.
……ohhhh……BULLOCKS! I suppose I’ll have to make do with being father…..I guess.
*AhhGuhhrarr!* I was almost ready to drop a completely different article tonight. It was set, constructed, vaguely legible account and then this sexy beast comes rasping at my door, begging me to acknowledge it’s beautifully rendered vista’s, broad verdant pastures replete with hidden dangers and Drake’s vascular physique and grizzled features again confusing my stringent heterosexual orientations! But damn it if you aren’t one handsome devil Nate! I don’t care how long it takes, how much time off my newly acquired parental duties I’ll require to play this. I don’t even care if consent for the hours I’ll inevitably dedicate to Uncharted 4 is forthcoming from my disgruntled partner; I’m playing, exploring and generally “charting” my way to completion! Nothing is going to stop me. Unless, oh god! Unless NaughtyDog delay it again?!
Stop teasing me NaughtyDog and just hook it to my veins!!!!
I just can’t wait any more. I can’t! I’m getting a little tired of scaling over car bonnets and leaping over modest sized shrubs in an attempt to emulate one of Drakes many misadventures, you know like the time he leapt over a small fern in the middle of the desert. I used to be more patient, preserving those moments of whimsical delirium with superseded rationalizations. Not now though, ugh, just release Uncharted 4 will you! I crave the dynamic levity of the many cinematic’s reserved to expedite the dramatic tension. Nolan North deploying his organic sundry of composite, barely perceptible quips. The numerous bellows of “Oh crap!” I’ve analysed every texture in the extended trailer, scrutinised every facial animation, evaluated the definitions of the rendered inhabitants. How they function, move and react to the passive coercion as Drake meanders through the congested crowd of perusers. Every instance has been cleansed of its undisclosed attributes into a more conspicuous interpretation. I’ve swooned at the way the singular grains of rice deplete from the sack, riddled by the exhuming penetration of gunfire and the washing line entangled in on the hood of the 4×4. Yeah that’s right, grain and a severed washing line?! This purely platonic dalliance has exceeded all reasonable neutrality on my part now. There’s little conservation of emotion any more, this is the nurtured bias that will fulfil my heightened expectations. Its worrying I know, but forgive me for being just a little less pessimistic than I’d otherwise be expected to be. But I’m determined to reprise my auspicious role as the worlds greatest (luckiest) adventurer. Like right now!
I just can’t take it any more! (I may have mentioned this before?) I need to play this game. I need to know more about the unspecified exotic location that has suddenly provoked aggressive hostility towards Drake and his growing contingent of continually destitute companions. Discover how Sully, Drakes paternal father, even in advanced senility possess the vascular dexterity of an energetic monkey? Is there discernible reduction in manoeuvrable sensitivity when cruising over unstable terrain in a 4×4? Will the potentially destructive union between Nate and Elena finally be superseded by Drakes promiscuous fortuity? Should I stop asking rhetorical questions to which I won’t receive definitive answers for until its finally bloody released?! Probably. I could speculate to the origination of such errancies until I’ve exhausted all possible estimates, and regrettably will. Its even getting to the point that I’m beginning to construct fraudulent theories on how this adventure will likely be concluded, notably influenced by the highly suggestive subtitle (A Thief’s End), thereby establishing the most obscure context that explains the series of events depicted in the trailers. Granted the tonal liberties I’ve taken are speculative inferences, grounded in as much reality as a Fast and Furious movie, with notions that suck any lingering integrity like a maelstrom of pure vacuity. But damn it if it isn’t the greatest game ever made, in my head. Uncharted is like that best mate that emigrated to the other side of the world, leaving you with the mitigated fragments of your past collusion’s.
I can’t wait any more! (seriously, I’m getting the weirdest sense of de ja vu here?). I had noted the games original availability with perfunctory caution, aware that the purported release date was likely conjectural, or at very least vacillating in its accuracy. I thought I could wait, merely bolstered by the confirmation of its existence. That my patience and moderated expectations would endure for any length for NaughtyDogs adjusted development phase. I am after all a tireless advocate of intricate modifications distributed to content to provide the eventual user with a more cathartic experience, rather than derivative serialisations devoid of cogency or annualised for regular revenue. But I’m also an exponent for demanding Uncharted 4 right &*$%**£”! now! NOW!! I need it. I feel like I have a narcotic dependency that can only be sated by exhilarating injection of N.A.T.E. I don’t want to be slinking down grubby back alleys for Uncharted supplements and substitutes, rubbing my teeth with my fingers to taste every last ounce of Uncharted drugs into my system. Its been almost 2 years since Naughty Dog officially announced Uncharted 4. 1 year 8 months and 20 days! That’s 629 days! Close to 90 weeks! 905760 minutes! And…..well you get the idea, don’t you Naughty Dog. I see what you’re doing guys, very funny. But enough is enough! Do you realise how difficult it is waiting for this game. The torture I’ve endured. You don’t even care about the ramifications of me informing my girlfriend that I have requested more time off from work to play the Nathan Drake collection, a series I already own on the PS3, than I have for her Birthday! Its inhuman!
What games have made you wait too long? Let me know. Cheers.
Well that certainly escalated quickly, which can only be good for us! Today Naughty Dog streamed the extended version of their E3 demo for Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End on their Twitch channel exclusively (as far as I’m concerned) for me. Having endured the barren PS4 exclusivity its reassuring that Nate “the one man militia” Drake is certainly back in combustible form. His excessive predilections for municipal destruction, the sweeping environmental ambiance as he strides out of a dilapidated tomb of sorts and reckless endangerment of his welfare are in salubrious consignment. There was also confirmation during the following Q&A session that Uncharted has been variably optimised for the PS4 with the frame-rate locked at 30fps *sigh*. Ah well, who cares really? This is the trailer I’ve been waiting for. No promotional CGI draped in the false depiction of the games quality, but a fully rendered level that revels in the frenetic solemnity of the Uncharted franchise and now the ability to diverge from the the perceived limitations introduced in the driving section, because (Oh crap!) it isn’t scripted! (Just hope I can navigate my way through as many short cuts). March can not come soon enough. Check out the extended game footage below and let me know your thoughts. Cheers.