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Uncharted: The Lost Legacy (PlayStation 4) artwork

Uncharted: The Lost Legacy (PlayStation 4) review


"Uncharted's new lead shines, but Naughty Dog could do with learning some new tricks."


I have to admit I felt a mild sense of trepidation when I heard Naughty Dog was bringing out a new Uncharted game so soon after the last one. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End was a truly spectacular outing, boasting blockbuster brawls, heart-pounding chases, emotive dialogue and some of the most detailed character models and environments I’ve ever seen. Uncharted: The Lost Legacy would be borrowing its predecessor's engine and many of its assets, sure, but even so, the game’s sudden arrival set alarm bells ringing. Would this end up being just some soulless cash-in on a beloved franchise? More to the point, could a budget-friendly spin-off bring enough new material to the table to warrant its existence without straying so far from the existing formula that it ceased to be a true Uncharted game?

Having now spent more than eight hours with The Lost Legacy, I can safely say it is very much the real deal. Even without Nolan North’s smart-mouthed front man, this is unmistakably Uncharted, and it is tremendous fun to play. The bad news is that the game borrows a little too much from previous entries in the series to qualify as an essential purchase.

Uncharted: The Lost Legacy (PlayStation 4) image

The Lost Legacy opens with a pair of rogue treasure hunters racing to beat their dangerous (not to mention slightly unhinged) rival to a lost relic. So far, so canon. This time around, however, the treasure hunters in question are none other than one-time sidekick Chloe Frazer and Nadine Ross, the hard-as-nails mercenary from A Thief’s End who proved to be more than a match for Nathan Drake and his brother. Chloe, it transpires, has recruited Nadine to be her hired muscle, promising a share of whatever riches they find deep within India’s lost temples, should they manage to locate and retrieve the mythical Tusk of Ganesh.

Naughty Dog’s decision to cast this duo rather than, say, Drake’s brother or his longtime partner Victor Sullivan, might seem unusual, but Chloe and Nadine’s partnership is an inspired choice. Theirs an uneasy alliance, certainly, not least when one considers their respective back stories and relationships with Nathan Drake. But this sets us up for a less familiar, less predictable Uncharted than those that have gone before, with Chloe having no guarantee that her partner will stick with her until the bitter end.

That’s not to say Chloe and Nadine’s relationship is entirely humourless. On the contrary, Naughty Dog’s writers waste no time in exploiting the pair’s prickly partnership to comedic effect, pitting Chloe’s sass and charm against Nadine’s curt remarks and aggressive personality, all while finding ways to hint to the player that these two formidable women might have more in common than they realise. Their conversations--whether they’re discussing the important business at hand or Nathan Drake’s undeniably irritating nature--gradually reveal more about their histories, what drives them and that which they hold dear, with nary a flashback in sight.

Uncharted: The Lost Legacy (PlayStation 4) image

The game’s direction, too, is as measured and considered as ever, with Chloe and Nadine transmitting as much with a single gesture, frown, or wistful look as a half-dozen lines of dialogue. Rather than simply revealing more about their personalities, however, these minute movements are frequently used by the developer to subtly draw the player’s attention to a particular object or to remind them of something vital to progression. When she nearly topples a gas lamp in an early scene of the game, for example, we’re treated to a rare glimpse of Nadine Ross on the back foot. While it’s amusing for the player to see this military expert having her skin saved by her supposedly unprofessional partner and the moment provides a welcome break in tension, the real intent here is to quietly remind the player of the existence and physical location of this object, which will play an important role in the moments that follow. This is Naughty Dog doing what it does best: going beyond the basic checklist of what is and is not required to make a game work, and adding the kind of extra detail that--while it might sometimes be missed--elevates the developer's games to the next level. The Lost Legacy is packed full of moments like these, and as such there is no doubt in my mind that, spin-off or not, it was agonised over by its creators just as much as any of Nathan Drake’s adventures.

Sadly, outside of these conversations and scripted interactions, everything else is business as usual in The Lost Legacy. That’s no bad thing for fans of the series, of course, but those hoping for something new will undoubtedly come away from the experience feeling disappointed.

The gameplay--a mix of climbing, gunplay and the undergrowth-creeping stealth sections taken from A Thief’s End--is as satisfying and finely tuned as ever. But from the moment you scramble up your first muddy embankment or use the jeep’s winch to pull open a door, you can’t help feeling that Naughty Dog is out to get as much value for money as possible from those borrowed assets. The game’s reliance on moments that will by now be more than familiar to players of the previous games (boosting your partner up a wall; rope-swinging from conveniently placed beams; using a piton on a particular type of rock face; a handhold breaking off and prompting you to fall--almost--to your doom) give the impression that the gameplay is more repetitive than it actually is.

Uncharted: The Lost Legacy (PlayStation 4) image

The game’s dramatic set-pieces and vehicle-based chases, too, while expertly executed and impressive to behold, often play out like riffs on some of the previous games’ best bits, to the point that The Lost Legacy as a whole starts to feel more like a celebration of the series than an all-new adventure. Granted, the second act affords the player a little more freedom to explore by giving them a vast map of shrines and environmental puzzles to explore and solve in whatever order they see fit, but there’s not a great deal going on between the goal posts and the game makes it overtly clear that players are not required to visit every shrine in order to progress the story. The only other new gameplay additions are a lock-picking mini-game and the inclusion of the Uncharted multiplayer’s C4 as a weapon in the campaign. The former there’s too much of given its simplicity, and newcomers are barely offered enough time to come to grips with the latter.

It is testament to Naughty Dog’s ability as a developer, however, that despite these minor setbacks, The Lost Legacy remains one of the most polished and enjoyable outings I’ve had on my PS4 this year. The tale the game tells--with a lead character who once occupied a supporting role, no less--is compelling; the action scenes as tense as they are beautifully orchestrated; the gunplay is as tight as ever; and Asav--this year’s villain, masterfully voiced by actor Usman Ally--is genuinely menacing, to the point that I wish we’d seen a little more of him before the credits rolled. Couple in the fact that the game comes bundled with the same superb online multiplayer mode that shipped with A Thief’s End and you have incredible value for your money, given the game’s very reasonable $39.99 RRP.

The Lost Legacy is far from Naughty Dog’s magnum opus. The game’s overly familiar gameplay and repeated nods to its forbears prevents it--and, indeed, its otherwise fantastic new female lead--from achieving the true potential you'll sometimes glimpse. It is, however, worth every minute of the six-to-eight hours it’ll take you to see Chloe Frazer’s compelling story to its end, and will without a doubt leave fans of the series with plenty of fond memories to look back on. Here’s only hoping that, now that Naughty Dog has proved that Uncharted can live on without Nathan Drake, the next game in the series dares to take a couple more risks.

4/5

otokonomiyaki's avatar
Freelance review by Philip Kendall (August 27, 2017)

Writer & video game junkie based in York, England. Read my game-related ramblings and ill-advised political rants on Twitter @otokonomiyaki.

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