Uncharted – A Two Man Ranking

One Fantastic Series, Two Differing Opinions

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Uncharted is a series spanning ten years with six mainline titles as well as a couple of spin-offs. Today, Travis and Kane will be giving their thoughts on each mainline title and scoring them out of 10. The article will show thoughts and rankings on the series in order of release then at the end, one cumulative ranking of the scores to see overall what’s the best Uncharted has to offer.

As such this article will include SPOILERS for the entire Uncharted series.

Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune

Uncharted: Drakes Fortune Promotional Art

Travis – 9/10

My first foray into the Uncharted world was such a delight. This may sound silly but what really stood out to me about this game was the attention to detail. For instance, there is a section where Drake finds a ring of keys and uses them to unlock a door but the first key he tries is wrong. He has to select a different one to find the right key. This blew my damn mind! I had never seen that in a game before! In others, anytime someone found a ring of keys they somehow instinctively knew what the right one was. So, to have such attention to detail littered throughout this game, really surprised me.

I almost instantly fell in love with both Drake and Elena. They are such charming characters and the basis of memorable and lasting personas in the series going forward. Sully is, of course, lovely as well. I also really enjoyed the island setting. It was lush, beautiful, and I personally thought it used backtracking in just the right way. This would also introduce the many supernatural elements that would come to be featured in Uncharted. From the island traps, to the glimpse of “something” in the underground waterway, there is a great sense of foreboding about what is really going on here.

The first game has very memorable sections. The jeep chase, the jet-ski section, the waterway I mentioned earlier, the final battle on the boat. All of it sticks in my mind. I’ll never forget how much I smiled when Navarro captures Elena while Nate is separated from her behind a big glass panel, only for Navarro to wave at him and taunt. Nate responds with, “Haha! Keep smiling, asshole! I’ll see you soon.” This was one of the first games I saw on the PS3 that showed that you could have a new approach to storytelling, and you could have dialogue that felt natural. It will always have a special place in my heart.

Kane – 5/10

Unlike Travis, this wasn’t my first foray into the Uncharted universe so upon playing I must admit I was underwhelmed. I was psyched to discover how Nate, Elena and Sully began but the story just wasn’t as grand as I expected. However, it was still compelling and made me want to keep exploring the dark and mysterious island that you find yourself in. Unfortunately, as much as the overarching story is good, the main villains really aren’t. Gabriel Roman is your cliché British villain and Navarro takes the spotlight for all of ten minutes right at the end of the game. Eddy Raja was easily the most entertaining villain in this game but he dies two thirds of the way in. Like Travis though, I can’t deny that playing the first game only furthered my love for the main trio of protagonists.

One of the biggest faults I have is in its gameplay. Nothing feels refined, combat is third person shooting at its most basic form and climbing can be very clunky and isn’t without glitches. There’s not much in terms of variety for combat either. From what I remember there are only three main enemy types which consist of assault rifles/pistols, shotgunners and explosives. You, of course, get the zombie-esque Spaniard creatures but honestly you only fight these guys right at the end of the game so I don’t really count them in the overall enemy variety.

For the time Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune looked pretty awesome, but I have to admit the game taking place on only one island kind of bugged me. I came into this game expecting the same variety of locations from Drake’s Deception but again was left underwhelmed upon realising that this one island was all there was. On the other hand, I do commend Naughty Dog for squeezing so many different settings into one island, such as the monastery, jungle and WW2 bunker.

Overall, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune just doesn’t live up to the rest of the series. I understand that this is where the series began but that doesn’t excuse below par gameplay or cliché villains. It isn’t a bad experience but it’s certainly average for me.

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves Promotional Art

Travis – 10/10

This game blew my damn mind! Easily my favourite, and I think the best in the series. I got it for Christmas the year it came out and me, two friends, and my girlfriend all sat around and watched me play through the first several chapters. Everyone was enjoying it! This game took the series to another level and defined what it would be going forward. There is so much about this game I could go on and on about, so I’ll just list some sections. The entrance to Shambhala is gorgeous and a visual I won’t ever forget. Chloe is a great addition to the team.  The yetis are terrifying, especially the one that psyches you out by hiding in the foreground. Tseng, Lazarevic, Finn, and even camera man Jeff are all memorable characters for their own reasons. The chapter where you try to save Jeff and carry him to the temple is especially thrilling.

The moving train level is still the standout sequence in Uncharted for me. The way it bends and winds down the track affecting your aim, when it reaches deep into the mountains with lush snow, and the battle with the helicopter are all fantastic. One of my favourite visuals will always be Drake hanging off the side of the train car, while the previous car tumbles towards him. It hurls through the air, before smashing into a tunnel right before it collides with Drake. The mountains of Nepal have to be one of my favourite settings to date. The gunplay is tight, the characters enthralling, and the game even introduces a multiplayer mode for the first time which was a BLAST to play. I had particular affection for the co-op Horde Modes as well as Plunder (think Capture the Flag, except you can throw the flag to teammates). I adore everything about this game and when I think of Uncharted as a series, it will always be the first one that comes to mind.

The pacing is tight, there is a great mix between downtime and action, and the game hits every note it wants to play incredibly strongly. There is a sequence where you are in a collapsing building that shakes and shifts as it crumbles. Prior to this, in any other game I had played, this sequence would be a cutscene. In Uncharted 2 though, you actually play it. You control Drake and fight these enemies while the floor is tilting and sliding all over the place around you. It was phenomenal. I love Uncharted 2 and it will always be the crème de la crème of the series for me.

Kane – 8/10

For me Uncharted 2 was everything a sequel should be. It refined all aspects of its gameplay and set the standard for all future Uncharted games. Enemies are more varied this time around, with the added juggernauts and riot shield enemies that actually force the player out of their comfort zone. Running and climbing also feel much less clunky with less unfair deaths.

The story and characters is again where the game shines the most but it’s not only Nate, Sully and Elena this time. Chloe is the new addition to our team of treasure hunters and she is brilliant. In fact, she is such a fan favourite that they made a stand-alone game just about her. The villains are also brilliant. They are cliché just like the first game with Lazarevic being a violent warlord and Flynn being a bad version of Drake. However, I think Naughty Dog knew how cliché these characters were and doubled down on this as Lazarevic genuinely feels menacing and Flynn does feel like Nate if he had gone down a darker path.

The settings are far grander than the first game with Among Thieves taking you to many different countries and  in the end to the beautiful Shambhala. Not only are the settings grand but so are the set pieces. In the first game, there were a couple of set pieces but none of them were that memorable. In Uncharted 2, you have the tank sequence in Tibet, the helicopter battle in Nepal and, of course, the famed train ride. All of these are absolutely great, and honestly make you feel like you’re the hero in an Indiana Jones style movie.

This game takes a massive step forward from the first title and deserves all the praise it gets for doing so.

Uncharted 3: Drake’s DeceptionUncharted 3: Drakes Deception Cover Art

Travis – 9/10

Imagine Uncharted 2 but just a little less — though that’s not to say Uncharted 3 isn’t a heavyweight in its own right. The airplane sequence is incredible. Watching Drake tumble backwards out of the plane only to latch onto the cargo netting gets your heart pumping. The chateau is also a great quest. When it’s on fire at the end of the game, where you escape on the roof, it is intense. I remember how tightly I was gripping my controller. The boat sequence is excellent, the way it rocks back and forth, and how you slide side-to-side with the waves is fully realized in a way that makes you feel like you are right there on the ocean.

The multiplayer is back with even more options to while away the hours. The ending to the story is especially satisfying, with Sully encouraging Nate to fully repair things with Elena and focus on what’s actually important in his life, not just what gives him thrills. Nate’s trek through the desert is incredibly lonely even if you have a sky full of gorgeous stars at night to gaze upon. I’m also a big fan of the Djinn you run into near the game’s end. I’ve always been a big fan of stories that have a “something minor you did ended up being important” factor. So the fact that Drake just casually drinking the water was the catalyst for his hallucination was very clever to me.

The main reason Uncharted 3 is lower scored than Uncharted 2 for me is that there are a few plotlines that are either under-developed or not explained at all. Elena is wearing a ring, but is it an engagement ring? Wedding ring?  No idea, because the game never tells you. They were clearly together at the end of Uncharted 2 but at stressful odds here, so what happened? Supposedly there is a comic somewhere that explains that but that’s nonsense. I shouldn’t have to do extracurricular work to understand your game plot.  What’s up with Talbot? He seems to have almost supernatural powers, but it’s never explained. It’s a testament to how good the writing is when none of these ruin the game, but it definitely lowers the overall experience for me.

Kane – 7/10

Drake’s Deception was the first Uncharted title I played and as much as I absolutely love it, I am not blinded by nostalgia. This game’s story is flawed. We take control of Nathan Drake as he is looking for a lost city of immeasurable wealth. It’s the normal Uncharted formula but when you start adding in a 400 year old cult, pirates, giant deadly spiders that are just sort of there and even a completely unexplained immortal character, (who some believe is a robot from the future) things start to get more than a little hinky. That isn’t a joke by the way, there’s a lot of theories going around that Talbot is a robot from the future. This is what happens when a game doesn’t explain events and fans are forced to find solutions for themselves.

Its honestly sad that the story doesn’t hit like the previous two games did because the gameplay in Drake’s Deception is the best it’s ever been. You get all the same returning villain types but like the first two games Uncharted 3 feels that bit more refined than its predecessor. Everything is smoother — there was rarely a time I died in a climbing section that wasn’t my fault, and even puzzles feel better than before. I’d like to also give a special shoutout to whoever implemented the grenade throwback feature as that saved me many times from an ungraceful death. Stealth returns from the second game, but again isn’t so great. Ninety percent of the time you can’t clear an area without being seen, so there is rarely any requirement to go stealthy which is a shame.

Overall Drake’s Deception should’ve been the original trilogy’s grand ending, but fell a little flat because of its confusing story. It swaps the positives and negatives from the first two games by having smooth refined gameplay but a less-than-great story.

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

Uncharted 4: A Thief's End Screenshot

Travis – 8/10

This game is good for all the reasons Uncharted as a series is good. Great characters, fantastic visuals, intriguing mysteries. However, Uncharted 4, which was taken over by different writers than the first three, is clearly a different game and I think it’s worse for it. It lacks many of the things that come with Uncharted. It’s so much more grounded that the previous three games. There are no supernatural elements. There is only one real set-piece moment, which is the motorbike chase with Sam. Hell, even the Uncharted theme music doesn’t play on the Main Menu screen. It’s just silence. It’s clear how much this game went towards The Last of Us and I don’t like that. This is Uncharted. There is a higher emphasis on stealth, and you play as young Drake several times (a part I didn’t like in Uncharted 3) which just kills the pacing. I also find the mystery of Henry Avery’s treasure to be the least intriguing of all the treasures we have hunted over the series.

I do love the addition of the grappling hook. Sam is a fantastic new character and they write him in a way that explains believably why you’ve never heard about him before. Rafe is also a good antagonist, as is Nadine. Whilst I didn’t think the open world aspect (where you drive around in the jeep and the boat) were really necessary, they were done quite well. The multiplayer mode is as fun as ever. In particular the co-op missions were incredibly fun to play. It’s ironic that the supernatural power-ups you get in multiplayer are some of the best additions to it, since the main game decided not to have any of that. The ending of Uncharted 4 is very satisfying, and I hope Drake’s story is done. Elena’s line that “nothing worthwhile is easy” has stuck with me to this day.  Uncharted 4 has a lot going for it, and I appreciate it showing how unsatisfying life without adventure can feel for Drake. However, it strays too far from the rest of the series for me to enjoy it on the same level as the others.

Kane – 9/10

Uncharted 4 is easily the best in the series for me. Like Travis, I do believe the game has a very grounded nature but unlike Travis I absolutely love it. It felt great to see Drake in more of a human setting. As much as we’re still performing frankly unrealistic stunts, the story is relatable at its core. The game being more relatable means that you feel a lot more for Drake in situations where we find out Sam lied to him or when Elena finds out that he’s been lying to her. The narrative is simply incredible and was not what I was expecting in the slightest, from the introduction of Sam Drake to betraying Elena. This game has all the drama you need.

Gameplay is a next generation version of the original Uncharted formula. You’ve still got the classic climbing, jumping and gunning but everything is more refined. It feels crisp. There are also a few new mechanics such as the previously mentioned rope swing, a fun mechanic that allowed for many death defying stunts.

Overall, this game is simply incredible. You do lose the supernatural aspects of the first games for a more realistic story and to some extent a more realistic villain. I do understand how this could annoy some people, but everything about this game simply clicks for me. Like chapter two of Drake’s Deception, Uncharted 4 truly is the greatness to the series’ small beginnings.

Uncharted: The Lost LegacyUncharted: The Lost Legacy Promotional Art

Travis – 7/10

Uncharted 4 Lite! This game is a fun little diversion. I’m glad it was shorter than your typical Uncharted because I think it would have outstayed its welcome. The main hub area you traverse is a lot of fun to explore and its the perfect size for me. It’s big enough to feel expansive and with plenty to explore, but not so large as to be overwhelming. The story is enjoyable enough but easily the least interesting of any in the series. I am really glad Sam makes an appearance here, it was a great extension of the character and I was happy to see him back.

Probably my biggest issue with this game is who you play as. I love Nathan Drake and Uncharted is his series, so him not being anywhere present just makes me naturally less interested. However, I do really like Chloe, so I was more than happy to spend more time with her. My big issue is Nadine. I just spent the entire last game (Uncharted 4) viewing this woman as my enemy. She spent the entire game trying to kill me, so the idea that I’m supposed to suddenly view her as an ally never worked for me. I get that Chloe wouldn’t have the beef with her that Nathan would, but as the player I have a beef with her. They write her well as usual, but I just can’t trust this person. It made me very nervous about whose side I’m supposed to be on.

Nadine and Chloe together struggle to beat up the main villain in a fist fight. Nadine, who whooped Nate and Sam’s ass repeatedly in Uncharted 4, struggles against this new villain. It’s said he’s a great martial artist but Drake and Sam have been in enough fights in their life to be good at it. I’ve personally helped Nate take down men twice his size. They can’t hold a candle to Nadine who, in turn, struggles to fight the new villain. That didn’t work for me.

Kane – 8/10

You’re probably thinking “wait a sec, is he ranking Lost Legacy the same as Among Thieves?!” and are about to boycott my opinions, but let me explain. The Lost Legacy takes everything great about Uncharted 4’s storytelling and weaves a fantastic little tale around fan favourite Chloe Frazer. I must admit that I also found it weird to be playing as someone who wasn’t Nathan Drake, but Chloe has kept all her charm from the second and third games and really works as the lead. Nadine is also significantly developed from Uncharted 4, and by the end of The Lost Legacy my opinion on her had completely flipped. I hated her in A Thief’s End but really liked her character by the end of this game. The story, like Uncharted 4, just works — and I agree with Travis that because of its length it doesn’t outstay its welcome.

Considering this was initially meant to be a DLC for Uncharted 4 there is no surprise that the gameplay is almost the same, however it’s not a straight up reskin. Every weapon (from what I remember) is new and made specifically for Lost Legacy. There is also an emphasis on stealth in this game as you can silently lockpick crates that will sometimes contain silenced weapons.

Overall, this is simply a really fun little edition to the series. There are many nods to Chloe’s time in Uncharted 2 and Uncharted 3, such as the train ride at the end being a direct parallel. Sam Drake’s inclusion was a little unneeded, in my opinion, as he was mainly there for humour more than anything else and his character definitely wasn’t expanded upon here. Some people would say this is just a DLC for the fourth title, but I feel it is much more than that and deserves to stand on its own two feet.

Uncharted: Golden Abyss

Uncharted: Golden Abyss Screenshot

Travis – 7/10

A great, great title for the PlayStation Vita! The visuals look fantastic on the handheld, and I really appreciate the effort they took to take full advantage of the Vita’s features. Some of these didn’t work, such as holding the Vita up to a light source, but some were excellent. Using the camera to photograph treasure and hints was awesome. It felt like you were a real adventurer using your camera to study and observe your surroundings. I really liked the new villain, your frenemy Dante, and of course, the lovely Marissa Chase. Chase is one of my favourite characters in Uncharted, and I would have loved to have seen her after this game. My favourite scene is where Drake pushes her off a cliff to save her from their adversaries and she thinks he gave them her grandfather’s amulet. When Drake reveals he snuck the amulet away, because he knows how much it means to her, and she throws her arms around him, man, I’m just all gooey inside.

The only thing I really didn’t like were all the touch controls. I’ve never liked touch technology and having the entire final boss fight be determined by screen swipes was obnoxious. I will never prefer touch and motion controls when a button works just fine so I hope that part never comes back. Golden Abyss is last on the list simply for being a Vita title and not having the full value you get from a console title, but it’s a great game and a worthy entry into the Uncharted series.

Kane – 6/10

My experience with Golden Abyss is limited as I’ve only played through it once. However, this was one of the best handheld experiences I’ve had outside of the Nintendo Switch. It’s classic Uncharted. The game is set before the events of Drake’s Fortune, so gives us a little insight into Drake’s life before he met Elena. I do agree with Travis that the controls for this game can be a bit lacking, however I feel the developers did the best with what they had.

My main gripe with this game is that it far outstays its welcome. I enjoyed the story, but your average Uncharted game is between 22 and 26 chapters. However, this game is 35 chapters long. This makes the game really drag at times and by the time I got around to the ending I was happier that it was over than I was for completing the game.

Overall, this game does work as a Vita title but unlike Lost Legacy is just too long and is mixed with clunky controls that can really take away from the experience. It’s a shame, as both Marissa Chase and Dante are good characters that really do add something to this narrative. Perhaps a remaster for the PS4 could do this game justice, but I simply don’t see that happening. Loads of potential, but the game didn’t quite hit the mark.

Results

So, there we have it. That was our thoughts on every mainline Uncharted game. Many similarities and differences from two people who have fallen in love with this franchise. Now it is time to average out our rankings and see what our duel ranking of this amazing series turns out to be.

6th: Uncharted: Golden Abyss6.5/10

5th: Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune7/10

4th: Uncharted: The Lost Legacy7.5/10

3rd: Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception8/10

2nd: Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End8.5/10

1st: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves9/10


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