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Uncharted: The Lost Legacy (PS4)

 

TLL coverOut of all the modern gaming franchises the Uncharted series is hands down my favorite. It mixes everything I love in gaming like exploration, puzzles, and satisfying third person combat and combines them with great storytelling, memorable characters, and terrific acting. Last year Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End brought the story of rogue treasure hunter Nathan Drake to a satisfying close as (spoiler) he and wife Elena hung up their pistols and retired from their hobby of taking on private armies single handedly and racing the bad guys to the mystical artifacts with the fate of the world hanging in the balance.

The Lost Legacy hews closely to the Uncharted formula but brings series regular Chloe Frazer (Claudia Black) to the forefront as the player’s character. In this installment, taking place a few months after the events of part 4, Chloe has partnered up with Nadine Ross (Laura Bailey) to find the mythical lost Tusk of Ganesh in India. The region is on the verge of civil war thanks to the warlord Asav (Usman Ally, seen this season on HBO’s Veep) and naturally this baddie is also after the Tusk. In typical Uncharted fashion what follows is a race to the artifact through hidden temples and lost cities as Chloe and Nadine piece together the clues to solving the mystery of the Tusk of Ganesh.

The gameplay is largely unchanged from Uncharted 4. If you have played any of the previous installments – especially part 4 – you will be very much at home with The Lost Legacy. For newcomers that means combat is interspersed with exploration areas and is third person cover based shooting. Controls are intuitive and all of the combat sequences are intense with the right level of challenge ramping up slowly as the game progresses. The grappling hook used to swing from branches is back and put to good use, as are drivable vehicles, opportunities for stealth, and a smoother melee system. There are several difficulty levels as well as lock-on aiming options making the game very accessible regardless of your skill level.

uncharted_lost_legacy_review_3Rather than the usual globe trotting epic the series is known for, The Lost Legacy is centered to one location and keeps the action and story intimate. We learn that Chloe is half Indian and her archeologist father spent his life trying to find the Tusk of Ganesh. So the quest for the artifact, while largely driven by money, also has a personal stake for Chloe and peels away her usual glib nature and sarcasm. Nadine on the other hand is only in it for the money and sees the Tusk as a way to retake control of Shoreline, the paramilitary force she commanded in part 4. She distrusts Chloe because of her relationship to the Drake brothers. Which is understandable since Nathan and Sam Drake recently dismantled Nadine’s entire operation during the events of A Thief’s End. The interaction between these two characters is an odd-couple paring that works enormously well due to the talents of the two actresses. The graphics are excellent, which for PS4 is normal. It’s a bit like saying the new Marvel movie looks great. Of course it looks great, these are things we expect and Naughty Dog games – The Last of Us, entire Uncharted series, Crash Bandicoot to name a few – can always be counted on to look and play amazingly well.

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Exhibit A: Amazing

Which brings me to what really sets the Uncharted games apart – and all games from developer Naughty Dog – and that is the excellent storytelling. Most modern video games are motion captured and that usually means the actors are filmed doing the stunts and acting the scenes on a large green screen enclosed sound stage which is then what you see on screen while playing. This technique allows the actors to really bring their characters to life through not only their voice but their mannerisms, body language, and the like. By the time these games are done – and most third person games are made the same way -the actors have gone through the entire game and acted out all the big action sequences and emotional beats in a way that is very much like filming a movie. For the player you don’t feel like you played a game when its over, you feel like you’ve gone on a journey. I never felt like I was Chloe while playing but I felt like I was along for the ride with her and Nadine. I cared about the story because they did.

It’s difficult to rank The Lost Legacy among the Nathan Drake entries because this game is different. It’s shorter, there is less action, and the emphasis is more on exploration in many cases. But the emotional component resonates better than the previous entries ever did for me. In terms of ranking them Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is the undisputed series high water mark. It is a towering achievement in which all other games – not just Uncharted games – are measured. That said, The Lost Legacy probably has my favorite ending of any game in the series. It brings all of the story elements together and delivers what is one of the most cathartic, viscerally satisfying finales in a video game I have ever played.

If you are new to the series and on the fence the below launch trailer gives you a good idea of the game. It is loaded with spoilers so if you want to go in blind – and I recommend that approach – I advise you not to watch. However if you have always been curious about the series this does a good job showing what you are in for. For fans of Uncharted just buy the game. It is everything you love about the series.

 

If this is the last time we see these characters – I’m not convinced this is the end but Naughty Dog is sticking to its guns for now – The Lost Legacy is not only an epilogue but a terrific stand alone game on its own. This entry more than makes up for leaving Chloe Frazer out of A Thief’s End.

All is forgiven, Naughty Dog. Provided this isn’t the last we see of Chloe and Nadine of course.

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