Few reviews write themselves quite as easily as an entry from the Uncharted series. Usually, with new video game releases, I’m forced into a customary sequence of breakdowns; how good does this game look, how responsive are the controls, is the story compelling, and just how unrealistically large are the women’s breasts? With Naughty Dog, things have always been a lot less rote. There isn’t a need to paint myself out of this proverbial corner because the industry monolith has become synonymous for video game maturity. In short, the aforementioned boobs are of an acceptable size in these games.
It’s no secret that UNCHARTED 4: A THIEF’S END was one of my favorite games of 2016: it made our year end list and endeared itself into the hearts of gamers near and far. The game remains, without a shadow of a doubt, the most adult entry in Nathan Drake’s oeuvre, a touching and all-around sobering final hurrah for our sexy, calloused adrenaline junkie. But of course Naughty Dog wasn’t going to completely abandon the Uncharted series yet, making 2017 the year of the series’s first ever console spin-off—prior to this, we had only been given UNCHARTED: GOLDEN ABYSS on the PlayStation Vita.
TBH I really want a Charlie Cutter spinoff set in East Jaywick
Which brings me to UNCHARTED: THE LOST LEGACY. No need to waste time talking about how this game looks or feels; it’s Naughty Dog, after all. It’s a given that it runs like a racehorse and looks like a masterpiece. Picking up an indeterminate period of time after the main events of A THIEF’S END, Drake has been put to the wayside in favor of Chloe Frazer, the “witty, devious, and fun-seeking” (that’s quote from her Wikipedia page, I swear) Indo-Australian road warrior. Our pair of protagonists—Chloe is joined by A THIEF’S END villain Nadine Ross—are on the hunt for an ancient Indian relic, but a sociopathic militia leader with the same objective is in their way. It’s everything we need for a strong Uncharted entry, but I’d be hard-pressed to call this anything more than a rehash, for better or worse.
To clear the air for anyone that had watched THE LOST LEGACY’s E3 premiere: this is not the stealth-brawler that some might be expecting. In fact, this is the most to-the-point Uncharted spinoff you could possibly play. We aren’t exploring an aesthetic setting that Naughty Dog hasn’t touched before (the largest disappointment, in my eyes), relegating most of the game to lush jungles. On one hand, this means that players continue to enjoy the intensity of A THIEF’S END’s fantastic combat system: grappling hooks, grenade launchers, and 4×4 wrangling. On the other hand, this is also the laziest “spin-off” Naughty Dog could have made. Other than some fun banter and a decently constructed backstory, this is strictly par for the course.
The views are to die for, and Chloe’s bloodlust will ensure that happens
And this brings me back to that E3 premiere. You may recall Chloe sneaking her way through bombed-out back alleys and picking locks; well, this segment is still very much in the game (it’s literally the first level), but once that chapter is over, any need for stealth is thrown at the wind. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it just feels like a wasted opportunity to make Chloe’s playstyle different from Nathan’s. I understand if Naughty Dog didn’t want to make THE LOST LEGACY to Uncharted what LEFT BEHIND was to THE LAST OF US, but a change of pace would have been welcome—my two cents would have been that the game could have involved some precision sniping, with you playing spotter while Nadine takes shots (or the other way around).
But as an unapologetic Uncharted fanboy, I’m also being needlessly critical of a series that never actually disappoints me. The parkour is as engaging as ever, the larger semi-open world is gorgeous, shootouts are riveting, and puzzles are actually kind of difficult for once (the optional side quests are an absolute delight). The final two set-pieces, one of which riffs on UNCHARTED 2: AMONG THIEVES’ train sequence, are bewilderingly ambitious, and the $30 price tag is jaw-dropping considering its 10-hour run time. Few full-priced games are this polished, let alone rag-tag spinoffs. THE LOST LEGACY might not be quite as globetrotting in its swashbuckling spectacle as A THIEF’S END, but holy cow does it feel capital-B big. I’d be lying if I wasn’t a tad bit disappointed that Naughty Dog just gave us more of the same, mostly recycling its jungle assets from prior installments, but when your gameplay remains the cream of the crop, I struggle not to fall in love grappling hook, line, and sinker.
Reviewed on PlayStation 4