Calamity is a term that’s arisen swiftly in our little interactive sphere of life as a genre-creating design approach. What comes out of the idea-factory as an action title hardly ever sticks to just actions as they’re advertised. You’re tasked with shooting, walking, and climbing, weaving into a story and various events along the way, and that’s where restraint quite often flies out the window. Nathan Drake has, of course, made a living building this term alongside other genre mainstays. I was playing Uncharted 2 with a friend when I first said “This is just a calamity simulator,” and went on a long speech explaining what I meant that I’ll spare you from.
Suffice to say, a calamity simulator will constantly assault you with disasters to avert in areas where you wouldn’t expect them. I’m not talking about the famous train car sequence for Uncharted 2 or the plane in 3; I’m talking about the dozens of times Nathan Drake lands on a ledge only to have it break, or walks on a bridge to have it collapse. It’s the equivalent of a jump scare in horror games and does just as much to distract from the genuine good these games have to offer. I’m looking at you too Tomb Raider!
As I step off my soapbox and refocus, The Nathan Drake Collection isn’t bad. None of the Uncharted games are bad or even…well, the first one might be mediocre. Drake from the original game hasn’t yet earned his trademark confidence and charming comments, which becomes apparent early on as fairly one-note compared to the sequel versions. His personal story technically starts here, but I’d argue that his character isn’t even present until the second game. It doesn’t help that ol’ Nate controls like a garbage truck on ice either.
The supporting cast in each of the games, thanks in part to less of a spotlight than Nathan, rises with the tide, becoming better as the series marches forward into the unfurled behemoth it’s become. The main story is never something I’ve heard as a plus for any of these games, and I get why. Every scene is carried ahead by the characters, who help ground entire arcs that are constantly pulling against their chains to jump the shark. Which is the nature of the beast with these games anyways. It’s hard to punctuate scenes ala The Last of Us when the entire experience is meant to be punctuation.
I have one other real issue with the series that stops it from being the thrill ride of gaming for me, and it’s interesting to see that it’s been around since the first game. Those firefights…for god’s sake, those firefights do drag on! Again, this came to mind while playing Uncharted 2 on the PlayStation 3, not knowing that it’s apparently a series staple to throw you into uninteresting shooting galleries with limited ammo and the next twenty minutes of your life spoken for by the whole merry encounter. This falls back on the calamity simulator talk we already had with the developers wanting to fill your glass to the brim with action, but Naughty Dog can do better than moving you from cover to cover with no real change. It’s the uncanny valley of excitement in firefights with all the smooth blindfire animations and impressive destruction failing inside a basic conceit.
All the other pluses you’ve heard echoed from nearly every nook on the internet will now be listed without punctuation: greatgraphicsincredibleanimationsfunnystoryrealfeelingcharacters. Everything I love in The Last of Us has bones here with premonitions of Naughty Dog wanting to tell a more contained, stakes-heavy story. For all the calamity The Nathan Drake Collection promotes, you can’t mistake any of the included games – two of them legendary at this point – as anything but quality.
Nathan Drake Collection Score: