This week, the Uncharted: Legacy Of Thieves Collection came to PC, marking the first time Nathan Drake's Tombraider-but-a-bro adventures have arrived on our fair platform. It is also, err, a collection of the last games in the series. The bundle comprises Uncharted 4: A Thief's End and The Lost Legacy, a standalone Uncharted adventure featuring ladythieves Chloe Frazer and Nadine Ross (they are thieves who are ladies, they don't steal women). Uncharteds 1-3, on the other hand, are nowhere to be seen. In fact, the only way to play them on PC right this second is to buy an expensive PlayStation Plus Premium subscription and stream them via the cloud as part of the Nathan Drake Collection - a far from ideal solution.
This puts us PC lot in a bit of a pickle. Naturally, if you haven't played any of these PlayStation exclusives until now, you're missing three entire games worth of story context. So, is it worth starting with Uncharted 4? The short answer is, "Yes". The long answer is, "Yeeeeeeeeeees - probably".
I myself have been onboard the Uncharted train (the same one hanging off the side of a cliff, through which you must climb whilst avoiding gunfire and falling cargo) from the word go. I remember there being a lot of excitement about how, if you walked into some set dressing, the square-jawed handsome McMan Nate Drake would put his arm up as if leaning on or pushing past it. There was also a lot of talk about his shirt: how it got wet if you went in water, and then dried off, and would become visibly more torn and weathered as he went through his adventure. To be honest, most of what I remember was that weird amount of focus on the shirt.
Playing Uncharted 4 means you get to meet Nathan Drake at his most interesting.
Underneath the shirt, of course, was a rollicking action adventure, the sort of thing where most problems can be solved with a gun or, failing that, an explosion. Nate, his father figure/seaplane pilot Sully, and plucky love interest Elena ably filled the gap when there weren't any good Tomb Raider games. You want tombs? Jungles? Some supernatural stuff? We got it all! But we also have climbable ledges marked with yellow or white in a way that will be ubiquitous in a couple of years. Tastemaker, baby!
All the stuff that Uncharted is good at, Uncharted 4 is the goodest at. There are some incredible and ridiculous set-pieces. Uncharted 4 has a sort of "See that mountain? You can climb it!" thing going on, except in almost literally every level the camera says, "See that impressive ruin off in the distance? You're gunna climb it!" There's a secret pirate village, a ruined cathedral in Scotland, and some breathtaking scenes in Madagascar, but also, in a first for the series, there are serious emotions.
Playing Uncharted 4 means you get to meet Nathan Drake at his most interesting. He's married, he's sort of middle-aged, and he's given up adventuring to work on underwater salvage. Thing is, he's also a sad adrenaline junkie trapped in the past. Before, the most emotional complexity you got in an Uncharted game was him fancying Elena but pretending he didn't, which is some schoolyard bro level of feelings. This isn't bad, incidentally; it worked for both the character and the game.
In Uncharted 4, however, it is revealed that the entire time he had a secret older brother, who he thought had died like 15 years beforehand, and he has never spoken about him, at all. He didn't even tell Elena, now his wife, that Sam existed (he also, when catching Sam up on his entire life up to then, forgets to tell Sam that he's married, which, okay). But suffice it to say, Uncharted 4 gives Nate some actual character and emotional depth, as well as understandable problems in his close relationships.
Plus, like... Sam is just a super fun character to add to the mix. The Drakes' brotherly dynamic is both funny and actually poignant at times. Sam has a lot of swagger and bravado, but he's also spent a lot of time in prison, so he's got a case of the arrested developments, and like Nate he has a lot of trouble articulating his actual feelings. I've probably made this joke before, but the real treasure of the game is the friendship they find along the way.
All this is well and good, of course, but I did append a "probably" up top there. There's a fair amount of gubbins to get through at the start in setting up Uncharted 4's story, and a bit of that is entirely just referencing the previous three games. The emotional weight of Nate's problems is lessened if you have no idea what he was like before, and you're also not going to care at all about characters like Sully or Elena being in danger. The game doesn't have time to set up that Sully is kind of a beloved supporting cast member in his own right at this point, so just has to sort of gesture to him and try to pull a Nature Documentary Crab for total newcomers.
You have to put in a lot of chips yourself, is what I'm saying, and I'd absolutely forgive you if you couldn't be arsed. There is another reason to eye up the Legacy Of Thieves Collection, though. You absolutely shouldn't forget about The Lost Legacy either, which is a fantastic girls' own adventure (almost; some boys do turn up) in its own right - though I still think A Thief's End is better.
Even so, not knowing anything about Uncharted doesn't mean you'll miss out on the action, the fun shooty-bangs, the deliberately lovely vistas, and the nice brother-buddies relationship at the heart. So I think if you've ever been interested in Uncharted, but never had the right game box for it, missing the first three shouldn't put you off this Legacy Of Thieves Collection.