Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Game Review: Uncharted: The Lost Legacy (PS4)

Uncharted: The Lost Legacy is absolutely bonkers, in a good way. This particular treasure hunting/murder spree adventure stars Chloe Frazer and Nadine Ross, two popular characters from Nate Drake’s previous runs. It continues the successful Uncharted formula of dazzlingly gorgeous visuals, light banter, running, jumping, shooting, and puzzle-solving. My only beef is that it’s over too quickly, but hey, what a fun ride!

The game is set in India, where Chloe and Nadine are hunting for the legendary Tusk of Ganesh, said to be hidden in the capital of the Hoysala empire (10th-14th AD). As the duo head to their destination, the views are so beautiful that one almost forgets how absurd it is that premodern peoples went through all the trouble of building massive hidden cities with gigantic, elaborate puzzles to protect their artifacts.

Perfectly reasonable-sized gates to a city! Image from Gaming Central.

The story is impressively efficient, offering both an entertaining yarn and parallels to the character’s inner conflicts. Chloe’s daddy issues are at the forefront early on, as she pursues the same treasure that consumed so much of her archaeologist father’s time. Meanwhile, Nadine has issues in the same vein. Shoreline, the mercenary army she led in the previous Uncharted game, was inherited from her father—and her loss of command is a primary motivator for her teaming up with Chloe. At the same time, the game’s antagonist Asav twists the theme of legacy by using his bloodline—which he claims can be traced back to the kings of Hoysala—as justification for his bloody insurgency. Finally, the Tusk of Ganesh that everyone is after is based on the story of the elephant god losing his tusk while defending his father Shiva’s temple. So just…dads.

The gameplay is spectacular, with appropriate times devoted to the separate activities of exploring/jumping/climbing, taking out bad guys, and solving puzzles. Along the way, Chloe in particular absorbs an almost comical amount of damage, none of which slow her down. All the major gameplay elements will be familiar to Uncharted veterans: obvious ledges and handholds, freely available guns and ammo, and impossibly intricate setups that need to be resolved to continue forward. As fun as the puzzles were, driving the jeep, sneaking around for stealth attacks, and narrowly escaping certain death were equally enjoyable. Chloe can pick locks, too!

I also appreciated the minimalist approach to side quests, as in there is only one: collecting tokens scattered around the region to uncover an item that alerts players to nearby treasures. I was pumped about this new feature at first, because I’m a completionist, but it became very distracting after a while. Fortunately, my little spawn cuddled with me through some of my playtime, and I enlisted his help to find “the shinies.” (Real talk: he was not very helpful, but it did divert him from demanding that I find more cranks to operate.)

Also real talk: Fragrant Husband was appalled by my sheer incompetence when it came to gunfights. At the end, the game reported that I had 28% accuracy. Hubby had guessed much lower. :P

Moving on—the dialogue is frequently hilarious. Chloe dishes snappy banter, and has a lighthearted line for even the most stressful situation. In one instance, while being strafed by a helicopter and frantically looking for an RPG, she pops open a weapons container with a hopeful, "Do you go boom?" (Nope.) Nadine straight up reads everyone, friend and foe alike. Chloe gets the worst of it. At one point, Nadine asks her if she and Nate took turns, or just talked over each other. (Good question! Probably the latter.) She also drags Chloe for "wearing red in a jungle combat situation." The later addition of another Uncharted character keeps the humor going even as the tension mounts and the stakes get even higher.

Overall, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy is a compact, delightful game with an engaging lead. In one of the later chapters, Chloe exclaims, “That’s crazy! I’ll do it!” and it perfectly sums up the entire ethos of the game. Everything about it is ridiculous in the best way: the vistas, the structures, the tête-à-tête, the mayhem, the grievous bodily injuries, the invincible jeep...Like I said, bonkers. In a good way. I will be there with bells on if Chloe ever sets out on another adventure.

BONUS! Here's a great article from IGN about why it's so nice that Chloe and Nadine partnered up.

TL;DR: A breezy action-adventure for those with 8-10 hours to spare! 

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This post brought to you by 2018’s first impending snow storm!

Movie Review: Black Panther (2018)