Make new friends but keep the old...
Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection is finally swinging into our lives with some witty banter and an "Oh crap!", and it's hard not to feel a little bit nostalgic. All those good times where Nate and Sully fought like a married couple, or Elena barely avoided driving off a cliff, or Cutter headbutted Nate right in his pretty face - aah, such good memories that always seem to stick around, no matter how many years and other games and delays to Uncharted 4 have passed.
But Uncharted isn't just the kind of series that you have fun playing in the moment - its best parts stay with you long after youve seen the credits roll. Now that the collection has brought Nate and the crew back into our lives, those memories are overwhelming: the rush of being sucked out of an airplane cockpit, the joy of not getting hit by a flying train car, the embarrassment of Chloe calling out Nate's old crush. It's a feeling so good it'd be cruel to keep it to ourselves, so let's go on this journey through our favorite Uncharted moments.
Nate abusing his authority to get to France (Anthony)
Uncharted 3 is actually my least favorite of the series, even more so than the limp Golden Abyss on PS Vita. The links between its mammoth set pieces are tenuous, the cover-based shooting somehow even sloppier than the 2007 original, and the constant presence of partner characters hints that Naughty Dog dreamed of making the whole story co-op, but failed to make it a reality. And yet theres a scene early on in the game that perfectly encapsulates everything the series does so well.
When Nate stumbles on information that will lead him and his posse either to France or Syria, Chloe pipes up to volunteer but Nate quickly cuts her off. Nope! She and Cutter have to go to Syria while Nate and Sully take in the lush French countryside. Theres an easy camaraderie between otherwise shallow, archetypal characters that is so believable and delivered so expertly after sequences of taut action that you cant help but be invested in everything going on. Funny, warm, and utterly magnetic. Its that Uncharted charm.
Playing Marco Polo on top of Hotel Shangri-La (Connor)
No matter where he is in Uncharted 2, Nathan Drake desperately needs to be somewhere else. This keeps the game going with a near-flawless pace, always flinging you (sometimes literally) from one beautiful vista to the next, yet it can discourage you from admiring the view. Once Drake and Chloe climb to the roof of Hotel Shangri-La in Chapter 6, they really do need find a vantage point and scout out their next move before the bad guys beat them there. But that pristine swimming pool on the roof is so, so tempting.
Take a dip and Drake will try to play Marco Polo with Chloe, who hesitantly obliges before remarking on his lack of thief-y professionalism. Tempting as all those shiny, hidden treasures are, that unexpected exchange was easily the best reward Uncharted has ever given me for taking in its world.
The Collapsing Building (Susan)
Drake gets into a lot of shootouts - so many, in fact, that they begin to blend together into an endless montage of ducking, covering, and declarations of Crap! One of Uncharted 2s biggest setpieces remains memorable not just because it features a helicopter taking potshots at you, but because you suddenly find yourself on the wrong side of a shoddy building code.
As youre exchanging standard gunfire with a bunch of thugs, ducking behind desks and doorjambs, a helicopter blasts a hole in the wall. Oh, great, now you have to dodge rockets while taking out these last few bad guys, you think, but no, the pilot isnt thinking so small. Nah, hes going to take the entire building down, and you with it. Suddenly, the floor shifts violently and you find yourself sliding helplessly as the entire structure begins toppling to the ground. Youve got seconds to save yourself before the upper floors crush you. Are you ready? JUMP! Its a thrilling, unexpected setpiece that rattles your nerves and makes you feel good to be alive.
Elena and Drake flirting over Spanish gold (Ashley)
The whole Uncharted cast packs plenty of heartfelt moments into their treasure-hunting adventures, but in my heart of hearts I always go back to an earlier time, when Elena and Nate first used some ancient artifact as an excuse for shameless flirting. In the first game, after the two narrowly survive the world's worst jetski ride, Elena notices the ring Drake wears around his neck, giving her an opportunity to get right up in his personal space. The rest of their conversation is technically about the details of the artifact and old dead guys, but blatant sexual tension (not to mention Drake's self-aware preening) makes the whole scene embarrassingly cute.
It's not suave or particularly titillating for the audience, and it's not supposed to be - it's two nerds using archaeology as an excuse to almost-snuggle. That gives them infinitely more personality than if the whole sequence was meant to make them generically tantalizing, and makes me feel like I really know them as characters. These two are in no way smooth operators, and it's adorable.
The view from behind the waterfall in Uncharted: Drake's Fortune (Justin)
You've just discovered a German U-Boat deep in the jungle and now you're trying to find your way onto it. There's better-than-Lara (at the time at least) climbing to be done, and eventually you get high enough to be able to look out across the jungle. And it's beautiful.
There are birds flying in the distance, the sun hangs low in the sky, and just for a moment, you simply have to pause and take in the incredible view. Just for a moment, this isn't a game. It's a real place with real rock and real beauty. It proved Naughty Dog and PS3 had something special going on. And even though I've played through that section several times since then, I always have to stop there and take it all in, and I can't wait to see it at 1080p.
Drake and Elena rate the scariness of death vs clowns (Sam)
It seems like such a weird, small moment to pull out of a game filled with exciting, thrill-a-minute chase scenes and larger than life locales to explore, but the Uncharted series has always been about fun, snappy dialogue - at least as much as it's also been about ancient tombs and scenic vistas.
It's only roughly a minute's worth of banter between the professional adventurer and his on-again, off-again love interest, but the two talking about how scared Nate was over possibly losing Elena is adorable, pitch-perfect in its delivery, and perfectly encapsulates their relationship. I can't re-experience the awe I felt witnessing the Uncharted series' setpieces for the first time, but I can always smile and feel all fuzzy inside at these two sarcastic lovebirds.