The best Uncharted game doesn’t open in media res with hero Nathan Drake hanging, gutshot, off a derailed train in the Himalayas. It doesn’t start with him tearing through 3.66 m Pacific swells in a speedboat on a stormy night. No, it kicks off with a focus on his sporadic companion Chloe Frazer perusing a market in southwest India.
Yes, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, first released for the PlayStation 4 in 2017 and out again today for PlayStation 5 as part of the fancy new Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves collection, is quite possibly the best entry in Naughty Dog’s breezy series of action-adventure games. It’s certainly the most underappreciated, having sold a fraction of its predecessors. If Legacy of Thieves is your first foray into Uncharted, don’t sleep on Lost Legacy.
The side game was initially conceptualized as DLC for Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, and as a result is a tighter affair than other Uncharteds, clocking in at a brisk eight-ish hours. You play as Chloe, who made waves as a plucky side character in Uncharted 2 and Uncharted 3 before sitting out Uncharted 4. You’re partnered up (because every modern Naughty Dog game needs a solid companion to give you the occasional boost up a ledge) with Nadine Ross, one of Uncharted 4’s primary antagonists. Your goal is the same as it is in every Uncharted game: find a lost treasure — in this case, a relic known as the Tusk of Ganesh.
In a recent interview with British GQ, Kurt Margenau, one of Lost Legacy’s co-directors, noted how pivoting from the conclusion of a decade-old narrative to a spinoff allowedthe team to take some risks. You can keenly feel that M.O. in every pixel of the game.
Whereas Uncharted always had its mainline narratives structured in terms of Hollywood-ready black-and-white, Lost Legacy is squarely grey. Chloe was never the series’ most virtuous hero, Nadine never its most sadistic villain. Putting the duo front and centre gives both a shot at character redemption as they individually grapple with (sorry) their legacies in ways that just weren’t possible when they had second billing. A sharply written script — replete with a bible’s worth of meta-jokes at the series’ expense — gives room for previously stoic Nadine to be funny and for previously aloof Chloe to do more than snark at arm’s distance. .
But Lost Legacy doesn’t just stand out for its cinematic bona fides. Uncharted 4 introduced a raft of gameplay mechanics to the series, including new ways to get around (a grappling hook!) or kill enemies (stealthily!). These shook up the formula, though in some cases felt undercooked. (Uncharted 4 notoriously went through a turbulent development cycle.) Lost Legacy serves these elements up fully cooked.
Uncharted 4 introduced proper stealth mechanics to the series, but you could only take out unwitting enemies by closing the distance and performing a melee attack, so most encounters turned into frantic, haphazard firefights anyway. Lost Legacy gives you a silenced pistol. Uncharted 4 gave you a jeep and an area that looked wide-open but instead played out as a series of linear combat encounters. Lost Legacy gives you a similar jeep (with a winch to boot) and an actual wide-open area featuring several main objectives alongside optional side quests you can knock out in the order you see fit. Plus, it has a map.
Thanks to its fleet-footed pace, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy is a blast throughout. It culminates in one of gaming’s most explosive set pieces, one that marries the allure of off-road racing with the frenzied thrill of a train fight. Sure, Uncharted 4’s lovely epilogue may have neatly tied up the story of a long-beloved character, but it’s Lost Legacy that puts a bow on a gameplay style Naughty Dog revolutionised 15 years ago.
Also, you can pause the game at any point and have Chloe make this face:
So, a plea: As Uncharted goes through a cultural resurgence, as fans new and old consider its merits, as Hollywood gets to (finally) eat its cake, let’s not let the legacy of Lost Legacy get lost in the fray.
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