Joystiq review: Fallout 3

Joystiq review: Fallout 3

As an Oblivion fan, I was ready for Fallout 3 to completely blow me out of the irradiated water. I had the shiny “Game of the Year” trophy all polished and ready, and all I was waiting for was a couple of hours of play time before I made the trip to the engravers.

Before I talk about those hours though, let me tell you fellow Oblivion fans what you need to hear: All the good stuff is here. There’s still a giant world to explore, with tons of diversions if you don’t mind chasing them down. It may not be as pretty as Tamriel, but it’s a lot more dense, teeming with treasures to dig up and people to meet/kill.

You still have countless different ways to customize your character, who could be anything from an evil medical genius who’s got a way with rocket launchers to an angelic scientist that can decapitate a mutant with a single hammer swing.

Those battles feel surprisingly satisfying too, thanks to the addition of Fallout‘s V.A.T.S. system which lets you stop time and to choose which body parts to target, usually resulting in a decapitation or … de-arm-itation. Each shot uses a number of action points, and you have to wait for them to refill before you can get any more aiming assistance. It works so well that I hope something similar is implemented in the next Elder Scrolls title.

It’s still, I should note, not a first-person shooter though. I was a lot happier once I started responding to a lack of action points with hiding instead of trying to target manually. Don’t play it like Call of Duty and you’ll be much happier.

“You could be anything from an evil medical genius who’s got a way with rocket launchers to an angelic scientist that can decapitate a mutant with a single hammer swing.”

Considering my satisfaction with the new combat and beautifully detailed wasteland, imagine my surprise to find that (despite a completely ingenious opening half-hour) the first few hours of the post-apocalyptic adventure left me just the slightest bit cold.

It’s not a result, as you may suspect, of trying to stretch the Fallout skin over the Oblivion skeleton. By lifting some of Fallout‘s core systems and aesthetic cues, this current-gen entry does an admirable job of capturing the spirit of the series. Honestly, if you’re still wishing for an isometric, third-person view by the end, you’re just being contrary.

No, the problems didn’t come in the merging of setting and engine, they’re the problems that Oblivion already had and the baggage that Fallout 3 is still saddled with.

Physics glitches are still there, with plates and the like occasionally catapulting across rooms with the slightest provocation. There’s also some of Oblivion’s trademark AI weirdness, with characters able to act somewhat human within only narrowly defined parameters. Try to get clever at all and they almost certainly won’t know how to react. They’re not huge game breakers, but they were often enough to take me out of the experience.

I think hoping that issues like this would be non-existent was my problem with the early hours of Fallout 3, and I didn’t have much trouble getting past them. I mention them because if problems like that put you off of Oblivion, they’re still present, though reduced.

But that’s the trade-off you’re going to make here. Once I realized that, like in Oblivion, I needed to bring a little something to the table, a little imagination, a little forgiveness, I was able to enjoy Fallout 3 for what it is: A gorgeous, terrifying, utterly engrossing world to explore. I really hope that you can do the same.

Second Opinion (Ross Miller)

Two characters and 20 hours in, I feel that the game is not “Oblivion with guns” so much as it is Fallout with Bethesda’s game creation blueprint. The game is expansive, and certainly more colorful and vibrant than previous Elder Scrolls titles, but there’s a feeling of soullessness. Environments are aesthetically pleasing, but not what I’d call interactive. The character’s voices are much better and more varied, but in a post-apocalyptic world everyone’s faces have been injected with an overdose of Botox. It’s a little unfair to the title at hand, but after seeing Fable 2’s brilliant use of a canine companion, I’m hoping a stronger relation with Dogmeat is explored in future DLC or a sequel. But despite those flaws, it’s everything I wanted: Another Fallout game that stays very true to the series.


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Fallout: New Vegas review: War sometimes changes, a little

Fallout: New Vegas review: War sometimes changes, a little

Days like this, I’m happy we review experiences rather than products here at Joystiq.

How could I hope to evaluate the worth of Fallout: New Vegas, a full-price game that’s practically identical, both graphically and mechanically, to another game that was released two years ago? How could I tell you whether or not it’s an insult that you’re being asked to pay $60 for a game that’s so technically deficient that it scarcely feels past the beta stage?

Luckily, we’re talking about the experience, and that’s easy enough. If you loved Fallout 3, you’re going to love this. If you hated it or weren’t interested enough to give it a shot, you’re going to be more confused than ever what all the fuss is about.

Welcome to the Mojave Wasteland. Much like the D.C. Wasteland you knew and as the name would imply, it’s a nightmarish dump, spotted with oases of humanity, nature and commerce. This is a dustier wasteland though, and one that you (blessedly) don’t have to navigate via subways: Just pick where you want to go and head there.

While Fallout 3 tracked your hero from birth, New Vegas begins with a rebirth of sorts, casting you as a courier who’s been brought from the edge of death after a delivery is interrupted by a mysterious assailant. The vengeful courier scrapes together what supplies she (yes, I went fully lady) can and heads out into the Mojave in search of retribution and her missing package.

In a sense, Fallout 3 players know exactly what to expect here. You’ll walk the vast expanses between towns, half purposefully and half just exploring, taking on odd jobs and bigger missions. All the while, you’re deciding what kind of courier you’re growing, be it a science whiz who’s great with a pistol or a fast talker who packs a mean wallop with a sledgehammer.

Those decisions aren’t quite as significant this time around as New Vegas introduces magazines that can give a 10-point (or 20, with the right perk) bump to any skill. It’s not enough to turn a Helen Keller into Annie Oakley, but it does help to de-emphasize super high levels of specialization in any one field. It makes for a more flexible experience, albeit one less tailored to your character type.

Most of Obsidian’s other additions to what Bethesda’s turned out with Fallout 3 are more cosmetic. Sure, New Vegas allows you to harvest plants to use as stat-boosting chems, upgrade your weapons, and quickly give partners commands via the “companion wheel.” They’re all neat, but aren’t really compelling enough to alter the way I played the game. There are certainly more tweaks than your standard expansion, but nowhere near what you’d expect from a traditional sequel. Fallout: New Vegas is neither, so perhaps it makes sense that it would fall somewhere in the middle.

Fallout: New Vegas review: War sometimes changes, a little

New Vegas is perhaps best thought of as an alternate reality version of what Fallout 3 could have been, if set in the American Southwest. The Mojave is still horrifically beautiful like the D.C. Wasteland, but in a much more peaceful way. The songs beamed across the radio waves are still way retro, but with a distinctly country twinge. The urban crusader Three Dog has been replaced as host by the far slicker and more disconnected Mr. New Vegas (who is, no exaggeration, brilliantly played by Wayne Newton). Special note for those whom, like me, thought of the radio in Fallout 3 as a sort of constant companion: Don’t expect the same connection here. It’s not just that I didn’t like the songs as much (I didn’t) — but there simply aren’t enough of them. After hearing “Big Iron” twice in a row (I had already memorized all the lyrics by this point) I finally had to relent and turn the thing off, something I never would have considered in Fallout 3.

The only other major overhaul is Obsidian’s faction system, which lets you earn the respect or hatred of the Mojave’s tribal clans. Did you help out soldiers from the overbearing New California Republic? Be careful, you might incur the wrath of the Kings, a gang solely devoted to the image of the long-dead Elvis. Did you off an explosives-toting Powder Gangers just to score some cheap dynamite? You better hope his gang doesn’t hear about it (spoiler: they always do).

By presenting no clear “bad” or “good” clans, Obsidian really lets you figure out the groups you identify with and cast your lot with them, free of the constraints of traditional morality. Unfortunately, this can make things a little confusing, especially in the game’s main quest line, which concerns the clans battling for control of New Vegas. A couple of times I completed a quest only to find out I’d ostracized a group I had no clue would care about my actions. Others, I’d see whole quest chains appear instantly failed because I had no idea they existed, let alone that I was losing my chances at them.

For me, Fallout is about a series of adventures rather than a singular quest, so I wasn’t terribly bothered. But I do wish options had been laid out just a bit better.

The Mojave is still horrifically beautiful like the D.C. Wasteland, but in a much more peaceful way.

No, I can only point to one real, genuine, unequivocal misstep Obsidian has made here (OK, two if you count the soundtrack): It’s a technical embarrassment. Three times the game locked up on me completely, forcing me to restart the 360. Entering the outside world is more often than not accompanied by 20 seconds or so of the framerate slowing to an absolute slide show. Load times regularly hover between 25 and 50 seconds, in spite of a full hard drive installation. That’s not so bad when you happen upon the occasional building in the Mojave Wasteland, but quest lines that take you in and out of several buildings in a row are utterly demoralizing.

Obsidian hasn’t even fixed the kludginess inherent to Fallout 3. The camera still gets stuck in the wrong location for dialog sequences and A.I. pathing is still comically unnatural. If I were looking at Fallout: New Vegas as a product, I’d say it’s shocking that it’s being released to the public in this state.

But as an experience … well, tech problems are enough to take you out of it occasionally, but not to write the whole thing off. Heck, I bet technical failures are all but an oddly endearing series hallmark for some of you; I know I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get an odd kick out of the lousy pathing. Sorry, other glitches: You’re still obnoxious.

Paradoxically, New Vegas doesn’t make good on much new on any front, and it takes a hit both as experience and product for it. As fond as I am of the idea of an alternate reality Fallout 3, we shouldn’t forget that game was released in late 2008, and Obsidian’s contribution to the franchise looks and feels every day of two years old, maybe more. But it’s still a giant, cool, twisted, funny world to explore, chock full of a staggering number of adventures. Is that really the sort of experience you can afford to pass up?

Fallout: New Vegas review: War sometimes changes, a little

This review is based on the 360 retail version of Fallout: New Vegas provided by Bethesda.


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Fallout 4’s Pip-Boy is a glorified smartphone case

Fallout 4's Pip-Boy is a glorified smartphone case

“The Pip-Boy is an important part of Fallout and we love it so much we made a real one.” Those words, delivered by game director Todd Howard at developer Bethesda Softworks’ first-ever E3 media briefing this year, triggered cheers around the world. And thus, the Fallout 4 Pip-Boy Edition was born: a $120 special edition peripheral bundled with Fallout 4 that aims to mimic the game’s wrist-bound menu and stat-tracking system. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the premium version of the game proved insanely popular, prompting Bethesda to apologize when it couldn’t make any more units to meet demand. Not bad for a rather awkward looking piece of light brown plastic that sits on your arm and holds your cellphone. But is it actually worth the hype and high price?


The Fallout 4 Pip-Boy is meant to give fans a chance at owning a real-life version of the universe’s wrist computer. Given that we already have supercomputers in our pockets, it made sense for Bethesda to take the slightly easier path of just making a smartphone holster rather than build a proper, functioning Pip-Boy from scratch. It mostly succeeds, too — especially given the price.

First things first: The Pip-Boy is massive. On its included stand, it’s about eight inches tall at its highest point, nearly seven inches across and just under six inches wide. There was never a point when I had it on that I forgot it was there, which is fine; the in-game Pip-Boy is pretty sizable, too. Despite its size though, it’s still pretty comfortable to wear for extended sessions. That’s due in no small part to the squishy, ribbed memory foam liner inside the cuff. It even makes wearing the Pip-Boy comfortable enough that I dozed off while playing one night — not an easy task.

Fallout 4's Pip-Boy is a glorified smartphone case

Bethesda built an even more real version of the Pip-Boy for an in-game movie

Lift the metal latch and the Pip-Boy splits in half, while sliding a pretty well-hidden clasp down releases the lid on the compartment where your smartphone rests. I’m not swole by any means, so my arm fit pretty comfortably inside the cuff with enough wiggle room to get the device positioned just right so I could see the screen while I’m playing. It’s worth noting that I have the PlayStation 4 version of the game and am sitting on a couch while I play. If you’re on a PC, depending on your desk configuration, accessing your keyboard and mouse with this thing on could be a bit difficult. Oh, and it isn’t ambidextrous, so you can only wear it on your left arm.

Now, about that smartphone tray. The Pip-Boy comes with several foam inserts that sit inside the tray to prevent your device from slopping around. I used the one designed for last year’s iPhone and it worked fine on my new 6S. If you have a non-Apple or non-Galaxy phone, your results are going to be a little dicey. For example, none of the inserts helped keep my old Moto E in place or even fit it at all. A friend’s Galaxy S6 Edge almost didn’t fit, but his latest iPod revision did.

On the other hand, once your supported phone is in place, getting it out will take some effort. Every time I go to remove my phone, I have to use a butter knife to do so — not even opening the lid and shaking it upside down is enough to pry my handset loose. That could change over time as the foam insert wears down, but for now I’m not worried about my smartphone’s well-being while it’s in use here.

Bethesda’s Todd Howard starts showing off the Pip-Boy at the 15 minute mark.

After slotting it in, there’s a small plastic frame to set in place over your smartphone’s screen to give the whole thing a finished, convincing look while keeping the rest of your device’s chassis hidden from view with the lid closed. All these little touches really sell the illusion that you have a working Pip-Boy on your arm. Well, until you start fiddling with the moveable knobs and dials on the thing.


In Fallout 4, navigating the Pip-Boy’s menus is handled by turning various gears on the wrist-mounted device. You can do that here as well, but nothing happens; they’re all superficial and don’t change anything within the app. It’s disappointing, but that type of functionality would’ve likely added to the peripheral’s already high price. What you can do, however, is turn a few amber LEDs on (powered by a watch battery in the phone tray). It’s minor, but still kind of cool.

“Usually, I find second-screen experiences generally stupid gimmicks, but as far as stupid gimmicks go, this is the best fucking one I have ever seen. It is awesome.” That’s Todd Howard again from this past June describing the Pip-Boy app. It released last week and I’ve been using it during my play-through ever since. Is it as Howard describes? Actually, yeah. Setup is pretty simple: Select your screen-size, the platform you’re playing on and your device connects to your PC or console via WiFi direct. The downside is that you can only have one device connected to the game at a time. That means you can’t have your phone and tablet hooked into it at once. Realistically, probably no one will do this, but it’s worth noting.

The app has all the functions of the in-game Pip-Boy: inventory management, access to your stats, quest log and map. Oh, and there are playable hidden mini-games (more on those in a bit). My most common use for this thing? Leaving the map screen open so I could keep a constant eye on where I was going in real-time. Having the app constantly running in my peripheral vision while playing is a much better experience than picking up my iPad every five minutes or trying to balance it on my arm.

Fallout 4's Pip-Boy is a glorified smartphone case

Using the app is so much better than relying on the in-game menu system and it basically renders the game’s onscreen compass useless, too. It’s simply more convenient than opening the in-game Pip-Boy every five minutes to check if I’d really seen everything in an area. But here’s the disappointing clincher: The bigger display you have running the app, the better the experience. Using my iPad Mini 2, I don’t have to squint to see what I’m pressing and my fingers don’t obscure three landmarks on the map at once. In that way, not having the Pip-Boy itself is actually beneficial. So I’m faced with the tradeoff of one type of convenience for another. I have a sneaking suspicion my Pip-Boy’s going on a bookshelf sooner rather than later, though.

Because the app keeps your smartphone screen on constantly, it’s a major battery killer. I started with a full charge the other night and the low-battery alert chimed on my 6S about three hours later. That’s fine for a shorter session, sure, but Fallout games absolutely beg marathon sessions in their weird worlds. And there isn’t a way to have a charger running into your smartphone while the Pip-Boy’s lid is shut. Your best bet? Running the app on a tablet that’s plugged into a power supply.

Fallout 4's Pip-Boy is a glorified smartphone case

Oh right, those mini-games. Throughout the nuclear-apocalyptic Boston that Fallout 4 calls the Commonwealth, there are a handful of classic arcade games tucked away in the irradiated nooks and crannies. I haven’t found any yet, but my coworker Sean Buckley happened across knock-offs of Donkey Kong and Pitfall!, and the Pip-Boy app itself comes with a Missile Command clone packed in. They’re pretty fun distractions and you can play them all from within the app as you find them.

Final word

I was incredibly excited when Fallout 4‘s special edition was announced at E3 and pre-ordered one for myself from my Santa Monica, CA hotel room. I didn’t do it out of hype, but genuine love for the series, as I presume many, many others did as well. I knew that the app would be the heart of the experience and that my Pip-Boy would wind up on a shelf in my office anyway.

For all its non-functional bells and whistles, the Pip-Boy itself is really just a glorified smartphone case. Don’t get me wrong, I really like the “wearable,” but I can’t help but feel a little weird wearing it around my apartment. Cosplayers (and eBay resellers) will likely eat this up, but once the novelty of the Pip-Boy wears off, the rest of us won’t use it much. If you didn’t get your pre-order in on time, all you’re missing is another plastic doodad to dust.


Windows Phone 8.1


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Variety: ABC is prepping exclusive content for its streaming service

Variety: ABC is prepping exclusive content for its streaming service

CBS isn’t the only major network getting into the exclusive content game. According to Variety, ABC is planning to do the same. The programming will be available through WatchABC and the first show is said to be a scripted project starring stand-up comedian Iliza Shlesinger. You might remember Shlesinger from her Netflix specials. What’s more, the network doesn’t plan to use the new platform only as a means of keeping its properties to itself, but rather a testing grounds of sorts. If a show does well there, it could make the jump to primetime. If you’ll recall, WatchABC provides live TV broadcasts (in some markets) and access to both to new and past episodes of shows, some of which require a paid subscription. Details are scarce on how much of the new exclusive content will require a pay TV plan, but this report follows similar moves by other networks.

CBS recently announced plans for a new Star Trek series that’ll only be available through its All Access subscription. As Variety points out, the strategy for ABC could be twofold: cater to young viewers who prefer to watch on a mobile device (like CW Seed does) and offering a boost to its own streaming service. ABC’s shows are available on Hulu, which its parent company Disney-ABC Television Group owns a piece of, as well as a host of other places. We’re sure to get more details before what’s been internally labeled as “ABC3″ launches, which will reportedly happen next year.

[Image credit: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images]

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Jon Stewart’s return to TV will be on HBO’s streaming TV services

Jon Stewart's return to TV will be on HBO's streaming TV services

Even after leaving the Daily Show behind, apparently Jon Stewart just couldn’t stay away. HBO just announced it has signed a four year production deal with the TV host that will kick off with “short form digital content.” He’s apparently working with the graphics company OTOY on new technology that will allow him to create and post digital content “multiple times throughout the day” (we’re going to guess that means Snapchats, Periscopes and vines, but who knows) on HBO Now. We contacted the network and confirmed that it will be on HBO Go as well for cable customers. According to Stewart “Appearing on television 22 minutes a night clearly broke me. I’m pretty sure I can produce a few minutes of content every now and again.”

[Image credit: Phil McCarten/Associated Press]

We are thrilled to be helping Jon build out this vision. The future of media is changing fast!

— OTOY (@OTOY) November 3, 2015

Beyond being “the game streaming service you’ve never heard of” OTOY has been working on tech for virtual reality video streams you can move around in among other things, although there’s no word on exactly what it will do here. In the video below, you can see a SIGGRAPH demo of its technology for bringing a person’s body into VR using positional tracking.

Whatever the internet content is, this is just the start. According to the press release, additional projects will be announced as they are confirmed, and the network will have a first look option other film and TV ventures. Of course, whatever he does on HBO, we can guess there’s one face that should be(?) happy to see him.

Jon Stewart's return to TV will be on HBO's streaming TV services

Jon Stewart and @HBO conclude exclusive four-year production pact. Read more:

— HBO PR (@HBOPR) November 3, 2015

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‘Star Trek’ (kinda) returns to TV in January 2017

'Star Trek' (kinda) returns to TV in January 2017

CBS has announced that it’s going to make a brand new Star Trek TV series that’ll begin airing in January 2017. The corporation has shoved a big pile of money in the face of Star Trek and Into Darkness co-writer Alex Kurtzman to be in charge of this new series. If you’re eagerly soldering your TV’s remote to make sure it can never be switched away from your local CBS affiliate, we’d suggest holding off for just a second. That’s because only the first episode or two will air on broadcast TV, with the rest of the series becoming an exclusive for CBS’ homegrown online subscription service, All Access.

It’s not the first time that Star Trek has arrived on our screens with a non-traditional airing model, either. After all, Star Trek: The Next Generation bypassed a US network and, instead, was sold into first-run syndication. As for the plot of the show, there’s nothing for us to go on apart from the generic blurb in the CBS press release:

“The brand-new “Star Trek” will introduce new characters seeking imaginative new worlds and new civilizations, while exploring the dramatic contemporary themes that have been a signature of the franchise since its inception in 1966.”

Although we’re not sure how relevant a new Star Trek will be if it holds onto those same themes that it’s been playing with since the mid ’60s. After all, when the show first launched, America had deep political tension with Russia, there was an undercurrent of racial tension on the streets and there were questions about how the US would fare in space. Actually, reading that back, never mind.

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DirecTV’s new deal lets you watch ABC, Disney and ESPN online

DirecTV's new deal lets you watch ABC, Disney and ESPN online

If you subscribe to DirecTV, you’re about to get a few more ways to tune in online. As part of a renewed deal with Disney, the satellite TV provider will get Watch ABC, Watch Disney and WatchESPN streaming services in early 2015. You’ll also see more viewing features on regular channels, and the two companies will “explore new opportunities” for internet-only offerings. There’s no question that DirecTV is a bit late to the party when it comes to embracing Disney’s more advanced services, but better late than never, right?

[Image credit: Associated Press]

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ABC’s ‘BattleBots’ reboot will come back for a second season

ABC's 'BattleBots' reboot will come back for a second season

Good news if you liked ABC’s resurrection of BattleBots for the modern era: it’s sticking around. The network has renewed BattleBots for a second season, albeit with some tweaks. It’ll preserve the single-elimination tourney that you saw in the first run, but it’ll double the number of competitors to include everyone from “expert roboticists” to “families on a mission.” Logically, past winners will come back for another shot at glory. It’s too soon to say if these changes will spice up ABC’s robotic wars, but the show’s audience grew significantly over the first season — don’t be shocked if there’s a third when all is said and done.

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‘Uncharted’ for beginners: My first romp with Nathan Drake

'Uncharted' for beginners: My first romp with Nathan Drake

I am the 80 percent. Let me explain: Sony recently released a remastered collection of the Uncharted series for the PlayStation 4. The games were all critically acclaimed, with Uncharted 2: Among Thieves ranking among the best games of the last decade, but developer Naughty Dog says that 80 percent of PS4 owners have never played them. I’m part of that group, and I figured it was high time to catch up with one of the most lauded trilogies of the last decade. Now that I’m in the thick of Nathan Drake’s adventures, I’m going to answer one question: If you’ve never played Uncharted, are these games worth your time?

After working my way through the entire first game and a good chunk of the second, I can say the answer is yes, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few caveats worth knowing about before you dive in for the first time. As I was getting started, I wondered how well Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune would hold up and whether it was worth playing at all. The game is about to have its eighth birthday, and with Uncharted 2 considered such a classic, I considered that newbies like me might want to just start there.

'Uncharted' for beginners: My first romp with Nathan Drake

The remastered Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune features improved environmental textures.

Even though the first game shows its age a bit, I’m glad I didn’t skip it. Graphically, the whole collection look great, if not quite as good as brand-new games coming out for the PS4. By and large, Nathan Drake’s search for El Dorado in the opening game feels perhaps a bit more cartoonish than Naughty Dog’s later games, with what sometimes feels like an overly bright color palate. But it’s an obvious step up over the original — Bluepoint Games, the developer responsible for the port, did a fabulous job bringing such an old game into the modern era.

Textures are more detailed and character expressions are much more lifelike, particularly in cutscenes. Water and fire have been greatly improved, and everything from the crumbling walls of ruins and the lush island vegetation to the aged notebooks and maps Drake carries with him are brimming with minute, real-life detail. Faces have a lot more depth and are far less wooden than in the PS3 version, something that’s immediately apparent in the game’s first encounter. The game on PS3 has some serious uncanny valley moments, with emotional facial expressions looking particularly odd, but the remastered humans look good enough to make Naughty Dog’s sweeping cinematic style work quite well. The fact that the game runs at 60fps now also makes the whole affair much smoother (and makes aiming a bit more precise, as well).

'Uncharted' for beginners: My first romp with Nathan Drake

Like a fine wine, Nathan Drake gets better with age. (PS4 remaster at left; PS3 at right)

While the graphics may not be a problem, the first Uncharted shows a bit of weakness in the gameplay variety department. Your character isn’t really upgradeable in any sense: You find better guns as you go, but there’s no way of tricking out Drake’s skills to fit your play style. And while the frequent shoot-em-up battles you find yourself in start out thrilling, they feel pretty repetitive once you’re about halfway through the game. There’s also not much of a reward for exploring the wonderfully-rendered island you find yourself on. There are some treasure items scattered about to collect, but they don’t reveal anything about the world nor do they really reward you beyond adding a trophy to your PlayStation collection.

From a story perspective, the game takes a little while to get going. After a solid first hour or so, there’s a long stretch where it just felt like I was mowing my way through the jungle taking out bad guys as they came with not a whole lot of movement or story advances. And once the gameplay started to get a little stale — there’s A LOT of “hide from gunfire behind this object, lean out and pop some guys, slowly advance” action going on here — I started to think about just skipping ahead to Uncharted 2.

If you’re part of the 80 percent, this collection is easy to recommend.

Fortunately, things picked up significantly in the game’s latter half. The story picked up, some new enemies provided a much-needed change of pace, and I found myself really wanting to see how everything came together in the end. That’s not to say that there weren’t a few frustrating, hair-pulling platforming sections, because there were — but they were fortunately few and far between.

The game is overall pretty short, with my playthrough clocking in around eight hours total, making it a nice appetizer into the world of Uncharted. You’ll get to know the game’s play style and controls and enjoy a pulpy adventure story that has some solid moments of humor and drama mixed in.

'Uncharted' for beginners: My first romp with Nathan Drake

Drake holds on for his life in the series’ classic Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

And then, when you start Uncharted 2, you’ll have the benefit of story background as well as familiarity with how the game works at a high level, which helped me enjoy the game’s gripping opening sequence even more. The first Uncharted started out with an almost comically easy, low-stakes confrontation, but Uncharted 2 throws you right into one of Drake’s most desperate scenarios before using the good, old flashback trick to unwind how he got into such a jam. It sucked me right in and the game only gets better from there. It doesn’t hurt that the sequel is an obvious step up graphics-wise, either — Naughty Dog continually got more and more out of the PS3 as the series progressed, and the improved graphics gave the Bluepoint Games team more to work with as it updated these games.

If you’re part of the 80 percent, this collection is easy to recommend. The first game may show its age compared with more contemporary adventures like the Tomb Raider reboot or Naughty Dog’s own The Last of Us, but it’s still a fun romp before jumping into Uncharted 2 — the real meat of the collection. And even though I haven’t gotten to Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception yet, I’m eagerly going to jump right in, and be ready to move right on to Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End when it comes out next spring. With three highly-regarded games included in a package that’s selling for less than $45 on Amazon right now, it’s a smart holiday buy.

Image credits: Naughty Dog; Digital Foundry (side-by-side comparison)

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‘Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection’ brings Naughty Dog’s trilogy to PS4

'Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection' brings Naughty Dog's trilogy to PS4

After Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End was pushed into 2016, PlayStation 4 owners hungry for supernatural-tinged archaeological adventure, adequate gunplay and roguish quips were braced for a disappointing year. Then with the easy charm of a cad with his shirt only half-tucked in, Sony made a reassuring announcement on Thursday. Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection will bring all three PlayStation 3 games in the series to the new console with a bevy of technological upgrades this fall, making the wait for Uncharted 4 that much easier.

Series creator Naughty Dog isn’t producing these touched up versions of Drake’s Fortune, Among Thieves, and Drake’s Deception. Remaster masters Bluepoint Games are on the job, sprucing up all three with improved textures, lighting and new character models to prepare the trilogy for a 1080p presentation running at 60 frames per second. For those not versed in this gaming jargon, Bluepoint is prettifying the old Uncharted games in a similar way to The Last of Us Remastered, another Naughty Dog fan favorite that jumped from PS3 to PS4.

Bluepoint, whose other remaster credits include the spectacular Metal Gear Solid HD Collection, Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, will also introduce other changes and improvements to the Uncharted games that remain unspecified in the trailer below.

Diehard fans that have already played these games so many times that a facelift won’t entice them, the collection won’t be entirely Uncharted 4-free. Anyone who buys the collection gets access to an impending Uncharted 4 multiplayer beta. Is that as appealing as a new adventure where Nathan Drake says, “No no no!” repeatedly while standing on a cliff edge? Certainly not, but it will at least be a chance to feel how Naughty Dog’s series feels on new hardware.

Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection will be released in the US on October 9th and Europe on October 7th.

[Images: Sony]


PlayStation 4

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