Nathan Drake is nowhere to be found in Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, but his absence isn’t felt in the slightest. Naughty Dog’s latest game, which started life as a downloadable content expansion but evolved into a full standalone release, contains the same epic spectacle and gripping sense of adventure as its main line predecessors – with the action, graphics, storytelling dialed up to eleven and the limelight firmly on Chloe Frazer, the enigmatic and sultry and quick-witted treasure hunter who stole Nathan Drake’s thunder whenever she appeared throughout 2009’s Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. Yes, in the end it is more Uncharted and yes, it is another spin-off, but by god is it beautiful and worth getting out the popcorn for.
Lost Legacy is primarily set in the wilds of Western India, an exotic landscape filled with the grand remains of the long-fallen Hoysala Empire. While seemingly driven by money in her latest quest for ancient treasure, Chloe has a special connection to the rich mythology and history surrounding the country and her newest sought after valuable artifact, the Tusk of Ganesha, due to her Indian background and her archaeologist father’s life-long fascination with the Hoysala. These shared revelations, along with a heart-warming interaction with a local child offers a much more intimate view of Chloe than fans were afforded in previous games, and it’s easy to quickly get invested in her treasure-hunting goals despite the very brisk pace of the story, which wisely opts to throw players straight into the action, explosions and set-pieces rather than waste precious time on slow exposition. Unsurprisingly, a local warlord by the name of Asav seeks the Tusk as a show of power to invigorate his armies and so famed treasure hunter and unambiguous bad guy must race to acquire another long-lost relic in violent spectacle.
Fans have been wanting more answers on her background and motivations on Chloe since her odd absence in Uncharted 4 and thankfully she gets the proper time to shine here as the roguish lead of her own highly entertaining personal journey – with a stellar performance from voice actress Claudia Black to boot. But this isn’t entirely a one woman show, with deuteragonist Nadine Ross hired by Chloe as her mercenary bodyguard to fill in as Lost Legacy’s second lead. Owing to her origin as the unrelenting baddie from Uncharted 4, no-nonsense Nadine is initially less appealing than the clever Chloe. However, her gruff mannerisms and violent talents mesh surprisingly well with the silver tongued protagonist and the duo’s nuanced banter, both while under-fire and during the many quieter moments of the 10-hour or so single-player campaign are some of the best bits of the entire game (they even have an amusing debate on the Drake brothers, for those interested in Chloe’s lasting memories of her former treasure-hunting flame).
It’s clear that the traditional Uncharted core formula is at its most refined in Lost Legacy. The third-person combat and platforming of Uncharted has admittedly never been my personal highlight of the genre, but its overall cinematic fluidity and polish aids the other elements of Naughty Dog’s flagship franchise – exploration, treasure hunting, optional dialogue and the storytelling – that are my favourites. There is an abundance of acrobatic clambering through long-lost fortresses to conquer, frantic firefights among crumbling ruins to survive, obscure ancient puzzles to solve and sneaky treasure collectibles to discover – all of it derived and refined from the very solid gameplay mechanics already established in Uncharted 4.
Everything from the tense platforming to the third-person cover-based combat feels easier to execute than in past entries of the series, with firefights perpetually high-octane thanks to Chloe’s athleticism allowing her to jump around and pick off her foes from tactical vantage points in a few seconds of clambering, or while swinging from a tree branch like Tarzana. The bullet-filled shoot outs and frenzied escapes aren’t a whole lot different to Nathan Drake’s final escapades, but the formula is still as fun as it’s ever been. Some new gameplay additions like the lockboxes, which contain silenced pistols for stealth playstyles or higher grade weaponry for explosive mayhem, keep individual combat encounters feeling fresh, though the opportunity to add efficient ways to lure enemies for a stealthier approach to combat still seems to have been puzzlingly overlooked by the developers and is perhaps my one disappointment with the otherwise continuing engaging gunplay – which requires all your wits about you if you play on Crushing difficulty like I did.
Up close and personal melee combat continues on from Uncharted 4’s brawler mechanics, with Chloe and Nadine lending each other a helping hand for devastating one-two punch combos, though both friendly and enemy A.I. tends to be more stupid than dynamic in these otherwise entertaining beatdowns, randomly deciding whether or not they want to fight back effectively. Fights are definitely not up to Arkham levels of combo interactivity (usually just press a button twice or thrice and win) but the presentation of it all and how every scuffle (or stealthy takedown) feels like just another cool moment (or desperate struggle) in an always moving action flick is undeniably slick.
Because there’s one main setting and a whole lot less globe-trotting, Chloe’s personal journey and the cinematic narrative of Lost Legacy as a whole feels a lot more cohesive and less weighed down by padding than Uncharted 4, yet it still contains the same epic action-packed adventure premise – everything just moves at a brisker pace. After a desperate escape among shanty-town rooftops in the opening chapters, players are effectively let loose in a semi open-world location driving your trusty Jeep, and you’re free to tackle the main quest and several other side objectives across the vast but densely packed area of the Western Ghats, teeming with exotic treasures, optional conversations, photo opportunities, caches of weapons and environmental storytelling. It’s fascinating to play see Naughty Dog dip their toes in open-ended level design, but they wisely reel things in with more linearity in subsequent missions as the story demands urgency and the action becomes louder, more ridiculous and more dangerous. It all eventually culminates in some of the best set-pieces and chase sequences that gives the rest of the series a serious run for its money, and even though the overall length of the game is a lot shorter, I found the payoff and where Chloe and Nadine end up immensely satisfying.
The included multiplayer package in Lost Legacy is essentially all of Uncharted 4 content and an all-new Survival Arena mode, which pits players against waves of ever-changing enemies and objectives, forcing them to adapt on-the-fly with different weapons and threats every time. It’s quietly one of the more underrated competitive multiplayer scenes available on the PS4, and definitely worth getting stuck into once you’ve finished the main story.
As naturally expected, the graphics and audio of Lost Legacy are some of Naughty Dog’s best work yet. The developer has always pushed the envelope when it comes to its cinematic presentation and they have outdone themselves here: If you have the choice, play it on PlayStation 4 Pro on a 4K television screen with HDR enabled, as you get a stunning checkerboarded 4K image with almost rock solid 30fps, which easily produces one of the PS4’s second best looking exclusives right after Horizon Zero Dawn. The in-game photo mode is one of the best features to get the most out of the game’s stunning set-pieces, with huge customisation options available to get that landscape shot looking just right. Oh, also, you can change Chloe’s facial expression during cutscenes using photo mode, so expect a flood of hilariously inappropriate screenshots to grace the Internet in the coming days.
The Final Verdict
As a mostly casual fan of the series, I definitely wondered if a spin-off without the charms of Nathan Drake could work, but Chloe Frazer and company are just as entertaining, the production values are just as strong, and the visuals are just as amazing as the main-line series. Uncharted: The Lost Legacy has made it clear more extravagant stories based in Naughty Dog’s adventure-obsessed world – and not centered on Nathan Drake – are sure-fire winners and must-buys if they can retain this high level of cinematic storytelling, platforming and gunplay in a neat 10-hour or so single-player package.