While I respect the hell out of Naughty Dog's cinematic action-adventures, they can be a little hit-or-miss for me. I like the platforming, running around in drop-dead gorgeous spaces, and many of the characters, particularly the slippery Chloe (voiced by Claudia Black, I am a fan). Uncharted 4 was fun, but there was a conspicuous lack of Chloe, and my favorite character from the game, the tough-as-hell mercenary Nadine, was backgrounded by the Drake boys.
The upcoming Lost Legacy, due out next month, doubles down on characters I adore—it stars Chloe and Nadine, and emphasizes exploration, easily my favorite bit of games in the genre.
In short, I think this may be an Uncharted with my name on it.
I played an hour-long demo last week, just after the game went gold (the devs who were showing off the game were very happy about that). In it, I was dropped into the powerful 4 x 4 that was so much fun to tear around in in the 4th game, and let loose on a massive jungle area. There's some backstory: the ladies earlier nabbed a coin that has some mysterious use, the entire game takes place in India, and there are a lot of jerks lurking in the lush foliage, for some reason or another. That's all well and good, but it's the moment-to-moment beats where these stories shine, for me.
As I took control of Chloe (and the car), the ladies bantered naturally. When I set out to climb a tower, Nadine chided me for always doing the most dangerous thing—but she didn't complain when I came away with a map full of points of interest, in a sort of open-world light fashion. It's a huge, open area—I drove around for several minutes just wandering before I actually went for mission-critical objectives, and even found a few little secrets off the beaten path.
I live for this sort of stuff, the secrets hidden in the nooks and crannies of a lush, intricate level, and there certainly seemed to be more of this here than I remembered in Uncharted 4. There's a bit more freedom here, a bit more room for players like me to stretch their virtual legs a bit.
Then, naturally, I did a few combat encounters, playing stealthy sometimes, guns-blazing at others. The mechanics feel similar to previous games in the series: 3rd person cover shooting with some light stealth options. Nadine packs a wallop in these sequences, beating the hell out of baddies who get too close like some kind of stone-cold MMA fighter. That is, she punches, kicks, and throws dudes with abandon, taking care of business no matter what end of a gun she may be on. A useless companion she is not.
Personally, I'm not really here for the combat (especially when Nadine is so handy in a pinch). I'm here for that exploration, which feels particularly inspired by the most recent Tomb Raider games, with sticky tower-scaling, rope-swinging, and hidden artifacts lying just around every sneaky bend. There's a lot of secret stuff here, and while I'm sure plenty of folks will plow by, I want to find every last bit of lore, not because I'm excited for the flavor text, but because it's fun to seek it out.
Most of all, In Lost Legacy, more than any other game in the series, I'm excited for these two characters. They are perfect together: Chloe's mercurial nature and Nadine's militant hardass-ery make for more than entertaining banter during gameplay: I actively want to hang out with these characters and watch them bounce off of each other like the radical opposites they are.
When playing the game, I asked my demo team how they came up with this oil and water combo:
"Chloe, being this sort of fan favorite character from previous Uncharted games, we were really keen to see more of her, and we didn't see her in the last game,"James Cooper, lead designer and my guide for the afternoon, told me. "It felt like a really cool opportunity to bring her to life and really dig into her backstory, and give her time to shine, so to speak. I think Nadine is a character people really liked in Uncharted 4, but didn't really get much time onscreen.
"So, she was someone we wanted to bring back. We've talked a bit before, about how she leaves Uncharted 4: she's kind of done with this. She's kind of like 'this isn't worth it! This isn't worth wasting my life over.' She's far more pragmatic, and that's an interesting part of her character. Taking those two characters and sticking them together and seeing how they work and how their relationship develops, how they work as partners is a really exciting thing to see."
No offense to Nathan Drake (or his brother), but these are the characters I want to have adventures with.
Uncharted: Lost Legacy is due out on the Playstation 4 on August 22nd.