When it was released in 2016, UNCHARTED 4: A Thief’s End pretty much redefined adventure video games. The end of Nathan Drake’s journey won dozens of awards, was nominated for dozens more and set a standard that wouldn’t soon be surpassed.
As of last week, UNCHARTED 4 has been remastered and re-released for PS5 (and soon for PC) alongside its spinoff, UNCHARTED: The Lost Legacy, meaning that a whole new audience will get to experience the spectacular titles in higher resolution, better framerates, improved audio, and a whole bunch of other upgrades. While some may believe the original titles hold up just fine in 2022, the Legacy of Thieves Collection really does show off the power of the PS5, much like how the first releases displayed what was possible on PS4.
To learn about some of the ins and outs of the new collection, SPIN spoke with Shaun Escayg, Naughty Dog’s creative director, about both the latest release and the impact of the UNCHARTED series as a whole.
SPIN: What were the primary goals for the Legacy of Thieves Collection?
Shaun Escayg: One of the biggest goals for UNCHARTED: Legacy of Thieves Collection was to enhance how players experience the world of UNCHARTED, these stories, our complex characters and their struggles. On the PS5, the amazing environmental storytelling of UNCHARTED 4: A Thief’s End and UNCHARTED: The Lost Legacy is taken to a whole new level with increases in overall polygon count, object density, and massive upgrades to lighting and full-resolution textures. Even our characters — both playable and in cinematics — are utilizing our highest quality assets. We’re hoping when fans discover (or re-discover) these environments, they’ll be overwhelmed by how much we can do with this new technology.
In terms of sound, we took full advantage of the new audio architecture available with the PS5 to include 3D audio, which brings a whole new broadened sound experience to players that brings them into a living, breathing world. Haptic support has also been introduced for combat, traversal, cinematics, and vehicles, and adaptive triggers give all combat weapons a unique feel and “weight.” Whether you’re driving in a 4×4, scaling a mountain, or engaging in combat, the addition of haptic support and adaptive triggers make these experiences feel even more tactile and gratifying.
On the visual side, there is “Fidelity Mode,” which brings the experience into 4K. There’s also “Performance” and “Performance+ Modes,” which target 60 and 120 [frames per second] respectively. We seek to make our games as cinematic as possible, so we’re thrilled to have implemented ultra hi-res in-game character models and leveraged the PS5’s ultra-high-speed SSD to implement instant load times for a seamless, movie-like experience.
Given the legacy — no pun intended — of the series, what was it like to bring some new life into the two most recent titles, particularly for the audience that never got to play them on PS4?
At the core of every game we work on, we aim to make character-driven, cinematic stories, and it’s humbling to hear from fans how deeply the UNCHARTED series’ humor, unique cast, and adventure have resonated with them.
For those who haven’t experienced UNCHARTED, we hope that these remasters will give new players a chance to enjoy these games on the latest console generation. While we’ve gotten to know the characters of UNCHARTED intimately, we’re excited that even more people now have the chance to meet this complex and charismatic cast we’ve grown so fond of over the years. UNCHARTED holds an incredibly special place in our heart, and sharing our love of this world and its characters with a new audience is an awesome privilege.
Seeing as UNCHARTED has been a PlayStation staple for so long, how does it feel to bring these games to PC as well?
It’s been fantastic to partner with the incredible developers at Iron Galaxy to bring UNCHARTED: Legacy of Thieves Collection to PC. It’s a thrilling opportunity to share the characters and stories with the passionate PC audience and further expand the access to these games that we’re truly proud of. It also feels awesome since players have been asking for UNCHARTED on PC for a while now.
All of these years, games and now a movie later, what’s it like to look back on the overall impact that UNCHARTED has maintained since the beginning?
It’s fascinating to look at the entire UNCHARTED series and see how much Nathan Drake and, later, Chloe Frazer, have grown. Both are incredibly intrepid and charismatic protagonists who are immensely capable in a firefight and while navigating perilous situations. However, despite their age and experience, they struggle with their pasts and their emotions, just like the rest of us. In UNCHARTED 4, Nathan fundamentally grapples with his values in life. In Lost Legacy, Chloe is still unpacking unresolved grief and loss. For many players who experienced UNCHARTED when they were younger, it’s been remarkably refreshing to revisit Nathan and Chloe’s stories in adulthood and empathize with their struggles and triumphs.
It can’t be understated how humbling it’s been for the entirety of Naughty Dog that Nathan Drake has become such an identifiable character, even to people who never played an UNCHARTED game. UNCHARTED has forged a look and feel that’s so unique and lighthearted, and it’s always fun for us to see people revisit, replay and share their love of UNCHARTED year after year. It truly puts into perspective how significant UNCHARTED was and continues to be — both as a game and as a story.
Is there anything else you would want to add about Legacy of Thieves Collection?
We’re proud of the games we’ve made and staying true to our vision, and UNCHARTED 4 and UNCHARTED: The Lost Legacy are so special to our history as a game studio. UNCHARTED 4 kicked off so many new horizons for game development, such as facial tracking for mocap. It still holds up, and this collection was an opportunity to see how we could leap forward into the future and continue innovating. Lost Legacy bloomed from a DLC into a full-length game, and we had the opportunity to deeply explore a really complex and charismatic character from the series, fan-favorite Chloe Frazer, giving her the standalone adventure she deserved. Making UNCHARTED was a special adventure, and we’re so happy we had the chance to have another adventure with UNCHARTED: Legacy of Thieves Collection.