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Uncharted 2's PS4 teaser leaves us hungry for more

Digital Foundry's initial impressions and analysis on Bluepoint's Nathan Drake Collection remastering work.

While there are legitimate concerns that the sheer volume of remasters hitting the current-gen consoles is starting to verge on the ridiculous, we've still got a lot of time for Sony's continuing efforts in bringing PlayStation 3 glory days to its latest console platform. The Last of Us Remastered worked beautifully overall, God of War 3's 1080p60 presentation is excellent, and our first look - more of a glimpse really - of the Uncharted Nathan Drake Collection is also heavy with promise. Right now, from our perspective, all that's missing from the line-up is a Killzone 2/3 release.

We'll be running an in-depth look at God of War 3 Remastered in the next day or two, but in the meantime our focus is on the Nathan Drake Collection and that 1080p60 gameplay clip released last week. Sony sent us two assets to look at - the video clip, along with five screenshots. Bizarrely, the shots are rendered at a native 4K resolution - not representative of real-time gameplay, but perhaps useful in another way. Even at the ultra-HD pixel count, texture detail seems to hold up, though understandably geometry and lighting are very much last-gen in nature.

But it's the gameplay clip that is most exciting. It may be less than four minutes in duration overall, but it seems to confirm that at the very least, Bluepoint Studios are on track to deliver a remaster at least on par with Naughty Dog's excellent in-house PS4 rendition of The Last of Us. The scene is effectively cut into two sections, indicative of the typical Uncharted gameplay mix - we see an initial traversal section, where frame-rate barely shifts from the target 60fps, and that's followed up by a more action-orientated sequence, complete with intense gunplay and a signature Uncharted set-piece - a more challenging work-out for the engine.

Previously, we've discussed the challenge in porting the Uncharted games across from PS3 to PS4, by drawing upon Naughty Dog's experiences in creating the TLOU remaster. A straight port just didn't work out: most game engines process in a somewhat linear manner - the CPU simulates the scene, then prepares the instructions for the GPU, which then sets about rendering the scene before scanning out over HDMI. Naughty Dog couldn't hit 60fps in this way, instead splitting the whole process in half - the CPU produces the GPU command list for the current frame while simultaneously working on the game simulation for the next, effectively maximising the parallel processing strengths of the eight-core PS4 CPU.

Four minutes of Uncharted 2 action demonstrates that the game holds up well on PS4, with flawless 60fps action on traversal and just minor frame-rate drops in the thick of the action. This is work-in-progress of course, so the situation may well improve in the final months of development.

Bearing in mind that the Uncharted games are built on the same engine that is so problematic to port straight over to PS4, our contention is that Bluepoint built its remasters on the same principles, leveraging all the lessons learnt by Naughty Dog. Certainly, based on the performance profile we see in the clip, there are some commonalities with the way that The Last of Us Remastered presents itself. In the second half of the clip, there are some frame-rate drops - and it seems that advanced physics work and lavish utilisation of transparent alpha textures does appear to cause some issues.

Of course, we only have a tiny excerpt of gameplay to look at here, but there is the sense that the frame-rate dips aren't quite as severe as some of those seen in TLOU - perhaps because the older Uncharted games didn't quite push alpha to quite the same degree as Naughty Dog's final PS3 title. As for whether this is indicative of performance across the whole collection, we suspect that it'll be some of Uncharted 3's more daring set-pieces that really give the PS4 engine its most thorough work-out. However, Uncharted: Drake's Fortune could well be very solid - it's less ambitious from a technological perspective, and a good deal of the effects seen in the original game didn't use alpha at all in order to save precious GPU bandwidth.

Overall, this first teaser for the Nathan Drake Collection does exactly what we suspect it was intended to do: it demonstrates that the older PS3 Uncharted titles still have much to offer in the PS4 era, and it highlights that Sony's decision to employ Bluepoint Games was extremely shrewd - this huge project is clearly in good hands. However, most importantly of all, this brief teaser video has re-ignited memories of cherished last-gen gaming moments, experiences we want to revisit at 1080p60. In this sense, the clip is as frustrating as it is exciting - it leaves us hungry for more.

And by extension, we're now even more fascinated at how Bluepoint has chosen to tackle this project - so many questions are left unanswered at this point - principally to what extent assets are improved through each title (Uncharted 3 already had some phenomenal artwork), how the mooted lighting improvements look - but perhaps most importantly, the extent to which the original Uncharted: Drake's Fortune has been upgraded. As soon as more is revealed, we'll report back.

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About the Author
Richard Leadbetter avatar

Richard Leadbetter

Technology Editor, Digital Foundry

Rich has been a games journalist since the days of 16-bit and specialises in technical analysis. He's commonly known around Eurogamer as the Blacksmith of the Future.