On paper Naughty Dog's Uncharted series is as generic as it gets. It's about a good looking white, heterosexual man going on exciting globe-trotting adventures, killing bad guys and wooing a spunky blonde reporter. On this level, it's functional at best and banal at worst. But dig deeper and it becomes clear that Naughty Dog's bombastic blockbuster series quietly had a profound effect on the medium's development over the past several years.
At what point does a remaster become a remake? Remastering involves improving video or audio quality, but fundamentally it is still derived from an existing source. The definition of a remaster in the gaming space is a little vague, but it rarely involves much in the way of new, creative work - it's about enhancing what's already there via higher resolutions and frame-rate boosts. But the release of the latest Uncharted: the Nathan Drake Collection story trailer demonstrates that developer Bluepoint Games is indeed improving and remaking swathes of Naughty Dog's existing assets, respectfully enhancing even incidental detail. The evidence suggests that this isn't just a simple port we're dealing with here - new art or geometry is commonplace in virtually every shot in this latest trailer. Bluepoint Games is well known for its accomplished work in converting classic games to new platforms but with this new collection, we could well be looking at its best work yet.
In order to better understand what has changed, we took the time to go back and re-create the entire trailer using the original PS3 software. It's important to remember here that the vast majority of footage in this trailer is comprised of scenes that were originally pre-rendered on PlayStation 3 - which begs the question: are they still pre-rendered on PS4? 1080p60 video eats up a lot of disc space - perhaps more than a standard Blu-ray disc can provide. Are we looking at a multi-disc collection here? Have these scenes instead been re-tooled to operate in real-time? It's not clear yet, but we're looking forward to finding out.
Regardless of whether they are pre-rendered or not, a lot of work has gone into to every one of these scenes. As noted above, many assets are improved, sometimes surprisingly so, resulting in richer, more cohesive storytelling across all three games. For instance, the original character models used in Drake's Fortune look rather dated next to those used in Uncharted 3. It makes sense to create a more coherent look across all three games by upgrading the models, and based on what we've seen in the trailer, that's exactly what has happened.
"Why is Nathan Drake a mass murderer?" Oh I don't know, but it's the question not the answer that's important. It symbolises a seismic shift in attitudes towards games that may mean, "possibly even for the very first time", that the next generation of consoles also becomes "the next generation of game design".
A new friend and fellow games writer paid me a great compliment recently: he said that he liked this column because Game of the Week marked the point at which we could stop talking about the reviews, and start talking about the actual games.
"We felt really good about that game as it came together. We felt that we had something really special on our hands but I don't think we were prepared for the scale of the rapturous reception we got. So how do you top something like that?"
Nottingham doesn't have the swagger of Los Angeles or the neon allure of Tokyo, but it can boast a games show that puts E3 and TGS to shame. GameCity is a festival in the truest sense of the word, a celebration of a community and a culture that's sadly all too often swamped by corporate concerns.
At Eurogamer Expo 2011 Naughty Dog delivered a world exclusive gameplay demo of Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception, a game sure to be one of the PlayStation 3's biggest hits. Nathan Drake actor Nolan North and co-lead designer Richard Lemarchand wowed fans with the premiere, and offered insight into the development of the game.
Eurogamer is delighted to announce the 10 nominees for its Game of the Show, Eurogamer Expo 2011.
It's the ultimate teaser for what will surely be one of the best games of the year. The recently released Uncharted 3 multiplayer beta may well be low on content in terms of actual game assets (only two maps are available, with a third set to be unlocked imminently) but it still offers a wealth of different multiplayer modes and 25 levels' worth of progression, including a large range of weapons, character customisation elements and gameplay-shifting boosters.
Alas, what it doesn't offer is much in the way of hints on what we should expect from the single-player campaign mode, where Naughty Dog really pushes back boundaries with its superb set-pieces and innovative platforming gameplay. In this sense, Naughty Dog's brilliant Uncharted 2 multiplayer beta did at least give us some co-op action that was a fairly close match to the single-player campaign stage based on the same level. Update: The final phase of the beta unlocked this mode. Check out a complete gameplay runthrough in this blog post.
Excited as we are about the new beta, it's safe to say that from a basic technological level, the core rendering elements we see here aren't that far removed from what we saw in Uncharted 2. Then again, short of optimisation efforts and the introduction of new visual effects, it's difficult to see where Naughty Dog could have radically improved its existing tech in the way that it did between the first two games in the series.
There's a twinge of disappointment when you first start up Uncharted 3's multiplayer mode. It's the feeling of over-familiarity: the layout of the menus, the experience bar marking the progression of your ascent through the ranks of your online career and the emblem editor. It's the perk (sorry, booster) slots in which you assign upgrade bonuses that decrease your character's sprint recovery time or allow him to run silently in order to avoid detection and so on.
It is, in short, the Modern Warfare-ness of it all, and the feeling that Naughty Dog, one of blockbuster gaming's more creative voices, has borrowed a template instead of building one.
Of course, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare's structural innovations to the multiplayer shooter have come to define the way a generation plays gun games online, and few would debate that template's enduring brilliance. But familiarity breeds contempt, and Uncharted 3's construction is oh-so-familiar, right down to the ladder of ‘finding player' messages that appears on the upper right hand side of the screen while the game hurries to match eight players up.
It began, as ever, with a leak. With just hours to go until Microsoft's absurdly lavish... Wait a second, this is last year's intro. Oh well, it turns out it still works: where last year we heard about Kinect before we'd even donned our space ponchos, this year we knew about Halo 4 and several new Kinect sequels before Don Mattrick even had a chance to start educating us about "growth and innovation".
In which, as you'll know if you read yesterday's roundup, Eurogamer's UK team picks their favourite E3 trailers of the last 24 hours. So who are today's winners and losers?
(NB: Anyone sitting at home watching Starhawk videos instead of standing in an L.A. bar having cocktails three feet away from Reggie Fils-Aime already knows the answer to this question.)
Top of the Pops
It's only day two of E3 and already the internet is awash with trailers. In fact, you'd have a job to watch the whole lot of them before Gamescom kicks off.
So to save you a bit of time, Eurogamer's top analysts (i.e. anyone too pregnant or knowledgeable about how the website actually works to go to E3) have picked the best trailers released in the last 24 hours. And the worst, just for good measure. So what do you reckon to our choices?
Top of the Pops
There can't be many lead actors and writers in the games industry who know each other so well they practically finish each other's sentences. But then, how many can say they've been working together on their latest project almost every week since last June, let alone for large, intensive chunks of the past five years?
A cargo plane accelerates down a runway with Drake and his compatriots stowed away inside. As the rear door yawns wide-open, a convoy of terrorist-carrying trucks is in hot pursuit.
Just a day after unveiling the first trailer for Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception at the Spike Video Game Awards, Naughty Dog gave the gaming press their first look at gameplay. The press event hosted by a handful of the game's developers in balmy Los Angeles granted a tantalising first glimpse of the PlayStation 3 exclusive, due out next November.