Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection and the art of the remaster with Naughty Dogs experts

 It turns out there’s so much more to bringing Nathan Drake to PlayStation 5 than making him even better looking. We spoke to Naughty Dog’s Kurt Margenau (co-lead designer on Uncharted 4 and game director on Uncharted: The Lost Legacy), and Shaun Escayg, (creative director on Uncharted: The Lost Legacy and lead cinematic animator on Uncharted 4) about why and how the new and improved Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection for PS5 and PC was created five years after we fell in love with the original. 

“It’s all about how do we take advantage of this awesome technology to really, you know, fully immerse our fans and new players. The PS5 is the best way – literally the best way – to experience these stories and to live with these characters,” explains Escayg. “You experience things differently now, playing it on PS5. The market in the opening sequence [of The Lost Legacy] with Chloe and Meenu and they’re bartering, I was geeking out on it. When I was playing it, I was like ‘oh my god, this stuff is amazing’. Like, you can feel all the clothing and almost touch it. You can see the temples in the background. The places become more alive.”

 Once more, with feeling 

Uncharted Legacy of Thieves

(Image credit: PlayStation )


Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection has been upscaled – 4K resolution, up to 120fps in Performance+ Mode – but the PS5 has some other tricks up its sleeve too. There’s 3D spatial audio technology, and the DualSense’s nuanced haptic feedback and adaptive triggers. Even what we might see as a simple scene – remember the opening of Uncharted 4 on the boat? – becomes a totally new experience when you can really feel it

“The boat in the opening of the game was the very first thing people experienced so we were like, ‘OK is a big deal, we want to make sure that this feels good,'” says Margenau.

“We know where the body of the boat is scraping against the water, so we’re actually modeling that in stereo. When the boat turns to the right, you’ll not only feel that on the right side of the controller but also through two other layers of feedback. There’s a g-force meter, so any impact to the boat is being reflected on a pulse, which is based on the physics of what’s happening. And there’s a ‘propeller chop value’ in the simulation of the boat, which is like the propeller getting out of the water and skipping; we have a special haptic just for that. All these layers of those things are all running at once.”

And when you’re in full-action hero mode, feeling Nathan Drake’s heart thud as he’s in peril, driving off-road, or taking down the bad guys in a shootout, the haptics will deliver there too. Escayg says that you’ll want to continue cycling through the in-game arsenal just to try everything out. 

Uncharted Legacy of Thieves

(Image credit: PlayStation )

“Those things stand out in a big way, even when you’re changing weapons. The 12-gauge or the P90, you feel it in combat. It’s a very unique experience, just a subtle way the gun vibrates through the controller, right? I’m literally going through every gun I can play with just to see what the differences are – how they feel makes me feel more powerful and in control. It’s really interesting to see how just the subtle shifts change the experience.”

And adding those haptic effects was no easy feat, so spare a thought for the developers when you’re enjoying the feel of that Condor semi-automatic shotgun. “We had to build a new pipeline to author them because it’s such a higher fidelity haptic experience than the old controller rumble. So we had to think about it in a different way and involve audio programmers, because the fidelity of the haptics is so high that it’s an audio signal that we’re sending to the controller,” says Margenau, with the saintly patience of a man explaining a very technical system to a total layperson. “So when you get shot, you can feel it only on the side of the controller where you got shot. 

“It’s a subtle effect, but it’s something you couldn’t do on the old controller because you had asymmetrical motors, you had a big motor and a small motor. Whenever those things rotate, the entire controller feels like it’s vibrating, which is kind of by design of the hardware. But on PS5, you have the same motors on both sides, vibrating somewhat like speakers. So you can actually do very specific effects of kind of stereo panning and things.”

 Uncharted futures 

Uncharted Legacy of Thieves

(Image credit: PlayStation )

 While Uncharted 4 was released in 2016, and the amazing standalone follow-up with Chloe Frazier as the hero – Lost Legacy – was released in 2017, the adventures still feel fresh, aging like an ancient golden relic. A big part of that is the writing, Chloe, Nathan, and their allies and enemies all have heart. OK, some enemies have less heart, but they still feel real. 

“Uncharted is about heart, it’s about struggles, it’s about complex characters and seeing them persevere, and I think that struggle is in all of us,” says Escayg. “Being light-hearted and being able to laugh at certain things during these epic adventures when you’re trapped and enemies are firing at you, and you still have witty banter. That’s the special sauce of Uncharted, it just makes you want to go back for more. You just enjoy the world so much.” 

But with Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection reminding us why the series is so special, fans will want to know if we’ll ever get an Uncharted 5. Perhaps even one where a new character, like Chloe, takes on the role of the treasure hunting hero? Of course, neither of the Naughty Dog guys would spill the studio secrets, but there was a sliver of hope. 

“I think we can say for certain that we can never say never. Yeah. Uncharted is a franchise we love – that the studio loves. I love, and Kurt loves. It’s a world we want to see more of. So I can certainly say that,” says Escayg.

At least fans have the movie, Uncharted, which will be released on February 18. Unfortunately, despite their roles as the daddies of the original, neither has had a chance to get a sneak preview.

“The two of us aren’t directly involved in that. And, you know, I’m excited to see Tom Holland’s take on the character. I don’t know anything other than the trailers we’ve seen,” says Margenau. “I’m just excited. It’s like, it’s finally here! We have Uncharted on the big screen, and it’s not going to change directors again, and it’s not going to be in development for even longer. And I think Tom Holland is a great choice.” 

“And they’re pulling inspiration from the games, so it’s really satisfying to see that gets to be on the big screen.”

Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection will be released on PS5 on January 28, and will come to PC later this year. Read our thoughts on the remaster here.

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