Uncharted: The Lost Legacy review - Fresh and fascinating leads give new life to a familiar thrill-ride

Uncharted The Lost Legacy
Uncharted: The Lost Legacy is out now for PlayStation 4

Anyone concerned about the absence of Nathan Drake in this latest entry into the Uncharted series needn’t have worried. The Lost Legacy, an Uncharted 4 expansion promoted to a cut-price standalone release, is the purest expression of the treasure-hunting matinee adventure since its spectacular breakthrough. And one that doesn’t miss its former poster boy at all.

With fresh leads largely freed from the baggage of Drake’s sprawling tale- put to bed so effectively last year- The Lost Legacy is brisker and brighter while never straying too far from the established formula. For better and worse, this is unadulterated Uncharted.

Which means a lot of firefights, climbing and high-octane set-pieces for new protagonist Chloe Frazer. This isn’t Chloe’s first rodeo, of course, with revolving roles in Uncharteds 2 and 3 as Drake’s business partner, adversary and love interest. Chloe always was one of the series’ best characters, with a fierce intelligence and wit that suggested she was often several steps ahead, so a chance to flesh out her story is most welcome.

The Lost Legacy has some of the Uncharted series most beautiful sights... which is going some

Chloe is joined on her quest to find the tusk of Ganesh in the Western Ghats of India by Nadine Ross, Uncharted 4 antagonist and the former leader of mercenary band Shoreline. It is a tantalising duo, Chloe’s wit clashing with Nadine’s distrusting stoicism.

Yet for the first few hours of The Lost Legacy, it isn’t a combination that entirely convinces. Chloe can often feel like Drake by proxy, the script transferring his trademark sarcasm and mind-racing breaks for historical exposition directly onto the game’s new hero. Nadine, meanwhile, feels like a sidekick nudged into the peripheries because, hey, it’s Uncharted and you need a willing foil to share witty banter and jump around with.

These quibbles are part of an opening third that is breezily enjoyable and gorgeous to look at, but scrabbles for the identity and hook to set it apart. Mechanically it is identical to Uncharted 4, which is understandable given its origins as DLC. The shooting is punchy, panicked and still just a little bit too clumsy to be a genre champion. Clambering around buildings and ruins is a thrill, swinging from grappling hooks, progress routinely punctuated by tumbling masonry and a breathless swear word.

All familiarly rip-roaring stuff, but even a modest and beautifully realised open-world section in which Chloe and Nadine activate ancient machinery and hunt down trinkets with the aid of a (glorious) physical map can’t entirely chase away the sense of 'been there, done that'.

But then the Lost Legacy starts to find its feet, growing in confidence and stature as its adventure unfolds. You are treated to some of the finest sights the series has provided (which really is going some) amid the breathtaking vistas of Indian jungles and the ornate Hindu architecture of its long lost cities.

And within these stunning locales, it finds a delightful rhythm. This is a considerably shorter game than previous Uncharteds, clocking in between 7 and 8 hours, and it is almost entirely beneficial to its pacing. For all of Uncharted’s excellence it was always liable to bloat, and once The Lost Legacy hits its stride it is a much leaner and more focussed beast. Chloe and Nadine bounce from those firefights, to those puzzles and exploration and to those heart-racing set-pieces without anything overstaying its welcome or exposing its frailities.

Chloe and Nadine's burgeoning relationship is the glue that holds The Lost Legacy together.

Most importantly, Chloe and Nadine grow into their roles, becoming more defined as their relationship evolves. Giving both women Daddy issues feels like unnecessary cliche, but elsewhere there are fascinating character moments threaded throughout. Touching on Chloe’s Indian-Australian heritage gives her far richer motivation, while the crack of vulnerability in Nadine as she discusses Shoreline makes her a far more sympathetic prospect.

Thankfully neither woman loses their prickly capability, but the script expertly softens the edges where needed. The performances from Claudia Black as Chloe and Laura Bailey as Nadine, meanwhile, are exceptional. Chemistry crackles between the two as a nascent friendship takes a believable roller-coaster through their stressful situation.

That relationship becomes the glue that holds The Lost Legacy together and the game grows in kind, forging its own identity along the way. It’s still Uncharted, rigidly so, but by the end Chloe and Nadine have subtly shifted its character. The wisecracks and historical nous are still there, of course, but now they belong to a new voice, rather than just being spoken by it.

This is summed up by a spectacular set-piece denouement that can be best described as an Uncharted greatest hits package. You will recognise the beats, but Chloe and Nadine make their own fresh and thrilling impact on the familiar. You could not imagine a more fitting finale.