“Oh crap” – That’s how I felt going into Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End knowing that it was going to be the last Nathan Drake adventure I’d ever get to play. It also reflects the slight caution I was going into the game with because I didn’t love Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception. Oh crap, after this it will just be the memories of a magnificent franchise. Oh crap, please Uncharted 4 be awesome.
The truth is, there has been so much excitement and hype for the game that it was always going to be hard to measure up to expectations, but having played through the game all I could think of when the credits were rolling was “Oh crap, that was incredible”.
A true Nathan Drake adventure
Uncharted 4 kicks off a few years down the line where Nathan is trying to live the simple life with Elena. He goes on salvage diving trips and generally stays out of trouble. This all turns on its head when his brother, Sam Drake, returns from nowhere and enlists Nathan’s help to seek out Henry Avery’s treasure – needed to save his life.
The two set off on finding the treasure, and as with each of the Uncharted games, they aren’t the only ones looking for it. In Uncharted 4 we are introduced to a rich guy looking to make history, and his partner in crime and her South African Mercenaries. Nothing is ever easy for Nate, we know this, but this time it’s more perilous than ever before because of the way it is all set up.
Never before in a review have I wanted to reveal so much about a story, but at the same time I don’t want to say a word. Uncharted 4 has some of the best storytelling you will ever see in a game and takes the word adventure to its truest form. Make no mistake this is the definition of an adventure with the obsession of a treasure long lost the main focus, along with the relationships between the characters.
[pullquote_left]…you can literally feel the tension, the love, the care…[/pullquote_left] A special mention must be made in terms of the characters in Uncharted 4. The voice acting by Nolan North and Troy Baker for the Drake brothers couldn’t be more perfect. This is two of the best voice actors working together, feeding off each other and bringing out stellar performances. The chemistry between them is near perfect. Even more perfect though is the chemistry between Nate and Elena (voiced again by Emily Rose). The feeling that goes into their interactions is something I have hardly ever seen in a game before. You can literally feel the tension, the love, the care and the frustrations of each character throughout the game.
This kind of performance brings out something so special in the final Uncharted game, something that fans of the series will truly appreciate because it epitomises the commitment from the development team in terms of knowing their characters.
Hop, Skip and a Punch
Uncharted 4’s gameplay doesn’t differ in its basics from the other Uncharted games. There are shooting bits, platforming bits and exploring bits all broken into parts between epic set pieces. While I found Uncharted 3 to really force so much action into the game, Uncharted 4 just gets the balance so right. No more endless enemies shooting at you and no more forced hand-to-hand combat around every corner.
Instead, Uncharted 4 gets the doses just right. The shooting sections have a natural feel to them with a believable amount of enemies needed to be taken out. What makes this even better is the amount of options you have to take them out and while shooting at everyone is great with the variety of weapons, it’s nice to change it up and go stealth mode or even swing from a tree and take out the enemy, grabbing his gun in the process. The areas are much wider too, meaning that you have that kind of agency when it comes to attacking a set of enemies.
The hand-to-hand combat is much improved and because the majority of the time you have Sam with you it takes a page out of The Last of Us combat, in terms of the double team combat. It’s fluid and natural and never breaks the momentum at all.
Even more impressive was the platforming sections. I felt that Uncharted 3 lacked the platforming bits, something that made Uncharted 1 and 2 so good. Uncharted 4 doesn’t load each level with crazy amounts of platforming, but scaling all the mountains and doing so with such a beautiful backdrop is something that just never got old throughout the game.
The set pieces are the final piece of the puzzle in the game and they are as splendid as ever. Whether you are being chased around by an army, or chasing after a crane, or the new vehicle sections that’ll have you driving through the streets in an attempted escape, it all has that feeling of epic adventure that has made Nathan Drake and Uncharted so well loved.
The gameplay isn’t completely perfect though, and my main criticism of the game comes in terms of the AI enemies. In most situations you have the opportunity to use stealth to engage the enemy, but that goes to pieces if you are spotted. The game uses a Metal Gear Solid-like system by which if the enemy does spot you they are all alerted. Sometimes you can walk almost in front of the enemy but if you don’t just stand there they don’t ‘realise’ it was you and don’t become alerted. It’s a little bit sloppy if I am honest, though it didn’t really take away from the gameplay that much.
Beauty isn’t always in the eye of the beholder
[pullquote_right]…I lost the amount of times the visuals took my breath away[/pullquote_right]They say that beauty is a subjective thing, but that can’t always be true if Uncharted 4 is an example. It is quite easily the most impressive looking game I have ever played in my life. Every single detail has been given such care that there wasn’t even a leaf out of place. The realism that comes through from every environment is superb and I lost count the amount of times the visuals took my breath away.
There were so many times where I stopped and just looked around at the backdrop, or the detail in plants, grass, boats, city streets, mansions, the ocean floor and many other spots the game takes you to. It’s all supplemented by incredible character models which I continuously stopped to admire too. I think my wife got irritated with me telling her to “look at this, and look at that”. I was in awe from start to finish and I am quite honestly astounded as to how impressive Naughty Dog have made this game look.
I have already mentioned the voice acting, but the sound overall also plays a massive part in the game’s beauty and is quite on point with how brilliant the rest of the game is.
Nathan uncovers even more
The campaign lasts around 15 hours depending on how much exploring you do. There are, once again, little treasures to be discovered in each area as well as interesting notes and journal entries. Once you complete the game you can unlock a bunch of options such as character skins, concept art and some modifiers which change up the experience somewhat.
There is also the option of playing on the harder difficulties which will then increase the time spent, but playing on the normal difficulty is already a challenge enough, so don’t think you will be getting it too easy at any point.
As for the multiplayer section of the game, sadly the servers have not been live so I am unable to comment on this part of the game. I loved the bit I played in the beta so I am confident the multiplayer will be a great addition, but if I am completely honest the game doesn’t even need it to be a success as the single player campaign is just so good.
Gone, but never forgotten
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End might be just that – the end for the franchise, and it’s a fitting one that will remain in the memories of all the fans. It’s a game that provides so much service to an already much loved series and characters that has ever graced the gaming world. Naughty Dog have very clearly poured a lot of love into making this a game the fans deserve and it shows in nearly every single aspect.
It’s one last adventure for Mr Drake and while it leaves plenty to admire, plenty to ponder, it doesn’t leave you with any doubts, just a thankfulness that you get to be part of such a special world. Uncharted 4 might not be perfect in all it does, but it really is the perfect conclusion to a fantastic experience. Never before have I finished a game and had the desire to start it over immediately, I am just not sure I am ready to leave the world of Uncharted behind me just yet.
I am sure that most gamers don’t need to be told twice, but Uncharted 4 is THAT good and shouldn’t be missed. It’s the action game we need, it’s the adventure game we deserve, it’s the story that we love and it’s a glowing reference to the work that Naughty Dog have put in and we get to benefit from.