Spoiler Warning: This review contains some minor spoilers for Uncharted 4! Read at your own risk.
Having released the first installment of the Nathan Drake adventure game in 2007, Naughty Dog released Uncharted 4 for PlayStation, and it knocks the other ones out of the park. A Thief’s End was easily one of 2016’s most anticipated game, and it hasn’t disappointed.
Neil Druckmann seems less like a director and writer of a video game and more like a showrunner of a series that is heart-wrenchingly coming to a close. This installment focuses on story and plot and characters as much as it does on action sequences and gameplay. You’d think players would get tired of the repetitive style of the series, while in fact it ends up being quite the opposite. With each installment, the story only gets better and better. The graphics are the best of any I have ever seen, the gameplay is beautiful…so much so, that I found myself standing atop ruins in the mountains, a volcano looming in the background, and turning the camera around to look in awe at the scenery surrounding me. The world is massive, but overwhelming, making me crave more.
Uncharted isn’t an open world game, but it manages to maintain the feel and freedom of an open world game. In THE LAST OF US, Naughty Dog did a phenomenal job of connecting the audience emotionally to our main characters but it lacked that open world feel; it was a linear game and felt like it.
Setting this one apart from the previous games, we start this game several years after Nate’s (Nolan North) last adventure. He’s settled down with Elena (who we know from previous games and are relieved they’re finally together having felt the sexual tension from outer space…), and is now working as a retired fortune-hunter and puzzle-solver, and working at fishing old copper wires out of rivers…thrilling right? Not so much. Nate isn’t happy, and Elena knows it. Upon the return of his presumed-dead brother Sam Drake (Troy Baker), who seems to be in trouble with some bad people, Nate is pulled back into the world of thieves, guns and plundering. He, Sam and Sully (Richard McGonagle) travel around the world pursuing an old historical conspiracy involving a pirate treasure from Henry Avery and visiting some enchanting and exotic destinations. I will say the ending wasn’t a huge surprise, almost slightly expected, but it didn’t take away from my love for this game. It’s beautiful, and you have to play it to see for yourself.
Nathan Drake and the Team
Apart from his apparent bluer eyes and blonder hair, Nathan hasn’t really changed that much from the previous games. He is still the hungry, sarcastic, adventure-seeking man we all know and love who takes his brother and the ever-so-trusty Sully (whom we also know from the other games) to places like the Scottish Highlands, Italy, Panama and Madagascar to name a few. He DOES have a few new gadgets including the grappling hook which allows the player to swing, repel and climb your way through the world of UNCHARTED.
Not unlike the others, UNCHARTED 4 is an action-adventure game played from a third-person perspective. Nate uses his usual firearms such as assault rifles and pistols, and throws the occasional grenade. The Naughty Dog Team added the extra excitement of a grappling hook, allowing Nate to swing, climb and repel. Also added is the feature of the player being able to directly take control of a vehicle and occasionally use a winch to pull the jeep up muddy or slippery areas. Stealth components have also been added to the gameplay, allowing our protagonist to sneak up on enemies unaware and take them out.
The maps are significantly larger than previous games. I’ve also noticed that the AI enemies are much more alert and aware of Nate and the team. They respond much faster and they also seem to coordinate with one another making some levels much more difficult to get through (ahem, I see you Chapter 10). Let me tell you, there is a significant sense of relief when that battle music dies down and you can finally come out from cover exhale.
The transitions between cut scenes and gameplay are seamless, and I mean seamless. You can be driving freely around in your jeep and suddenly hop out and be amidst gunfire or falling boulders. There is a real emphasis on exploration in this game, more so than the previous ones.
I have to say the coolest level so far, was the Clock Tower level and the Madagascar level (which many saw in the demo released earlier this year). In the latter, a volcano is shown clearly as the end point but really you can freely explore and drive around, taking your sweet time getting there. You know the lighter dirt roads are clearly the ones you should take…but why zoom through the game, right? Take your time. Appreciate the game. It flies by in the best way.
What was also an added bonus in this game, was the incorporation of modern technology so that it felt like we were right there with Nathan and his exploration team. He used his cell phone to take photos and text to his brother Sam. He took calls, it buzzed and it helped the player (sadly enough) connect to their world. Just another added sense of genius from the talented team at Naughty Dog.
If you were a fan of the older adventure games, there is no reason why you won’t fall in love with this one. The graphics are better, the classic characters are the same but with a stronger character arc, the weapons are better, the AI are more astute (making it slightly more challenging than the previous installments)…
As with most new Playstation titles, $60 is a lot to spend on a game…it’s worth it.