ONE LAST ADVENTURE
Forget what you know about Uncharted. In the opening hours of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, it’s clear that we are dealing with a game that cares more about the characters than the heavy set pieces past games became known for. Even in the first hour, we get to know more about Nathan Drake than we did in the past three games. Can Naughty Dog give Nathan Drake the final outing he deserves?
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End keeps the promise of the title as we see Nathan Drake and his family go on one last adventure. Along the way they are met with rich boy Rafe, who has a history with the Drake Brothers. Working with Rafe is Nadine, who owns a paramilitary company. As far as Uncharted villains go they are interesting, but nothing special. Nadine becomes most disappointing because her amazing introduction means little as her role becomes less and less relevant. Rafe isn’t much better. It seems that Naughty Dog wanted to go one way, but as the story continued, something got lost along the way and by the end, these characters fell into the Uncharted Villain trope where they are introduced in a grand fashion only to fizzle out by the end. It’s no differing from Lazarevic and Marlowe from Uncharted 2: Among Thieves and Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception respectively.
But there is a silver lining to the new characters: Sam Drake, Nathan’s long lost brother whom he thought to be dead. If Sam wasn’t an interesting character, then the story itself would fall flat. Thankfully, Naughty Dog and voice actor Troy Baker have created a character that feels like he was part of Nathan’s life at some point. The way Troy Baker and Nolan North talk to each other makes me believe that they are brothers. This is a good thing because Naughty Dog has made its best story for the franchise. It’s thrilling, unpredictable and even heartbreaking at times. This isn’t The Last of Us, but you can see some of the influences from that story. This is still a Grand A adventure that isn’t afraid to have fun and be humorous. It’s more lighthearted than The Last of Us, but more somber than the past games. Unlike previous installments where you know all the beats, Uncharted 4 takes what you know from the past games and flips them on their heads. We learn more about Nathan Drake in Uncharted 4 than all the other games combined. This truly feels like the last time we will see Nathan Drake, Elena Fisher and Victor Sullivan. This is a satisfying story for them with an ending that not only fits with the series, but closes the book for good.
The original trilogy had put the A in Action and while we do go on an adventure, Uncharted has always felt mostly as a shooting affair. For Uncharted 4, the emphasis is on adventure. For the first time in the series, it actually feels like an adventure instead of going from one area to the next fighting off waves after waves of dudes.
The gameplay is Naughty Dog’s best yet. The climbing is much better and more exciting than ever before with death defying stunts and close calls. Even a breaking ledge is unpredictable as the climbing is more dynamic and open to go wherever you need. The shooting is even better than Naughty Dog last game The Last of Us. The bouncing dot that signifies where your bullets hit is a stroke of genius and I hope other games will include it as well. It felt that every time I missed it was my fault and not the game’s. Each gun fight feel like a mini set piece and it’s always thrilling. The shooting mechanics have much improved since Uncharted 3. Every time you fire a weapon, you know where your shots hit and what you need to do to adjust and make that next shot hit. Naughty Dog has given you enough options to play the game that is most enjoyable to you. The game is challenging, but not so much that it will make you scream in frustration. You’ll definitely feel some pride after clearing out an area full of mercenaries. Even if the focus was more on adventure, the action here is still over the top and exciting with a set piece that is better than all the other set pieces combined.
The combat in Uncharted 4 doesn’t feel cheap. There isn’t even a ballroom-like area in the game like in Uncharted 3. There are heavily armed guards, but they are not the bullet sponges as they were in the past games. The level design and the smart AI will keep each fight fresh and no two plays will seem the same. The best thing about the combat is how dynamic it is. It’s entirely possible to stealth past a group of guards or go in guns blazing. Unlike the past games where if you are spotted you can’t go back to stealth, Uncharted 4 allows you to do that. In one area, I alternated the two and it was immensely satisfying when the area was clear.
Another satisfying addition to the game is its rope. By the end of the game, the rope felt like my third arm. You use it quite often either because of combat, climbing, or even during puzzles. The rope is something I wish the series had from the start. It changes the way you view your surroundings either by climbing or in combat. The puzzles this time around are fantastic. It’s not so hard that you’ll be stuck forever, but they are smart enough to make it satisfying to complete. These are the best puzzles in the franchise and, for the most part, they don’t even tell you the solutions.
Exploring and platforming have taken a huge overhaul. Instead of pressing the “X” button just to jump to a small gap, Nathan will do it automatically. He’ll still need to jump to handles, but only when they are just out of reach. The combination of platforming and the rope can lead into some pretty intense moments.
It goes without saying, but Uncharted 4 is one of the best looking games of this generation. How Naughty Dog got so much power from the PlayStation 4 is mind-boggling. Every little detail is thought out and put into the game. Even some of the bars slightly bend out of shape as Nathan is hanging on to them. If there is one flaw in the presentation it’s that the frame rate can drop a few times. It doesn’t happen during gameplay and it rarely happens at all and it hardly breaks the game. It’s small and infrequent enough to call nitpicking.
The sound design is stellar too. The voice acting is great all around. Like the rest of the presentation, all the small details are thought out and put to use. You’ll even hear bodies hit the ground when you pull them down. And the gunfire finally doesn’t sound like a peashooter. There is power behind it. The music unfortunately isn’t as memorable as the past games, but the original theme for Uncharted 4 is great.
The post-game bonus was something I was afraid was going to be left out in Uncharted 4, but thankfully there are post-game rewards. Some can range from a cell shading filter to alter the game’s audio, infinite ammo, or simply to changing the character’s outfits. But It’s not just the single player that Naughty Dog worked on.
If you played Uncharted Multiplayer before, then you have a pretty good notion of what to expect. There are eight maps and four modes with new maps and modes coming free in the coming months. It’s just more Uncharted Multiplayer. If you like the past multiplayer, then there is a pretty good chance you’ll like this one too. Unlike the 30fps in the single player, Naughty Dog has made sure to make multiplayer 60fps. It doesn’t feel jarring as you switch between the single player 30 and the multiplayer 60. Each runs at a smooth frame rate most of the time. I didn’t notice any lag and it’s easy to get into a match. The multiplayer can be exciting if all the players are shooting at each other in one area, but for the most part, it’s what you expect out of an Uncharted multiplayer game.
THE VERDICT: 9.5 out of 10
Naughty Dog has proven once again why they are the best developers in the business. Uncharted 4 improves upon everything that was wrong with the trilogy and it delivers not only the best game in the franchise, but one of the best games on the PlayStation 4. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is truly the end of Nathan Drake and I couldn’t have asked for a better game.
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Jesse Webster is a Senior Writer for MONG and has purchased this game for review and took about 14 hours to complete it on Moderate Difficulty.