The beginning, and the end.
There are usually a couple games each generation that people talk about long after they have released. Uncharted is no stranger to this conversation. The second entry in the series is still considered one of the best games of the previous generation, and some questioned whether anything could ever top Nathan Drake’s sophomore outing. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is the final game in the series according to developer Naughty Dog, and it could easily be the best entry, and the perfect swan song for the franchise.
Screenshots do not do this game justice. Anyone who has seen images of Uncharted 4 no doubt knows this game looks fantastic, but until it is illuminating from the TV screen in front of the player, there is no piece of media that does it justice. Character models are outstanding, and each environment the game takes players through is stunning. Worlds crafted with so much detail they feel alive. I found myself exploring every nook and cranny to just to take it all in. The diversity in environments is also impressive. From lush jungles, to extremely detailed interiors, the artists on this game spared no expense.
Price I’d Pay: $59.99
The subtle details in the visuals also impress. Seeing Drake collect mud and water, facial expressions depending on lighting, and small easter eggs and hidden treasures scattered throughout the world. Naughty Dog has made the world of A Thief’s End come alive in ways no other game has. This is the showpiece for the PlayStation 4 and a stern argument as to why we don’t need upgraded consoles; at least not yet.
Uncharted 4 is a lengthy adventure. Over 20 chapters, and depending on difficulty and exploration, it can take upwards of 20 hours to finish the main campaign. The best part is that most of it kept me going. Action sequences are paced perfectly, and exploration is engaging. The first leg of the game though does have some pacing issues. There is a lot of exposition in the initial hours of the game. The story sets up a lot in those first 6-7 chapters, but it pays off, and in big ways. I was extremely happy with how it played out, and the voice acting, and writing, kept it interesting until the final credit roll.
The shooting has also received a massive upgrade in Uncharted 4. It feels great, and with the optional lock-on mechanic, players of lesser skill can still enjoy these once frustrating sections. Enemies are no longer bullet sponges on lower difficulties, and the sheer contextual options make combat feel like a well-directed action movie. Sliding down cliffs, leaping in the air, taking down an enemy with a well-timed punch, and then shooting another while sliding into cover all feels natural; and most importantly, fun.
There are a few new mechanics in the game, with the most obvious one being the rope. This new mechanic allows Drake to swing across areas, and can even be implemented into combat. It not only makes that portion more interesting, the options it opens up for platforming keep things entertaining. There are ridiculous jumps that no human could make, but in an outlandish video game, they are just what the doctor ordered. Late in the game there is also a pick that allows Drake to get a grip on certain walls, not unlike Lara Croft’s pickaxe in the new Tomb Raider games. I felt it was a bit underused, but still an obvious inclusion.
Puzzles also return, but none of them posed much of a challenge. They are more fun “aha” moments than traditional brain teasers. Once again the use of the journal and environmental clues are outstanding, and if players get stuck too long, other characters, or Drake himself, will mutter a hint. It is really well done, and never took me out of the experience.
Collectibles make a return and are actually used for more than just trophies now. Each collectible and optional conversation earns points. These points can be used to unlock new skins, weapons, and even filters for the game. Want to play in a rainbow-inspired world? That is a filter, and let me tell you, it changes the dynamic of playing immensely.
Multiplayer also makes a return, and like most of the Uncharted games, it feels like a nice distraction. Standard modes are here, like deathmatch and capture the flag, but outside of the grapple mechanic, it feels like a basic online shooter. It is cool that all future DLC maps will be free, which should keep some players invested for some time, but nothing about it screams “must play.” The aforementioned skins earned can be used here, but players can also pony up real money to unlock what they want. It feels ordinary in a package that screams extraordinary in every other category.
Nathan Drake’s first and last entry on the PlayStation 4 is one that impresses. Very few games come along with the production values it delivers. The solid campaign is the best the series has seen to date, and visually it is absolutely jaw-dropping. The improvements to combat and traversal go a long way to make it feel like a refined experience, yet it retains that familiar sense of joy as I travelled into each new area. This is the best Uncharted game to date, and quite possibly one of the best games that will come out this generation.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.