Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End Review
After a full years delay Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is finally here. With it comes lofty expectations for a franchise that continually sets industry standards for cinematic gameplay and graphical design. We’re not going to beat around the bush, Uncharted 4 is simply one of the greatest games ever created and a heavy favourite for 2016 Game of the Year.
If this is in fact the last Uncharted game in the franchise then the character of Nathan Drake can truly retire as a fortune hunter knowing he delivered one the greatest gaming experiences ever created.
The story takes place several years after the events of Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception. Nathan Drake, now a retired fortune hunter, has settled into a married life with long time series love interest Elena Fisher. Trading in his shotgun and signature cowboy belt buckles (and lifestyle) for a more subdued career as a salvage diver. From the outset of the game it becomes very obvious that Nathan is having difficulties adjusting to his new life and the lack of adrenaline pumping adventure.
Not to worry though, his suburban world is quickly turned upside down with the introduction of his older brother Samuel Drake. Sam was thought to be dead for 15 year and his appearance out of the blue leaves Nathan at a loss for words. They exchange tales of Nathan’s adventures from previous games and seemingly pick up where they left off as close brothers. However, the happy reunion is short lived. Sam informs Nathan that he is in serious trouble; trouble that conveniently can only be solved by embarking on a great adventure resulting in a global hunt for a long lost pirate treasure. Although the story is somewhat predictable, it works for the context of the game. Those unfamiliar with the series will be left somewhat in the dark. Nods to events and objects from previous games serve as fan service. You could play this new adventure and not feel completely left out; however, to fully appreciate the narrative and character interaction we recommend playing the previous three main entries, or at least read a story synopsis.
The gameplay in Uncharted 4 remains virtually unchanged from previous iterations. The game is a mix of third person shooting, puzzle solving action adventure, and exciting platforming sequences that will leave your jaw glued to the floor. Shooter mechanics are smooth and intuitive and platforming is the best in the series. No matter how many times we did it, swinging across a chasm and barely grabbing a conveniently placed hand groove never got old. Puzzles are not as extravagantly designed as they were in previous games, but suit the narrative. In terms of difficulty, they shouldn’t pose too much of a problem for seasoned fortune hunters.
Speaking of fortune hunting, a plethora of collectibles make their return. This includes old journal entries, optional NPC conversations, quick sketches for Nathan’s journal, as well as the standard oddities found randomly on the ground. As you collect various items you accumulate points. After you complete the 12-15 hour campaign these points can be exchanged for starting weapons, characters skins, and even video and audio filters that you can seamlessly turn on and off while in game. Much was made of the optional dialogue choices showcased in an earlier demo; however, aside from 3-4 specific character events they are never significantly incorporated into the game’s narrative.
Uncharted 4 is undoubtedly one of the best looking game we have ever played on any platform. Environments and settings are diverse and span across the globe. At different times they can be intimate and immersive or sweepingly beautiful. One very small critique is that the environments are so beautifully designed and detailed that sometimes character models pop out at forefront when the camera is up close. This only happened on a couple occasions during larger set piece moments.
With an all-star cast featuring the talents of Nolan North and Troy Baker, voice acting becomes the industry gold standard. From the somber moments to quick one liners, the dialogue keeps you engaged with the characters at all times.
Overall, we are scratching our heads and possibly citing witchcraft to how Naughty Dog could squeeze that many polygons out of the PlayStation 4 hardware. Apart from when you first boot up the game there are no loading screens between chapters or scenes. This raises questions on how much more the platform can be pushed knowing the game started development at the beginning of this console generation.
There was never any real doubt that Uncharted 4: Thief’s End would be a great game. The question was how much more Naughty Dog could deliver on an upgraded platform. The franchise pillars of cinematic storytelling and action movie gameplay remains unchanged. The formula remains the same but the result surpasses all possible expectations. If this is in fact the last Uncharted game in the franchise then the character of Nathan Drake can truly retire as a fortune hunter knowing he delivered one the greatest gaming experiences ever created.
Reviewed & Written by Nic
If you have any questions about my review leave them below. Also let me know what you think of the game as well.
Be sure to follow me on Twitter @tetraninja where I will be giving away five copies of the game shortly after release.
Developer: Naughty Dog
Release: May 10, 2016
Genre: Third Person Shooter, Action Adventure, Platformer
Platforms: PlayStation 4
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Disclaimer: Self captured gameplay and screenshots are embargoed until Monday May 9th at 9:00am EST. Screenshots will be added to this article after the embargo lifts. Instead of using stock footage we are waiting until the embargo lifts so we can present a spoiler free video review that can be edited freely and best represents our thoughts. This is when the series Let’s Play/Walkthrough will begin as well. Lastly, Thank You to Sony for providing an advanced copy for review.