Title: Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
Developer: Naughty Dog
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Release date: Out now
tl;dr: A decent enough send off for one beloved thief
Price: £50 / $60 / €70
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Uncharted is a series very dear to me. It’s one of those rare games that doesn’t look like much on the surface, only to be a constant, pleasant surprise as to just how good it really is. With the resounding success of the first three entries in the series, I’ve been eagerly awaiting number four. Does it live up to the hype? I’d say it falls just short of the mark.
On the surface, Uncharted 4 does everything right. It has a decent hook for a story, actually improved on their gunplay, added stuff to make the combat and climbing a better experience, and has graphics that would put most blockbuster movies to shame.
Make no mistake, this game is a goddamn visual masterpiece.
Motion captured, some of the best voice acting I’ve ever heard, and environments that wouldn’t look out of place in a travel brochure – you can guarantee there’s been a lot of time, effort, and love put into Uncharted 4. Whilst I feel, as per the Uncharted norm, the set pieces look better than the character models, it’s by no means to say it looks bad. I’ve said before we’re inching closer and closer to hyper-realism in gaming, and this does nothing to dispel that notion.
The gameplay in this series is pretty simple – scramble up walls, or shoot some bad guys. The fourth iteration in the series has added a couple of new features which added a lot to the gameplay experience – a grappling hook, and a stealth mechanic that’s received an incredible overhaul since we first saw it in Among Thieves.
The former lets you save Nate from jumps and slides that would otherwise kill him, snagging your rope around branches at the last second and leaving the poor man dangling by a thread over dangerous abysses and canyons. Even better, you can have Nate let go of the rope and drop down on to enemies to kill them, or swing in like Tarzan and send them pelting across the room. The devs clearly had a lot of fun with it, and I did too; it’s a welcome addition to the climbing.
The climbing itself is pretty untouched, just edited to be smoother and have Nate reach for handholds rather than leap up walls, and while you can stab a knife in certain walls to reach another handhold ala Tomb Raider, there’s not a whole lot of difference.
Stealth, on the other hand, is now massively improved. Previously, the enemies would spot you pretty quickly, and it was honestly more trouble than it was worth, like it was just tacked on for the sake of it. Now the enemies have gauges you can see, determining how alert they are to Nate’s presence, and the AI is improved so much, they won’t be able to see Nate taking down someone in a stealth kill. It’s actually a viable way to take enemies out of gunfights, and a useful one to boot.
The plot, however, is where I think this game falls down, and considering the legacy it had preceding it, this is a crying shame. Make no mistake: Uncharted 4’s story is not bad, by any means, but I don’t feel it has quite the same impact as the other three.
For example, side characters and people outside the core three were important; Chloe Frazer, Charlie Cutter, Eddie Raja, Harry Flynn, Marlowe, and Talbot all served to flesh out the narrative, and were there for a reason. Most of them had solid personalities and goals, and livened up the story. This time, Sully is barely there at all, Nadine was hyped up to be the big bad of the game and has nothing in terms of personality apart from “angry and punches things,” and as much as it pains me to say it, Sam is a plot device who doesn’t get the time to develop that he deserves. While Uncharted 2 managed to develop Chloe and Flynn quickly and easily with the little time they had, there’s something about Sam that feels criminally underused.
Rafe was actually my favourite of the bunch, and has pretty decent motive and characterisation that’s established quickly and effectively, but everything about Sam just feels forced. Since he only sort of fits into the established canon of Uncharted 3, the hasty retcons in the story are obvious and grating. It honestly feels like a story that would have fitted better into Uncharted 3, rather than 4, and isn’t 100% necessary to be told. The additions to Nate and Elena’s relationship and improving on the slightly rocky place they’d left it at the end of the last game made it worth the sixteen hour play time, but apart from that, this game feels too long. Honestly, the Scotland part could have been cut with little problems, and I get the impression the story was written around the set pieces, much like 3 was. Is this because they were running out of material, since a trilogy was enough? Or was the lack of Amy Hennig, after all of the drama last year, the problem? I can’t be sure.
I’ll be clear; the story is not bad, but I don’t think it holds up to the first three games. The legend of Avery and Libertalia’s downfall is a wonderful metaphor for both Drake brothers’ self-destructive issues, yet it all feels it comes a game too late, complete with lack of any supernatural elements, disappointingly.
Uncharted 4 is a delight to play, the flashback chapters are gorgeous, and that epilogue made me cry. It’s just not quite the right send off for my beloved thief.
- Environments are gorgeous
- Aim lock for the gunfights are an absolute godsend for people like me who have really bad eyesight
- Best voice acting I’ve heard in years
- The game is too long and the second act really drags
- Plot is weak compared to its usual high calibre
- Sam is poorly retconned into the story and isn’t particularly well developed as a character.
Uncharted 4 has a 16 rating for “Blood, Language, Use of Alcohol and Tobacco, and Violence,” according to the ESRB, and that’s all accurate. Soldiers and enemies die in increasingly brutal and bloody number of ways, and Nate seems to be going for the world record for the number of times “Shit,” is used in a video game.
This review is based on a retail build of the game purchased for the purpose of this review.