Uncharted 4 is a game that has been a long time coming and has gathered a huge amount of hype over the last year or so. This final outing for Nathan Drake sees developer Naughty Dog set the bar for what gaming can be. The game is quite simply stunning, with photo-realistic visuals, beautiful locations and fun gameplay.
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is one of the most anticipated Sony releases for the PS4 so far and is certainly up there with the biggest releases of all time. Naughty Dog has delivered some fantastic experiences over the years and the first Uncharted was the reason I purchased the PS3. It’s extremely clear from the get go that Naughty Dog have put a tremendous amount of time, effort and love into this game and every moment feels unique and utterly breathtaking. The characters, story, gameplay and environmental design are all top-notch and come together to make one of the best gaming experiences in recent times. I will also say that this Uncharted game has clearly taken ideas and technical aspects from The Last of Us and used them to improve the experience here.
A Thief’s End feels like a massive blockbuster movie, but also has fantastic gameplay and huge amounts of depth to it. It takes a little while to get going, with a brief opening that sees you play as a young Nathan Drake, similar to previous segments of past Uncharted games. Chapter one introduces Nathans brother Sam, his now long-lost brother, who’s never been mentioned in previous editions. Before starting the game and knowing Nathans brother was going to be introduced in this game with no mention at all in previous games, made me a little skeptical and thought it might feel forced, but in fact it is done fantastically well and the reasons for why Nathan has never mentioned his brother is understandable. I wasn’t sure if I was going to like Sam at first, but he is a fantastic addition to the game and adds another perspective to the events that unfold. This game allows the player to learn much more about Nate’s childhood and upbringing than any of the previous games. Naughty Dog have shown that they can not only make games that are fun to play, but also deliver interesting stories with characters that feel real. Nate’s relationships with Sam, Sully, and, Elena is what makes the game so compelling and investing.
After playing as a younger Nate you skip forward to an older Nathan Drake. Drake has settled down with Elena and is living a somewhat normal life. Suddenly Nate’s older brother Sam, who was thought to be dead returns with some troubling news. I don’t want to give too much away but the reasons for why Sam has returned is exciting, scary and sets up the premise of the game to come. From this point Nate begins his adventure and sets off on a journey that sees him exploring, making massive discoveries and faces some big twists. What makes the game so great is how it manages to have huge set pieces, full on combat and death-defying stunts but then manages to have moments of calm that allow for character development and we get to learn more about Nate’s relationships with the people most important in his life.
Uncharted 4 doesn’t have some of the more outrageous set pieces we have seen in the previous games, but what the game does well is having chapters that feel slower paced and then moves into the next with fast-paced action. This helps to exaggerate the action and it give the game good pacing and leaves you wanting to find out what happens next. I loved The Last of Us but I was worried that the dark and somber tone would seep into this Uncharted game, where I feel its meant to be much more lighthearted and fun, with some serious story elements threaded throughout. Uncharted 4 still keeps it relatively light even with a slightly more serious personal journeys. The Last of Us certainly seeps into this game, but only in a good way. Uncharted 4 also has some very funny moments and manages to inject humour throughout the intense action and personal stories.
The story is great and is made even better with fantastic voice acting from some extremely talented actors like Nolan North, Troy Baker, Emily Rose and Richard McGonagle. The writing is fantastic and the cast inject real personality and flair to the characters, which Naughty Dog seem to do better than any other developer. The Uncharted 4 story is mostly centered around the search for Pirate Captain Henry Avery’s long-lost treasure. The adventure is interesting enough but it’s the relationships that make the game so compelling and personal.
Probably one of the most obvious aspects taken from The Last of Us is the way in which Nate can pair up with other characters, like the combo of Joel and Ellie, to fight your way through the game. Nate is almost always paired up with another non-player character and you also get the choice to go in guns blazing or to have a stealthier approach. Not only does the gameplay here feel great but the dialogue and banter between the characters feels genuine and made me want to always hear what each character had to say. The dialogue is extremely clever and the depth to the conversational mechanics is unlike any other gaming experience. It feels realistic and natural and characters and like they would in real life.
I have always been a fan of the combat in the Uncharted series, although some say it’s not as strong as the rest of the game. In Uncharted 4 the combat is better than it has ever been. The gunplay here feels improved and we also see some nice new additions to the gameplay like Nate’s grappling hook. The movement feels smooth and traversing ledges, environments and moving into cover feels better than before. Enemies this time around still feel much the same as previous games but I felt that the reasons for them being there was much more believable. You face similar enemy types like in previous installments, whether its snipers, heavy armoured enemies or bad guys with shotguns and so on. The enemy types feel a bit limited but there’s so much else going on that it doesn’t impact the overall experience.
Uncharted 4 is simply stunning in terms of visuals and is quite possibly one of the best looking games I have ever played, and I’ve played a lot of games in my lifetime. The characters look insanely realistic with awesome facial animations, movement and it simply has some of the most photorealistic characters ever seen in a video game. The expressions on characters faces really do show emotion and it looks like you’re looking at real people. Then there’s the various locations you visit that have absolutely stunning environments that are wonderfully designed. You will journey through urban areas, jungles and even head underwater. Every single area and corner of each locations feels dense, detailed and full of interesting things to explore. I would often find myself stopping at times to simply look at how beautiful the game is and with the addition of photo mode you can capture these beautiful moments.
The game is far less guided than past games, but still subtly guides you along a particular path. There are now some small open areas that you can explore and you can even use new climbing and traversal mechanics, including a few drivable vehicles. The game allows you to explore much more than in previous games and overall it feels much less linear.
The game still has some puzzle elements but there not as frequent or even as frustrating as the previous games. Each puzzle is both clever in its design and well thought out for the story. They always felt purposeful and part of the story and I actually really enjoyed these moments as they didn’t feel overused. They also help break up the gameplay and add slower paced moments to the combat and action.
Multiplayer returns and this time around it feels better than ever. I haven’t put a huge amount of time into this yet but have played enough to give a few comments on how it plays. You can choose loadouts, characters and buy boosters before starting a game and the game plays very well. The shooting feels good but I did find the hand to hand combat a bit clumsy and cumbersome at times. The multiplayer has a few different game modes that add some good variation and the game has plenty of unlockables. Some people may not even think about playing the multiplayer and simply play the campaign but I would certainly recommend giving it a chance after finishing the main game.
Overall Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is simply one of the best games in recent years and is arguably one of the best games of this generation. Despite the hype, credentials or fan following the game is worth recommending by all accounts. From the fantastic characters to the beautiful environments to the immersive story its an experience that feels unrivaled for this current generation. Gaming is all about having fun and Uncharted 4 not only plays great but looks visually impressive and has emotional depth and impactful relationships that develop during the campaign. The writing here is brilliant and helps elevate the game to an even higher standard. This is a perfect send off to the series and Nate’s journey. I would still recommend playing the previous games first, which you can pick up in the form of the Uncharted collection, as this game is heavily focused on the relationships that have developed over the series. There are also tonnes of references and nods to the previous games, even Golden Abyss on the vita. I don’t want to spoil anything but chapter 4 possibly has one of my favourite moments in any game in a long time with a cameo from a beloved PlayStation icon and mascot. Naughty Dog have proven once again that they can produce a stellar experience and in my opinion are consistently setting new standards for what video games can be.
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