As Nathan Drake’s story draws to a close, Santa Monica developer Naughty Dog has just another example, to put in it’s trophy case to prove that it is, bar none, the best developer on the planet, with Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. Since this long journey began, a little less than, a decade ago, Nathan Drake has been around the globe with a cast of lovable characters that now finally comes to a conclusion, that is the best exclusive on the PlayStation 4 and undoubtably the biggest graphical showcase that the console has to offer.
From the start of this game, it feels like the end. From the well done, heartwarming fan service moments, to the paper pushing job Drake starts out with, it’s clear that it’s is putting a nice bow on a franchise near and dear to PlayStation fans hearts, and oh what a bow it is. It oozes from every pour, with nostalgia as it constantly reminds you the connections and bonds you’ve built with it’s characters.
And it’s characters are fantastic. Elena and Sully are back this time with Drake’s long lost brother Sam to go out in search of Libertalia, a lost pirate city filled with riches. The voice acting, from the entire cast featuring Nolan North, Emily Rose, Richard McGonagle and the newly introduced Troy Baker are all extremely well done, with the interplay between the characters front and center at all times. Whether it’s big sweeping performances during cut scenes or the quick, witty interplay throughout, Uncharted 4 does a great job of reminding you why exactly you love these characters.
The overarching story take a lot of cues, in it’s execution from The Last of Us, Naughty Dog previous game. The environmental storytelling by way of, the notes that you find scatter throughout the world, tell an incredible powerful story on the risks of Drake’s treasure hunting lifestyle, much akin to the Ish story in the Last of Us. Making you feel for characters you’ve never even met.
The gameplay in Uncharted 4 is the best that the series has to offer, by a long shot. From the improved shooting to the climbing and navigating around areas, everything thing is fluid and much easier than in past entries. The gunplay works a lot better too, with the addition of hit markers that make you feel more in control and much more pin point with each successive headshot.
The stealth elements are also greatly improved from past entires, building on a foundation from The Last of Us. Entire open areas can be completed without killing a single person, while others work much better by blowing up everything in your path. A perfect ebb and flow to spice up the majority of encounters.
In every overgrown town, devoid of life for generation A Thief’s End find it’s beauty. Walking into old, crumbling buildings isn’t executed better in any other game this generation. The facial animations often leave you with the thought of “how on earth is this possible?” While the gorgeous vistas throughout provide a serene backdrop as Drake soars from cliff to cliff.
The newest mechanic is the addition of the grappling hook, that allows Drake to swing away from careening toward certain death, to a mountainside sure to fall apart a few moments later. The hook also comes in handy, in puzzle solving, something which, while still there, isn’t as prevalent as in Uncharted 3, where it became a bit stale and tedious. The puzzles in this game however, are fresh and don’t drag down the action or story. The also lead too a bunch of set pieces, that show off exactly how beautiful and breathtaking Uncharted 4 is.
The set pieces themselves, a staple in the Uncharted series for many years, unfortunately are few and far between in, A Thief’s End. However, they are no less stunningly death defying and action packed. The trailer from E3 features one of the best moments, as you destroy an entire village with a jeep and blow up trucks, while being dragged along on a motorcycle. Adeline is high whenever, these moments are brought up, which is why its a bit disappointing that there aren’t more of them.
The only other compliant is the excess number of firefights that you are constantly being thrust into. The best thing about Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, was the fact that it had awesome set pieces, that were paced properly throughout. Where Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception was bogged down by puzzles Uncharted 4 is left a bit bloated by gunfights that are a little too long and looking for pallets or boxes for people to climb on. In what is supposed to be a cinematic Indiana Jonesques masterpiece, things get a little too video gamey at some points.
The multiplayer element of the game, while not what you’re there for, is fun and lighthearted. It’s quite funny to fight as Uncharted 3’s villain Talbot against Sam, while throwing Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune treasures like, El Diablo statues at people. The single player adventure also features a bevy of options like 16 bit mode of cel shaded mode, as a fun gesture after the fact.
As a conclusion to the Uncharted franchise, Naughty Dog and creative directors Bruce Straley and Neil Druckmann perfectly end series creator Amy Henning’s work, by putting it’s best foot forward. A Thief’s End strikes the perfect balance between fan service for those who’ve player every game in the series. While still delivering a full on new story complete with it’s own action packed moments to have people clamoring about it for years to come.
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