Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End Review

Uncharted 4

Naughty Dog has come a long way over the years. The studio first gained widespread recognition with the Crash Bandicoot franchise, of which they developed the entries found on the original Sony Playstation. The Playstation 2 era saw Naughty Dog make a more serious platforming series with Jak & Daxter, while the Playstation 3 years saw them reach new critical heights with The Last of Us and the Uncharted series.

Naughty Dog has now broken their usual conventions by resurrecting one of their series for a new Playstation generation, as the Playstation 4 is now home to the fourth entry of the Uncharted series, which Naughty Dog has claimed will be its final installment before they head into new horizons. If Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End really is the last hoorah for Nathan Drake and co., they probably couldn’t ask for a better sendoff. Uncharted 4 is both a culmination of everything Uncharted has accomplished over the last nine years, and a loving tribute to Naughty Dog’s own history.

Uncharted 4Uncharted 4 sees series hero Nathan Drake in a new light, as he’s put his adventuring life behind him, settled down, and married series heroine Elena Fisher. But when Nathan Drake’s older brother Sam – long believed to be dead – comes back into Nathan’s life, our hero is left with little choice but to resume his dangerous lifestyle.

It turns out that Sam Drake has been locked away in a South American prison for the last fifteen years. Though Sam hasn’t seen the same kinds of adventures as his younger brother, he does share a similar love for adventure, being most obsessed with the lost treasure of the legendary pirate Captain Henry Every (spelled “Avery” in the game). Sam has deduced where to begin searching for the treasure, but made the grave mistake of sharing this information with his cellmate, a notorious drug lord named Alcazar. After Alcazar enacts a prison break, he threatens Sam to find Avery’s treasure for him, giving Sam mere months to do so before Alcazar’s men come looking for him.

Uncharted 4Sam, aware of his brother’s famous exploits, tracks down Nathan Drake, who reluctantly agrees to partake in the treasure hunt to save his brother’s life (after believing to have lost his brother once, Nate can’t bear the thought of losing him again). The brothers recruit Nathan Drake’s old friend Victor “Sully” Sullivan, and the three of them head out on their biggest adventure yet. But things won’t be so easy, as an old rival of the Drakes, Rafe Adler, and his army-for-hire, will stop at nothing to get the treasure first.

Uncharted 4The premise is simple enough, but it serves as a perfect setup for Nathan Drake and company to visit the most exotic locations and partake in the most tremendous action set pieces in the series. The story also provides the series’ best character development, with Nathan, Sam, Sully and Elena all growing as characters, and Rafe proving to be the series’ best villain.

Where Uncharted 4 shines the brightest, however, is in its gameplay. Taking the best elements of its three predecessors – and a few cues from Naughty Dog’s other works – Uncharted 4 is the most polished and varied entry in the series.

Nathan Drake is still able to equip two guns at a time (a pistol and a larger weapon) for a bit of run-and-gun, third-person shooting, and there’s still plenty of platforming and climbing to be had. And yes, there are still Indiana Jones style puzzles to be solved from time to time. What makes Uncharted 4 feel refreshing, despite being the fourth entry in the series, is how well utilized these elements are.

The staging and level design in Uncharted 4 brings out the best of the series’ elements. The combat and platforming feel more fluid than ever, and the puzzles are easily the best in the series, with some of them requiring some serious thinking to solve.

Unfortunately, there are still a handful of shootout segments that are overly long (a complaint I had with previous entries that really seems like it should have been rectified by this point), but they are much less excessive than they were in the third entry. It’s never that these shootout segments are outright bad (a point I might argue was the case in Uncharted 3), but Uncharted is at its best when it’s utilizing all three of its gameplay components: shooting, platforming and puzzles. So when the shooting segments do become a bit excessive, it becomes really noticeable, and can take away from some of the game’s overall genius with their repetition.

Uncharted 4That’s ultimately a small complaint, however, when you take into account how well the overall package is, especially the series’ famous set pieces, which reach new heights with their exhilarating pace and ridiculous setups. From taking part in a gunfight while dangling from a collapsed building over a cliff to the series’ best car chase sequence to booby-trap-filled pirate islands, Uncharted 4 keeps upping the ante with one action achievement after another.

A small gameplay twist has been added to the game’s narrative, as there are a number of instances in which players are given a series of choices for how Nathan Drake reacts to a situation and what he has to say. It’s nothing game-changing, and maybe even a bit under-utilized, but it does help give the game an added dose of personality (not that it had any shortage in that department).

Uncharted 4Another of the game’s highlights is the presentation. Good heavens, is this game ever gorgeous! From a purely technical standpoint, Uncharted 4 might be the best looking game I’ve ever seen. Every environment is richly detailed, and a wonder to behold. The character models and animations are the most realistic I’ve seen in a game, made all the more believable by the great performances of the actors. The cinematic presentation is simply second to none.

The campaign alone would be more than enough, but Naughty Dog has gone the extra mile and included an incredibly fun and addicting multiplayer mode to go with it. Teams of players can face off against each other in a handful of play styles (from death matches to capture the flag, under the title of “Idols”).

Uncharted 4The seemingly simple multiplayer setup turns into something great due in large part to how well it implements the core mechanics from the main game, and tweaks them appropriately for multiple players. Along with the usual platforming and shooting, players can gain upgrades and power-ups by collecting treasure (obtained via defeating enemies, helping downed allies, or finding trinkets throughout the stages). With enough treasure, players can purchase better weapons, AI controlled henchmen (like brutes, medics and snipers), and powerful items called “Mystics,” which pay homage to the supernatural twists of the series by unleashing curses on your foes or giving benefits to your team.

Uncharted 4Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is a wonderful gaming experience that exudes a strong sense of love and dedication on the part of its developers. That main adventure captures the feeling of an action-adventure flick better than any game out there, and the multiplayer is strong enough to hold its own. Take into account that the campaign’s hidden treasures, notes, and secret dialogues are more cleverly tucked away this time around and require some serious exploration to unearth, and that you can unlock customizable options for the multiplayer modes (from small costume changes to additional characters from the series’ history), and you have more than enough content to keep you coming back for more.

Some of the series’ flaws are still present, and the new mechanics that are added aren’t as present as they could have been, but Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is no doubt a milestone for Naughty Dog. In one segment of the game, Nathan Drake plays one of the stages from the original Crash Bandicoot on his Playstation. This moment doesn’t just play into our nostalgia, but also sums up what Uncharted 4 is all about. This isn’t just Nathan Drake’s last ride, it’s also a culmination of Naughty Dog’s accomplishments that started over two decades ago, on the shoulders of a bandicoot.

 

9.5

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11 thoughts on “Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End Review

  1. AfterStory

    Damn you beat me to the punch! I was hoping to post my review first 😛 I truly admire your punctuality! But anyway, this is an excellent review and I’m glad we see eye to eye 😀 (though I think I like the game a tad bit more than you do!) Uncharted 4 is easily the best in the series and arguably the best game that Naughty Dog has ever made. I kind of forgot how much Uncharted 4 is a culmination of not only Drake’s history, but also Naughty Dog’s – especially with that brilliant Crash easter egg! I more focused on Drake’s culminating history in my review so it’s quite delightful to read your take on it 🙂 Without spoiling anything for whoever’s reading this, what was your though on the ending? More specifically the epilogue. It might honestly be my favourite ending to a video game. Such a beautifully serene moment. Anyway, my review should post shortly so hopefully you’ll check it out 🙂 Excellent review as always my friend!

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    1. themancalledscott Post author

      Not going to lie, I actually flip-flopped between a 9.5 an 10 score for this one. Not sure if I made the right call, but it’s the call I made. It is an excellent game to be sure. And here’s hoping that Crash Bandicoot segment is a hint at things to come from Naughty Dog.

      To put it shortly, I loved the ending. I would talk about it more, but I think I’ll save that for a future post with a spoiler warning. 😛

      Glad you enjoyed the review. Maybe we’ll bump into each other in multiplayer sometime (I play as Sully whenever possible).

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      1. AfterStory

        Well a 9.5 is still a phenomenal score and that’s just one of the many words I’d use to describe the game. God that Crash Bandicoot segment was so brilliant! Hopefully, I’m not too sure if Activision still owns the rights though 😦
        Oh cool, well I can’t wait to discuss uncharted 4 in more depth when you write that spoiler piece 🙂
        I always rock Elena! Or Chloe 😛 it’s unfortunate that co-op isn’t available at the moment, but at least they’re going to add it as free DLC 🙂

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      2. themancalledscott Post author

        I consider my 9.5s to be on par with my 10s, but that, for one reason or another, they just aren’t quite…”there.”

        If I’m not mistaken, I think it’s actually Universal who owns the Crash Bandicoot license. Naughty Dog made the originals under their production, and then they moved on to other developers. I could be mistaken, but if that is the case, it is more plausible to see another Naughty Dog Crash Bandicoot game than it is to see a number of other gaming franchises who no longer belong to their original creators.

        I can definitely understand playing as Elena or Chloe. Both are great characters, and I’m sure the view is much better when playing as them. 😛 But I can’t resist the quips of Victor Sullivan.

        When will the DLC be released?

        Liked by 1 person

      3. AfterStory

        No you’re completely right, it is Universal, Activision owns Spiderman and Spyro, two personal favourites that haven’t been getting the proper love as of lately.
        Haha I’d be lying if I said I didn’t play as them for the view 😛 but I’ve always loved the two characters and juxtaposition of one another. If I’m not mistaken, their roadmap states that coop should be added in Autumn 2016 (a whiles away). I’ve been meaning to replay the Crash series, I enjoyed but didn’t love Crash 3 but I absolutely loved CTR (it was my Mario Kart growing up).

        Liked by 1 person

      4. themancalledscott Post author

        I really hope Universal and Naughty Dog work something out. I know most people want Naughty Dog to continue down the more “realistic” route, but I’d lose my mind if they resurrected Crash Bandicoot to his full glory.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Red Metal

    Not quite good enough to snag the ten, eh? Nonetheless, I do intend to check this installment out when I eventually get around to buying a PS4. From what I heard, it’s on par with Uncharted 2, which is good because the third installment was largely just a by-the-numbers sequel.

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    Reply
    1. themancalledscott Post author

      Honestly, this could have been a 10. I was seriously considering between a 10 and a 9.5. I’m not sure if I made the right call, but it’s the one I made. Maybe I’m being a little too stingy with the 10s?

      This is definitely a huge step up from Uncharted 3 (which was good, but more obligatory than necessary). Uncharted 4 actually feels like an expansion of what Uncharted 2 accomplished.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  3. dylan417

    Great write-up. I absolutely adored Uncharted 4. It’s a perfect send-off for a series that helped define a generation of video games. I was so pleased with how the story played out and how it was all centralized around Drake, Elena, Sullivan, and now Sam. Uncharted has always been about the characters for me. The set pieces and third-person adventure gameplay make Uncharted a great game, but its the characters and how the story revolves around them that makes Uncharted something really special.

    When looking at the actual gameplay though, I think that Uncharted 4 has the series’ best variety. Other than the very end, it didn’t really rely on shooting waves of mercenaries. It was more exploring, more traversing, and more optional encounters with groups of enemies where you could decide how to deal with them. I guess this all ties back to the game being less linear and more open. Naughty Dog’s influences from making The Last of Us were pretty apparent in the best way. Back to back masterpieces for Naughty Dog, in my opinion.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. themancalledscott Post author

      Thanks! I do believe Uncharted 4 will go down in the record books as a classic. Definitely one of my favorite games on current consoles and of the decade so far.

      The series does indeed have great characters (especially Sully, who has become one of my favorite video game characters). Combined with its variety, gameplay and set pieces, it’s no wonder why the series has become so iconic. And I think this fourth entry pulled it all off better than any game in the series.

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