by Gerardo Rocha
Developer: Naughty Dog
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Format: PlayStation 4
Released: May 10, 2015
The story of Nathan Drake finally came to an end, but boy-o did he go out with bang. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is a remarkable achievement in storytelling and graphical prowess, making it an impressive showcase of what the PlayStation 4 can do.
The Uncharted series has always had top-notch presentation and the fourth entry into the series doesn’t change that. I found myself looking and inspecting every nook and cranny of every room in the game, just marveling at the level of detail Naughty Dog created. It truly is impressive walking around Uncharted 4’s locations and being able to see Nate interact with items or react to his environment. Granted, the series has been known for doing this, but the boost in graphical fidelity gives an extra “oomph” that the previous installments couldn’t touch.
The game does an excellent job of presenting us with what Nate has been up to since his last adventure in Uncharted 3. Drake has settled down with Elena and left behind an exciting but dangerous lifestyle shows us a more domesticated (and somewhat boring) side of our protagonist. Uncharted 4’s set up is not without filling the blanks on his older brother Sam, newcomer to the franchise, that threatens our protagonists new way life.
I’ll try not the give out too much detail on the aspects of the story, but Nate is forced into one more job by a precarious situation Sam is in. Prompting our hero to embark on the search for the lost city of Libertalia and Henry Avery’s pirate treasure. The journey takes the Drake brothers through many exotic locales but I couldn’t help being a little underwhelmed by the third act of the game, as it is very reminiscent of a previous adventure. While I understand that there was a specific purpose on ending on a such a note, the previous Uncharted games always had a new location to look forward to. Uncharted had a jungle, Uncharted 2 had a snowy mountain and Uncharted 3 had a desert. They each gave a unique look and feel to them and stood separately on their own merits and themes, which unfortunately felt this game lacked.
Uncharted 4 introduces a new villainous duo. Rafe Adler is a Jake Gyllenhaal look-alike from Nate’s past and fellow treasure hunter also hot on the trail for Avery’s treasure. Rafe has teamed up with Nadine Ross, the owner of the PMC known as Shoreline who provides the enemies you mow down throughout the game. Both of these characters have a lot of potential, unfortunately their purpose is not much deeper than to foil Nate and Sam through the course of the adventure. Rafe seemed promising given his personal history with Nate, but it is ultimately wasted by the tired and cliche’d “I hate you” attitude. Nadine had room to blossom, but never fully reached the potential her character seemed capable of. Outside of a couple of scenes of her as a badass, there wasn’t much else there. Then again, the villains from the previous installments weren’t anything to write home about. This is understandable since Uncharted 4 focused on and drove the point home that this game was about these two brothers and their journey.
It’s hard not to look at this game and just marvel at its beauty, It’s safe to say this is without a doubt one the best-looking games ever made. The transition from cutscene to gameplay is seamless and the loss in graphical fidelity is almost non-existent. For the first time I actually felt compelled to stop the game and take screenshots of some of the breathtaking vistas that Naughty Dog’s artists put together.
If that wasn’t enough, the voice acting in the game is also some of the best in the series, giving these characters more range and depth than they ever had before. Nolan North and Troy Baker steal the show as the Drake brothers, their banter is natural and their chemistry is undeniable. From the start of Uncharted 4, you buy that these two guys are actually brothers that grew up together and share a very special bond.
Gameplay saw some key improvements, especially in the way the guns are handled. Shooting guns in combat is a lot smoother and the game added indicators to let you know if you killed an enemy with a headshot or a body shot. It’s those little things that keep getting improved on an already solid foundation. The biggest addition, the grappling hook, is a joy to play. The openness of the environments really allows you to approach gunfights (or avoid them) in any way you want. You want to rappel down the side of the cliff and stealth kill an opponent? Swing in guns blazing? You can do that too. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is truly a blast to play.
The 4×4 vehicle sections of the Uncharted 4 showcase how big the environments in the game are. I enjoyed the problem-solving sections with it and the way it was incorporated to make it feel like a natural part of the story.
Some of the set pieces in the game are truly spectacular. Even after viewing the lengthy chase scene from the E3 gameplay demo last year, there was still another wild experience to survive in the immediate section after. Moments like that had me grinning like an idiot as I played through these astounding stages.
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is one the best games I have ever played and is without a doubt my favorite Uncharted game. While it’s not perfect, it doesn’t need to be, just like the game’s characters. Naughty Dog have surpassed themselves once again and I cannot wait to see what they have cooking up next.