Over the weekend, I was finally able to put Destiny down long enough to wrap up Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, according to Naughty Dog, Nathan Drake’s final adventure in the series. So it’s a little bittersweet for me. I’m thrilled that I was able to complete the game and experience one of the most cohesive and exciting games I have ever played (more on that in a minute). But, it’s also slightly heartbreaking that this is it for Nathan Drake. I have been a huge fan of the series since day one. As I said earlier, Naughty Dog has publicly made it very clear that this is Drake’s final outing. But, I can’t help fight the feeling that they have to revisit this franchise at some point again in the future. I have no intentions of spoiling any major plot points, but I will say that I can definitely see ways that ND would be able to tell other stories sans Nathan Drake.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. Uncharted 4 is a beautiful game. Naughty Dog has always been able to eek out every last drop of processing power of Sony’s consoles, and they have definitely not only done it again, but blown all their past titles out of the water. I half expected my PS4 to start sizzling at certain frenetic points in the game. Uncharted 4 is hands down not only one of the best looking games of this console generation, but probably of all time. There was numerous times where I would try to control something only to find out that it was a cut-scene. This is one of the first games where the in-game visuals are right on par with the cinematic’s. The animation is superb and the characters move with fluidity and with weight behind them. I never experienced any lagging or frame rate drops or anything like that, even when there was a ton of enemies on screen and all hell breaking loose with explosions and gunfire all around me. Everything feels so solid and grounded. There’s a lot of nice little idle animations that Drake does such as dusting dirt off his clothes, holding his hand up to block the sun in his eyes, fan dust, dirt, and debris that is floating in the air in front of his face. And it just wouldn’t be Nathan Drake if it didn’t have his sarcastic quips and one-liners. It’s good to see that Nathan has not lost his sense of humor in his slightly older age.
While the previous games in the series were all great in their own right, you can definitely see Naughty Dog learned a lot from their time working on The Last of Us. The pacing of the story is perfect. The character animation and voice acting is stellar. Uncharted 4 is one of the most cohesive games I have ever played. Most games will do one maybe a couple things good, sometimes great, and then take a crap on the rest of the games. The cut-scene cinematic’s are so well acted and animated that they are literally, unarguably better than a good amount of films. Kristen Stewart movies hands down, but that is a whole other can of worms that I will not get in to. The scenes are perfectly paced, spread out enough to not be redundant as well as not overshooting it a being too long winded. Even if they were long, I would probably compare them to something like Metal Gear Solid cinematic’s where they are so well done and you are so captivated by the narrative and eager to know what happens next, you wouldn’t even mind. You would most likely applaud it and want more.
Uncharted 4 also implemented a couple new mechanics as well. First is one that I mentioned a little bit back in my First Impressions article I did on the game, the grappling hook. I can see a grappling hook being a tricky tool to implement in a video game, but as with most aspects of what they do, Naughty Dog and co. pulled it off brilliantly. I can’t think of any issues that I ever had with it. My take away from this mechanic is that most of the time it was really fun to use and made you feel like a complete bad ass jumping off a large cliff, throwing the hook out, latching onto a distant pole or structure, and swinging across a gorgeous, massive expansion to safety and rolling right into cover, weapon drawn engaging baddies. As I’ve said, everything is all so seamless and is not a chore to pull of on a regular basis. The grappling hook segments are good enough that, when they come along, you actually feel a tinge of excitement rather than anxiety that a segment that is not that fun is coming up. Another new mechanic that Naughty Dog threw into the mix is a tad more fleshed out stealth mechanic. While there has been some small stealth segments in the series before, there has never been one like this. There is now tall bushes that you can slink through, if enemies are suspicious a little meter will pop up over their heads yellow in color and will gradually fill up as they get more suspicious. Once they are alerted to your presence the meter will turn white and more often than not, all hell breaks loose in the most glorious of ways. There is also a second, albeit smaller climbing mechanic Nathan Drake sports in Uncharted 4. During the adventure, he comes across a small spike like instrument that he uses to climb areas that don’t really have handholds. With a press of the square button, he jabs the spike into the wall face and uses it as a much needed hand hold. A small thing I noticed in this entry is that the hand holds for climbing are not as noticeable as ones in previous entries in the series. In the past, the areas where you were expected to climb were very apparent. In Uncharted 4 the climbable areas look just as any other area in the environment so there was a few times were I got a little perplexed as to where to go next simply because I missed seeing an area where you could climb out. Now, it’s more realistic that way and honestly I love it and wouldn’t have it any other way.
Uncharted games in the past have always had excellent narrative elements, but Uncharted 4 turns the dial to 11. They definitely have a lot more visual storytelling segments this time around. There’s letters and documents throughout the environments you can collect that provide a glimpse into the past of the characters involved. If you pay close attention to your surroundings, there is items and set pieces throughout the game that provide backstory to the world of Uncharted. For example, there is one segment in the Drake household where you are free to roam around a little bit and in Elena’s office you can see her degree framed on the wall, journalism awards that she has won in the past, etc. In Nathan’s part of the house, their is a part that is a special treat to fans of the series that I won’t spoil here, but being a huge fan of the series since day one thought it was the coolest thing ever.
The haters have always focused on the series linearity and on Naughty Dog’s tendency to script everything so tightly that the player can’t do much more than follow what’s been story-boarded. Uncharted 4 doesn’t entirely break that mold, though the new systems and more open settings definitely help. But maybe freedom is the price you pay for a thrill-ride this exciting. The series has always been known for it’s over the top action set pieces and this one does not disappoint either. A particular chase scene, a collapsing bridge, waterfalls, are a few moments that immediately come to mind. The stellar acting combined with some of the best graphics I have ever seen in a game form set pieces that rival even the biggest of summer action blockbusters.
The Last Word
I have never used a numerical score for my reviews, but if I did I would not have any qualms giving Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End a perfect 10. I can comfortably say that, even without putting much thought into it, this game would definitely go down on my Top 5 Games of All Time list. If I was to really run through it, it most likely would make it into the Top 3. Even if you haven’t played any of the games in the series you could pick this one up and play, but why wouldn’t you treat yourself and pick up a copy of this along with the first three games in the series conveniently bundled in the stellar remastered Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection. I promise you, if you have a heart in your body, you will not be disappointed. Naughty Dog has rapidly made themselves one of the premier studios in the industry and, personally, I can NOT wait to see what they do next. Presumably The Last of Us 2. Here’s hoping!….CHEERS!
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