Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End Review
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, without a doubt is one of the most anticipated titles of 2016, here as an exclusive to the Playstation 4 console, and quite possibly one of my several reasons for being a Sony fan over Microsoft (The Last of Us being another reason) Unsurprisingly, these favorite franchise titles of mine are made by the same company – Naughty Dog, whom has yet to disappoint.
If you read my Uncharted 4 preview from the E3 2015 event, you’d know that I highly recommend playing the previous 3 entries of the franchise (found in Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection) prior to touching this installment. Having gone through the game now, I stand by my recommendation and I am very pleased to say that I had minor issues and found much enjoyment during my play through of what has been said to be –and I hope is– the final chapter of the Uncharted saga.
The story for Uncharted 4 is simple – find the treasure of legendary pirate Henry Avery. Where Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception explored the relationship with Victor “Sully” Sullivan, this one explores the relationship with Sam Drake, Nate’s brother, who we are meeting for the first time in the franchise. The game is, I am glad to say, as lengthy as the original Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune and its follow up Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, reaching 24 chapters including a prologue and epilogue.
We begin with the two brothers speeding away from the bad guys while driving a boat until a collision occurs sending you into a flashback. Completing that and moving forward into the future, several years after the events of Uncharted 3, we find Nathan Drake happily employed, happily married, and retired from an adventurer’s life. A surprise visit from Sam, who informs him that his life is now in the hands of a drug lord and he has a set time to find Avery’s treasure or he will be killed pulls our hero right back into action. I found the rest of this story to be quite revealing, informative, and heartbreaking, as well as heartwarming. It is quite a ride to say the very least.
Something to mention, really quick, would the impressive seamless cinematic sequences implemented throughout the game. The visuals are so good at times that it is almost impossible to tell when you are going from game play to a cut scene and back again. It is virtually a flawless transition every single time!
With The Last of Us having released before Uncharted 4, Naughty Dog did take what they learned from the success of that title and implemented it into this. While Uncharted 4 sadly has no crafting system (which would have been a welcomed addition for me versus the series’ standard red/grey bloody screen), they did add a new tool (similar to a grapple) that allows you to climb, descend, wall run, and swing up, over, and around the environment, adding a new element to the game’s still very high platforming aspect. One cool thing is that you can “jump” (let go) off of the grapple’s rope and assault your unsuspecting adversary as you come down. It can be difficult to time this properly, but the execution is visually rewarding if accomplished.
As with The Last of Us, you also have a buddy tagging alongside you for I would estimate around 70% of the game. No, I don’t mean a buddy as in co-op story, I mean AI – which at times is not very… aware. This is actually one of the faults I felt in Uncharted 4. In particular moments when you would “boost” your partner to reach a higher ledge for either level progression or treasure hunting, I, at times, found my AI just kind of standing there doing nothing for a few minutes and while I ran around them, possibly going back into the level from an area we had just left, before I heard the “Over here, look. Give me a boost and I’ll pull you up” thinking, finally.
While that was a complaint in those moments, during others, I was grateful to have a buddy. During the combat sequences where you may not necessarily be shooting, but rather in close-combat range, your AI partner will assist you in what’s called a “buddy takedown” in which you both assault a single target. This looks nowhere near as cool as what you’d see in Batman: Arkham Knight, but it is effective nonetheless. Obviously, your AI partner will fire during shootouts and cannot die – I also don’t think they can be spotted when you are trying to be stealthy.
Completion of the game brings several bonus rewards in which you can use the “currency” gained during your play through based on difficulty, combat style, etc to unlock various things such as outfits, weapon/infinite ammo unlocks, and even game-rendering and visual unlocks. Are you a fan of Borderlands’s cel-shading? You can do that for Uncharted! What about playing the game in 8-bit mode? It can also be done, though I wouldn’t recommend it – it may hurt the eyes. Want to go through the game “in reverse”? Turn on mirror mode! All sorts of fun options wait. The game also has a “Photo Mode” similar to what is being seen in certain titles now, where you have filters and can pause game play anytime to pull off that perfect screenshot for hashtag #PS4share.
Speaking of fun and something else taken from the success of The Last of Us, is Uncharted 4’s multiplayer. In a manner similar to “Factions”, treasure will randomly spawn in an out-of-the-way area and rewards 200 currency per find, which is a lot more than what you would get for a player-kill. Traditional game modes, such as “Team Deathmatch”, “Capture the Flag”, and “Domination” can be found, but the treasure hunting aspect available in each of the 8 different maps give those modes a fresh and inviting spin – along with the essence of the single player campaign still within said map. Whether you are a team player or a lone wolf, Uncharted’s multiplayer mode will keep you hooked.
In closing, as you can see, I find very little faults in Naughty Dog’s latest release, so why would I say earlier that I hope this is the end of the Uncharted saga? That would be because Naughty Dog has already stated this is the final installment THEY are going to do and with the ending given to us here after Chapter 22 and within the Epilogue, I cannot envision a different developer picking up where this leaves off and doing it effectively, so I’ll say it again – please, let this be the last Uncharted title. While some may say it doesn’t live up to what The Last of Us was (a completely different game being action survival horror, in my opinion), this was an amazing finale that I would not suggest missing out on! As the saying seen throughout the franchise goes, “Sic Parvis Magna” – Greatness from Small Beginnings. I am certain nobody would have thought the franchise would have gone this far, so successfully, when all we had was the first game.
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