It was a strange feeling when I put down the controller at the end of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. A game that since it’s announcement has been described by it’s developers, Naughty Dog as the final game of the series as they will be moving on to new things.
With the knowledge that this is the last one, at least by this very talented team, I found myself appreciating everything that has come before it from the studio even more as all of their hard work on previous titles and the lessons they have learnt are made apparent. While this is most definitely an Uncharted game, the bar of quality has been raised once again as they have turned in not just the best game in the series but also one of the greatest action games of all time.
Nathan Drake, our plucky rogue who always seems to be poking his nose in where it doesn’t belong has finally settled down to a normal life. Working in salvage at the beginning of the game, it feels like a terrible waste of the character’s talents to be doing such mundane work but Nathan has made a promise to his wife, Elena, to be done with the life that threw them together in the first place. His gun laid down and his shirt now all the way tucked.
Nathan is bored out of his mind.
He misses the adventure, his mind wanders whenever he seems a picturesque painting that reminds him of the excitement. He even keeps all of his old, discovered artefacts in his attic, too precious to Nathan for him to let go to some museum. A toy gun and several badly-drawn targets made out of cardboard flank the roof supports and shelves to help him keep his edge, or just to get the adrenaline flowing. I would not have been surprised if he had a rock-climbing wall in the back yard.
I felt bad for Nathan.
Then, one day, Sam shows up. Nathan’s brother who was presumed dead for the last 15 years is alive but not so well. He’s in trouble and only Nathan can help him.
Get ready to un-tuck half of that shirt, Nate, we’ve got an adventure to go on.
What follows is roughly 12-15 hours of globetrotting, rock-climing, character-quipping and head-shotting.
So far so Uncharted.
The difference here is that every single system appears to have been given an overhaul. The climbing, whilst never bad in past games, is made a much more tense task through a combination of new character animations, camera angling and conversation between Nate & Sam which adds to the danger. The new grappling hook gets plenty of time to shine too, both during climbing down-time as well as the all out action set-pieces. The best thing a developer can do when inventing new systems for their games is to integrate them in such as way that they either feel like they were always there or make you wonder how the previous titles existed without it. Both of those are true for Uncharted 4.
The Uncharted games have always looked great, yet the jump to Playstation 4 has helped Naughty Dog’s work truly shine. Environments look stunning from the vast volcanic vistas of Madagascar to the light reflections in the pooled water of a Jeep’s tire tread, never before has a world felt so realised on console.
Speaking of realism, the boost in power, a extra few years of motion capture improvement and a crew of VERY talented people all amount to some of the most believable characters in video games, both visually and emotionally. The entire cast of actors turned in a brilliant performance, from Nolan North’s Nathan & Emily Rose’s Elena to long-time friend and father figure Victor Sullivan, played by Richard McGonagle. Nate’s brother, Sam, played my Troy Baker has instant chemistry with Nate which only solidifies the belief that these characters are family. Keep an eye out for the antagonists, too. I won’t go into details here for spoiler reasons, but because of them this adventure is grounded and personal enough to be considered on par with the narrative masterpiece that is The Last Of Us.
Multiplayer makes a return for the series too and is surprisingly fun. The action of the single-player translates to a competitive setting pretty well and the grappling hook makes the transition too which makes for some awesome swings away from danger…or into it.
It’s a fairly basic offering with team deathmatch, domination and capture the flag but while it can definitely be fun, with other multiplayer powerhouses recently on the market like Overwatch and Battleborn fighting for attention it is a part of the game that can be bypassed in favour of spending more time with the stellar campaign.
Uncharted 4’s story feels like Naughty Dog’s love letter to the fans that have been there from the beginning. It is one of the greatest action campaigns of all time and the bar of quality has now been set even higher than it already was.
It’s a fitting swan song and a tremendous end to a journey. I can’t wait to see what Naughty Dog has plans for next, whatever they might be.
*cough* Crash Bandicoot *cough*