Seeing as I currently only have an Xbox One, so have not been able to play Uncharted 4, I invited games design student and Uncharted super fan Simran, to review the game. You should check out his awesome Youtube channel for gameplay clips from the latest titles.
What is Uncharted 4?
Uncharted 4 A Thief’s End is the fourth and final instalment to the Uncharted game franchise. Developed by Naughty Dog, it is by far the biggest game in the franchise to date offering the player new additions never seen in previous games and sends the player on one final adventure with our beloved PlayStation exclusive hero Nathan Drake.
Plot synopsis (No spoilers)
The events of Uncharted 4 take place several years after the events of Uncharted 3; Nathan Drake is finally living the suburban life he sought towards the end of Uncharted 3 and has finally settled down with his love interest throughout the games – Elena (They finally did it guys). The two have gotten married and are living ordinary lives, working everyday jobs and living the settled down dream.
All this quickly gets interrupted though when Nathan Drake’s mysterious brother Sam Drake (played by Troy Baker) makes an entrance into the Uncharted universe and of course, Nathan is overjoyed at first chance to embrace his brother after so long. However, due to circumstances within the game’s plot, Sam’s life is now threatened by the Panama warlord Alcazar, who knows that Sam and Nate, in their youth, were searching for the long lost treasure of the legendary pirate Captain Avery, and is now demanding a large portion of the treasure in exchange for Sam’s life.
With his brother’s life now at risk, Nathan Drake has no choice but to go back to the life he swore to leave behind and step back into his treasure hunting shoes and set out to locate the long lost treasure and deep dark secrets of Captain Avery.
With the goal now set Nathan does everything he can to keep Elena out of the loop for both her and their marriage’s safety. He recruits our old Uncharted favourite Victor Sullivan to help them in their search and naturally, the treasure hunting trio encounter problems pretty much immediately.
Nathan Drake’s old associate Rafe Adler and his business party and head of the Shoreline mercenary company, Nadine Ross (played brilliantly by Laura Bailey) are also searching for Avery’s treasure…this of course leads to problems and lots of bullets being fired between the two search parties. Nathan Drake is once again racing against another group who want to kill him for long lost treasure.
Nathan Drake’s search for Avery’s treasure will take him to lots of beautifully rendered environments all over the world, such as the Scotland mountains, outback and streets of Madagascar and the open waters of the sea itself, all for the promises of riches of a lifetime.
This pretty much sums up Uncharted 4’s main story in a nutshell without spoiling it for you so let’s move onto my initial impressions.
Uncharted holds a special place in my heart, ‘Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune’ was the first game I ever bought for my PS3 back when I was in school, and since then I have loved Nathan Drake to death and the adventures he has embarked on, so naturally I was already outside my local video games shop when they opened the shutters to pick up my copy.
When I first launched the game the first thought that came into my mind was “My god Nathan Drake looks so brilliant…damn this looks absolutely bloody gorgeous”. Uncharted 4 has gotten a massive polish from its predecessor, from brilliant exterior and interior lightning to better character rendering and motion capture animations – the whole game feels so smooth and real at times.
Right from the very beginning, the player is thrown straight into a flash-forward at an action sequence towards the final few chapters of the game, so this will be the first time the player is introduced to the game’s combat. For the most part it felt like I’d never left Uncharted, the combat feels more polished due to its better motion capture and the AI for the enemy NPC’s has gotten an improvement, but for the most part the game’s combat feels the same as the combat we’ve come to expect in an Uncharted game by this point.
The story within the game is also done to a very high standard; what starts out as Nathan Drake searching for Captain Avery’s treasure to secure his brothers safety takes a few dark turns, particularly towards the end. However, I could never get emotionally invested in Sam as a character due to the fact I feel he was a bit late to the Uncharted party, and the game’s reason for why he’s turning up now didn’t do it for me. The story itself is a fantastic and satisfying end for the adventure we have come to love over the years, and Nathan Drake’s story is wrapped up in such an amazing way that it will leave any Uncharted fan feeling happy, as both the journey and the destination have been given the justice they deserved.
In my opinion, Uncharted 4 is a bit of technical masterpiece in today’s modern gaming age. The individual grey in Nathan’s immaculate hair, the cloth textures in the characters’ clothing and drips of sweat down Nathan’s chest and head, demonstrate the extent of attention-to-detail in Uncharted 4 and upon completing it I gave it a ‘one of the best looking games to date’ medal.
Nathan Drake once again is played brilliantly by Nolan North. It is developed in such a fitting way that successfully gets across that his character is a man torn between leaving behind a normal life to embrace the chaos of treasure hunting one last time, but realises what this adventure can cost him. We see the emotional struggle Nate faces with himself in this game, not to mention how well his motion capture is throughout the game – credit to Nolan North and the stuntmen for how well they nailed Drakes performance.
As said before, Uncharted 4 feels like a technological achievement in terms of games development. The game is absolutely gorgeous at times and never disappoints, from the plains of Madagascar to the hairs on Sully’s moustache. The game’s performance holds up on the PS4 I never had a single crash or performance issue, showing how well-maintained this game was during its design stages.
It is one of the largest Uncharted games to date and introduces semi-open, large areas to explore within certain sections of the story (Madagascar being one of the biggest). It puts a lot of emphasis on the exploration side and encourages you to take advantage of this spacious player freedom to see what treasures and easter eggs you can find in this new, large part of the Uncharted universe.
It ties up the story of Nathan Drake and his buddies so well….I mean really well, without spoiling let’s just say the story is good quality and will not disappoint you and its destination was well worth the wait.
It also introduces driving mechanics for the first time in the series (excluding the horse riding scene from Uncharted 3), the player can now drive boats and cars in both exploration sequences, and of course action sequences. This makes the combat sections feel really thrilling, as your driving skills will determine how you fare.
Uncharted 4 also brings back multiplayer, although I myself have never really been a fan of the multiplayer side due to being more of a story buff, the multiplayer community will be glad to see the return of the aspect.
Finally, the voice acting in the game is done to a brilliant standard; old and new characters are all voiced brilliantly and with this being the final tale of Nathan Drake, you can tell the voice actors put in all their effort as this journey clearly meant a lot to them as well.
No game is without fault and although Uncharted 4 is brilliant as it is, it does also have its cons.
The character of Sam, in my opinion, feels more like a plot device that helps create the narrative of Captain Avery’s treasure. I believe he was simply too late to the Uncharted party and the game’s excuse for why such a central part of Drake’s life is only just entering the plot just didn’t do it for me. The game does manage to make him a good character for this plot, but I personally couldn’t get emotionally invested in him like I have done for Sully and Elena over the years.
The Uncharted series has always had the feature of hidden treasure that the player collects to unlock points, which in turn unlock features such as skins, concept art and render modes. However, after 3 games Naughty Dog still hasn’t really done anything interesting with them, besides something to look at. I was hoping Nathan Drake might finally do some narration over the treasures he finds, rather than them being static objects. If I had to nit-pick, I’d say the collectables remaining silent objects would be a con as well.
The game does pass up what would have been a very interesting mechanic, as in the first few chapters of the game the player gets to choose from three dialogue options during some cut-scenes. After these few scenes however, this mechanic just kind of stops which is a shame as branching narrative dialogue paths would have been a very interesting for the game’s plot. Maybe Naughty Dog had plans to develop it further and realised they didn’t have the development time or just discontinued it, either way it’s a shame.
I also noticed Uncharted 4 did seem to suffer from walking simulator for a bit in the game, as there are fewer combat encounters than in its predecessors. You may encounter a small combat or stealth encounter and once it’s done there may be up to 45 minutes to an hour of just walking, solving puzzles and exploring. This was a con for me, as I enjoyed the combat of Uncharted 4 very much. Especially the grab hook feature which lets you fight while swinging through the air like Tarzan, so being taken away from it for long periods got irritating at times.
Overall I would say Uncharted 4 is a spectacular, technically sound game and a brilliant end to a fantastic game franchise. It ties up its characters and offers the player closure and a sense of accomplishment for seeing Nathan Drake through this grand adventure.