Uncharted 4 A Thief’s End Review
This is the big one folks. The crown jewel of the PlayStation 4 and our Most Anticipated Game of 2016. We’ve taken our time with this one, to explore its entirety. This is the Uncharted 4 Review.
Uncharted 4 had a lot of weight on its shoulders to top the unforgettable masterpiece that was Drake’s Deception. And being a first outing on the PlayStation 4 it had quite a lot to live up to. Does it really knock it out of the ball park? Is Drake’s final adventure the greatest of them all? Lets jump straight into the action to find out.
A Thief’s End takes place some years after the events of Drake’s Deception. Nathan Drake has finally settled down with Elena, living a ‘Normal life’. The game starts, as with all other Uncharted games, in the middle of the story during an exhilarating water chase scene during a storm, between Nathan and his brother Sam and some mercs. Then the story jumps back in time (and works it’s way back to that intro), where we meet Nathan in his youth at a convent and are introduced for the first time to his older brother Sam. From the get go, the story is just charming and so heartfelt. There’s real love and adoration from Nathan for his big brother Sam. Nathan sneaks out of the convent to meet up with his brother and already start getting up to no good, navigating across roof tops and getting to grips with the basic platforming of the game. This sequence is actually the training wheels section to get you comfortable with the game’s controls, but it adds such interesting back story and character interaction that you don’t even care that you are basically in tutorial mode. There’s some brilliant revelations regarding Nathan and his brother in this sequence, that I just will not spoil, you’ll have to find out yourself.
The game then jumps forward in time to the two brothers in the midst of a job in a prison and are introduced to the antagonist of the game, Rafe. To get to an old prison looking for clues about an old pirate treasure, the two willingly get put in prison to access the old buildings. As usual things go horribly wrong, Nathan, Sam and Rafe make a daring escape which ends with the unfortunate demise of Nathan’s brother Sam. Or so they thought, fast forward again to modern times, after the events of Uncharted 3, Nathan has a job now, salvaging wrecks from the ocean floor and lives a rather dull life with is wife Elena. Right up to the moment his brother returns, at his office, and the two set off on one last crazy adventure to find the pirate treasure they were after all those years back. Sam’s life depends on finding it as part of a deal with a drug lord who broke him out of prison in another gorgeous set piece sequence that plays out in a flashback as Sam explains what happened to him.
From there on we follow Nathan and Sam who meets up with Sully on one last ride to find the pirate Captain Henry Avery’s long lost treasure and takes them across the globe on an unforgettable aventure. There’s so much love that went into the story telling of this game. Historical facts are mixed in with some ‘Hollywood’ liberties but told to perfection. The story’s pacing is nothing short of excellent. Special mention has to go to the voice acting, the chemistry between the characters was believable, emotional at times and never felt forced on any level. Naughty Dog has gone above and beyond any game ever created when it comes to the motion capture work and the facial animations of those actors. Trust me when you see it, you blink a few times wondering whether you are looking at a game or a movie.
Speaking of which, this game is Real Time all the Time. What that means is that you will go from a cinematic which is handled using the game engine, to gameplay seamlessly. So don’t even think about putting that controller down, you never know if the game will just throw you into an action sequence. I’m going to make a bold claim and say that the visuals in Uncharted 4 are without a doubt the best of this generation. There is no detail too small, everything in the game world looks and more importantly behaves in a way you would expect it to in reality. The way certain materials get shot up and fall off tables based on the trajectory of the bullet, same goes for cover that is destructible. Or wind pushing cloths, foliage in a believable manner. The game handles everything in jaw dropping detail. Full 1080p for the resolution and you can see it. Sure the game only runs at 30 FPS, but it stays locked at 30 FPS no matter what is going on. Huge set piece battles don’t effect that framerate at all. This is a technical master piece and every developer out there should be taking notes on how to have gorgeous graphics and still keep a stable, fluid framerate. Heck I didn’t even care that its only 30 FPS. The visual design is complimented by the amazing sound design. You wanna be playing this with a set of cans, as there’s so much detail that I didn’t pick up on my 5.1 surround sound until I put on the headset. Especially when you head into the jungles. There’s such depth to all the bustling sounds of nature that makes you turn your head in search of that annoying mosquito (Spoiler alert, its not really there).
If you’ve played any of the previous Uncharted games, then you know just how the gameplay and controls work. You have environmental exploration which is mixed in with some platforming and some puzzle section. This time around, all of the above is mixed in with the action sequences which are fluid and never feel boring. The shooting is solid and guns feel like the carry actual weight. Uncharted 4 goes one step further by giving you access to vehicles. One of these vehicles, the Jeep, not only gives you wide open areas to explore but also has puzzles you can solve using the vehicle. Driving around in the jeep is unbelievably good. The car shows actual physics at play when driving over a stream as the car aquaplanes realistically or going up a muddy hill and losing traction on the tires, all the while the visuals keep on giving. Remember all that talk about detail, when drive the jeep through mud and you’ll see how it gets dirtied up. Drive through a river and you see that mud dissolve in the water. Same happens with Drake’s clothing while navigating the environment. There’s times you have to slide down hills of mud and all that ends up on his clothes in a remarkable fashion. The controls are solid and responsive. Mapped just the way they were in the previous games, well except for the aiming and shooting has now moved to the expected trigger location of R2 and L2. One piece of criticism though, I never liked the reload being set to the triangle button, and this game is no different. Worse even is that if you have a PS Vita, Naughty Dog hasn’t created a Vita specific control scheme. It’s rather frustrating as you would have to go into the menus, set up all the buttons in a way that will work on the Vita and then start playing. If you need to go back to your PS4, you guessed it, menus, reset to default and start playing. Now I know Sony has basically abandoned the Vita, but those of us who have it will no doubt use its Remote play functionality. So its disappointing, but not a deal breaker.
Jump into the multiplayer and those gorgeous visuals and detail follow with you. Except now you running at 60 FPS, though the resolution takes a slight hit to 900p. Believe me you won’t notice at all. It plays beautifully. After going through a tutorial on how the multiplayer mechanics work you jump straight into the “warm up” mode. This is basically Team Deathmatch for noobs so that you can play with others who are new to the MP and get to grips with the feel of it. The MP is comprised of only 4 modes at launch, Team Deathmatch, Command, Plunder and Ranked Team Deathmatch . This first is your usual fair of your team of 5 versus mine. Ranked is exactly the same except players are ranked and matched based on their performance. Plunder, has two teams of four attempt to secure an idol in their respective chests. First team to 3 points wins. And lastly Command is your basic Battlefield-esque conquest mode, without the vehicles ofcause. Naughty Dog added a couple of interesting features to spice up the MP. First off is the Sidekick feature, which are AI controlled fighters with different abilities. During a match you earn cash, and that cash is what you will use to call up a sidekick. You get 4 kinds of sidekicks, Brute, Saviour, Hunter and Sniper. The brute is your heavily armoured but slow buddy who deals and takes a lot of damage. The saviour is a medic who runs around healing you and your team mates. Hunter runs around grabbing the enemy team mates so you can finish them off and Sniper does what snipers do, stay perched somewhere taking pot shots at the enemy.
The other new feature to the series is the magic abilities, called Mysticals, you add to your load outs which can be purchased in-game similar to your sidekicks. There’s 4 different kinds of mysticals to use. Staff of Ayar Manco that sends out pulses, placing enemies on radar for a short period of time. Wrath of El Dorado, throw this totem to summon the El Dorado which launches specters that seek out and damage nearby enemies. Cintamani Stone is your obligatory revive ability for your downed teammates. Spirit of the Djinn, activates the power of the Djinn, rendering yourself invisible and gaining a speed boost while rolling or jumping off a rope swing. Finally, Indra’s Eternity, throw this to create a field which slows all enemy movement. All of these can swing the momentum of a heated match and bring a nice change to the stock standard-ness of the MP. However it seems Naughty Dog played it safe rather than trying something completely new, still it works and is fun enough.
Uncharted 4 brings to a close the adventures of Nathan Drake in a meaningful and engaging experience. It leaves no story line unresolved and has an emotional and heartfelt conclusion that is satisfying. Naughty Dog has produced a masterpiece that surpasses any and all of its rivals. If the Uncharted series is to continue, it will have to do it without Nathan Drake, which could make the future of the franchise rather intriguing. This is without a doubt, the Best Game I’ve ever played. If you haven’t purchased this game yet. Beg, borrow, steal…This is one experience that cannot be missed.