Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is one of those rare few perfect experiences. Notice my lack of the word “game”. The final chapter for Nathan Drake is a “video game” per say, and the best I’ve ever played at that, but at heart it’s an emotional, moving, epic, funny and beautiful work of art. A true masterpiece of this generation. Like The Last of Us before it, it hangs in a gallery of Naughty Dog perfection.
The game follows Nathan Drake, on his final adventure. This time joined by his brother Sam, who he’d assumed dead after an event earlier in their lives. The dynamic introduced by the relationship between Nate and his brother is a new direction for the Uncharted series, one that leads to a more somber, grounded and heartfelt story. It is this slightly darker, realistic tone that drives the game through it’s near 16 hour narrative.
We pick up with Nathan, slightly older, settled into a home with Elena and a mostly unexciting job lifting lost cargo from the depths of the sea. It’s here that Sam finds Nathan and reveals that he is in trouble, begging for his brothers help. From this point on, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End spirals into a world of betrayal, lies, plunder and booty as you track the mysteries left behind by the notorious pirate king, Captain Henry Avery.
Along the way you can expect a few twists, turns and surprises. No doubt, in traditional Uncharted fashion you’ll see a few of them coming, but most will catch you off guard and leave you smiling ear to ear or hurling cups at your TV. You’ll also constantly be reminded of the adventures that came before. At times you can reminisce and speak about your favorite moments from the other games, and these choices lead to really special and personal moments for you as a player.
I’ll go into later how some new mechanics drive the story and keep you craving more when I get to speaking about gameplay, but for now I can say that this is the first time in an Uncharted game where the story has kept me gripped the entire way through. You’ll understand what I mean when you’re hot on the heels of Captain Avery (300 years later), discovering his colony and ambitions, reading into hidden letters and finding his rotten comrades. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End only gets better the deeper you go into it’s exciting depths.
NAUGHTY DOG- NAUGHTY NATE
In traditional Naughty Dog fashion Digital Foundry puts it best when they say that Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is a “technical powerhouse”. The game is by far and away the best looking PlayStation 4 title to date, and this installment to the franchise boasts the most fluidity in gameplay, seamlessness between cutscenes and awe-inspiring vistas. I can’t seem to say enough about how cinematic the whole experience is. There is no one single surreal moment that stands out, but as I write this I can recall the footprints left in the snow of Scotland as I jogged, and the sound my hand made as I brushed it across the bark of a nearby tree. I remember the way the sun streaked through the thin cartilage of Nathan’s ears from a certain angle, turning them bright red. Or just noticing how moving across a bar made it bend mere millimeters in-game. There was even one moment that made me uncannily scared. I couldn’t tell the difference between real life and that on screen.
Not only does the game boast some of the most interesting locations in an Uncharted game; Madagascar, Scotland, Italy and more, it also takes everything I loved about The Last of Us and merged it with the epic scale of the series. Now detailed, more open and explorable game worlds are filled with notes and collectibles that aid the story or create their own little ones. Characters can have optional interactions and conversations as you walk (or scale) around the landscapes and Sam even cracks a few jokes at one point, much to Sully’s distaste.
SWORD TO A GUNFIGHT
The firefights in Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End have now even morphed into crouching fights, if you choose to play it that way. I’m not certain but it surely seems like you could avoid 80% of the games enemies if you have the skills to do it. Each encounter is laid out in massive, impeccably designed areas that allow you stealthily take out the loud and obnoxious South African enemies without firing a single bullet. On the other hand, the new grapple hook is a lot of fun if you decide to “light ’em up” with ammo. I can barely even describe how cool you feel when you’re swinging thousands of feet above sea level, spraying down a line of Nadine’s thugs. Actually, I can, “El God-Damn Dorado” level cool.
Multiplayer comes back with a bang too, which is both a good and bad thing. The stealth elements don’t carry over from the story, which is disappointing when The Last of Us provided that intensity so well. I won’t bring the game down because of it, I shouldn’t have expected that kind of approach in the first place. However what we’re left with is a fun, fast, fluid, gripping and competitive multiplayer shooter that fulfills my cravings for more action after completing the story. It introduces a currency system similar to The Last of Us as well as supernatural abilities, sidekicks who help out in battle or revive your teams mates and a variety of gadgets and weaponry. Keep your heels to the ground and don’t stop running because the various Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End multiplayer modes are chaotic fun!
HASTA LA VISTA COWBOY
I’m not going to lie. For a series fan Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End can be an emotional roller coaster. It’s a beautiful game, with more personal, grounded storytelling than I’ve ever seen in the series. It delivers incredible highs in its story and multiplayer modes, somber lows when Nate is faced with difficult choices and confrontations and ends with one of the most incredible twists I’ve ever experienced. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is already my game of the year so far, and simply put–might just be the best game I’ve ever played. Yes, it’s that good.
Our reviewer purchased his own PlayStation 4 copy of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End on launch day. No alternative copies were provided by Sony.