I have the tendency to write reviews on games that aren’t the typical AAA experiences. Smaller downloadable titles or niche games from japanese developers. It’s not a coincidence, you can read reviews of the last Uncharted or the yearly Call if Duty game on pretty much any other site out there but you woudn’t want to rely on IGN’s opinion when they’re talking about the last Gust’s JRPG.
The thing is, me reviewing those niche games doesn’t mean I don’t also play the big ones. I’m kind of a fan of this series actually. I played every Uncharted game (even the card one) and I also got the chance to play the last one in the series, Uncharted 4: A thief’s end, and I’d like to share my thoughts about it.
So, Uncharted 4: A thief’s end is the last iteration of the mega-succesful Naughty Dog franchise of action/adventure games. It plays in third person and the game mixes cover-based shooting with platforming and also some puzzle solving.
I think everyone knows the series so getting into more detail than that would only waste your time, I better focus on the stuff that’s new on this game like its story.
The events of Uncharted 4 take place after any of the other games and feature a Drake, retired from his adventuring days now employed at retrieving objects from the bottom of the sea but, in a legal manner now. However, one day he receives the visit of a figure from its past and is forced to join him on a quest to discover the hidden treasures of Henry Avery.
And that’s how much I can tell you without getting in spoiler territory. But, like in all of the other Uncharteds you can expect intrigue, twists, moments of humour and even a handful of touching moments.
Other additions to the Uncharted formula are more related to the gameplay portion. Stealth has been given a much bigger role compared to the previous titles and Naughty Dog has given Drake two tools quite useful for traversal; a grappling hook and some sort of climbing piton.
I found that latter comes way too late into the game, specially considering how well implemented the thing is. Like in the Tomb Raider reboot, Nate now can stick his piton into some stone walls to act as an auxiliary grapple point. That added freedom as to where to stick piton gives the climbing in those latter chapters an added depth which is welcome.
As for the rope with the grappling hook, that’s simply my favourite new addition of Uncharted 4. The swinging feels natural, it’s used extensibly but always for great results. Looking at how good the rope fits into the Uncharted formula, I’m surprised they didn’t add this tool earlier into the franchise.
Another important new feature Uncharted 4 boasts is the usage of vehicles, a 4×4 and a motorboat. We had the chance to ride a jetski way back in the first game of the series but this time around the driving is much improved and, with Uncharted 4 being able to display much bigger scenarios, the usage of the vehicles now feels way more fitting in the whole adventure and not just a diversion to break the monotony of the shooting.
Having talked about the gameplay I think it’s time to mention how amazing this game looks. Is it the best looking game I’ve ever played? If it isn’t, it sure is up there. The shaders of the skin, the stone, the metal… everything looks so realistic. The draw distance makes for some amazing vistas. And it’s not just how things look at static, the animations are more fluid than ever, the way the foliage reacts to your actions, the particle effects… the attention to detail is astounding. Be ready to be using the photo mode quite often.
On the sound department it should be noted the great work that has been done in the voiceover. All of the actors did a great job displaying a magnific performance. The music, however, has been toned down quite a bit in order to deliver a more sober atmosphere. It’s their artistic decision so I can’t criticize the game for that but I personally missed the classic Uncharted theme playing at the main menu.
Things I liked
- Core gameplay: A game is more than the sum of its parts, I know that. But the thing is, the individual parts of Uncharted 4 are the best versions of them in the whole series. The shooting feels more satisfying, the platforming is deeper with the usage of new tools and a less linear approach and I feel like they finally nailed down the puzzle parts.
- Writing: Don’t mean to diss Amy Henning’s work but the story on Uncharted 4 was easily my favourite of all the games and that’s quite an accomplishment for a fourth game on an already great series. The game travels to plenty of locations but this time around it doesn’t feel like they made up a plot to stitch the set-pieces together but the other way around (as it should). The dialog is still great with plenty of humour and references to other naughty dog games. Also, it should be noted that the bad guys which I found to be one of the weak points in previous Uncharted games are now pretty great characters.
- Level design: Naughty Dog took advantage to the added power of the ps4 to make the environments way bigger than in previous games and it definitely paid off. The levels used to be gorgeous and overall pretty great in the older games but they sure were linear. Now there’s usually multiple paths you can take which makes discovering secrets feel way more satisfying.
- Graphics: Do I really have to say anything? Just look at the pictures, watch videos of the game… This game is wonderful both technically and artistically. The sights in this game will make your jaw drop.
- Multiplayer: I don’t think anyone buys an Uncharted game for its multiplayer but the developers didn’t use that as an excuse to not put an effort. The multiplayer on Uncharted 4 isn’t just a tacked on shallow experience. The combination of the shooting with the flashy platforming makes for a thrilling experience on online firefights. And the whole multiplayer portion runs at 60fps by the way.
Things I didn’t
- Stealth: It’s not that I don’t enjoy stealth in games but the stealth mechanics in Uncharted 4 are way too basic. Enemies don’t hear your footsteps and you can’t use diverting mechanics such as throwing a rock, or whistling to make a guard come to you… I think there’s plenty of stuff that could have been added to make the stealth model to be deeper and more fun.
Who’d like this?
If you hate the Uncharted games for some reason, this one won’t probably change your mind.
For anyone else this game is, hands down, a must buy. Is it the best Uncharted game in the series? To me it is but that really depends on the balance you personally want the game to have. Maybe you’d like a bigger focus on the shooting in detriment of the platforming, maybe you hate driving and didn’t want Uncharted to go that route… In any case, I think all of you adventurers will have a blast with this game.