I’d been waiting for Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End since before it had even been announced, even though I thought Uncharted 3 would have been a decent ending to the story with the characters all strolling off into the sunset, leaving it up to us to imagine what the future held for them.
Alas, it wasn’t to be so romantic and Naughty Dog and Sony decided that it’d be better to make a truck-load of extra money with a fourth game. Fair enough, really.
So, is Uncharted 4 worth buying into, or is it one game too many in the series? Read our Uncharted 4 review to find out.
Uncharted 4 starts with a bang but not quite in the same manner as the previous games. Instead of the big spectacle that usually surrounds Nate and his mates, we’ve got a little more intimacy this time around. I’ll be honest and say that I’m not the biggest fan of the game’s story. To be fair, I was never really sold on the previous games’ stories either. It’s pretty much what you expect from an Uncharted game: go here, find a treasure map from a person that’s been pushing daisy for a couple of hundred years. Follow said map to another place, solve a few puzzles, shoot a few dudes, find another map. Great, on we go to the next destination. Oh, look, another map and more puzzles. Another place to visit. Oh, yet another map and coincidental puzzles. You get the picture.
It’s not that the game’s story isn’t well told – it is – it’s that it all comes apart with the slightest tug at the flailing threads of logic. Just like its predecessors, Uncharted 4’s story moves along thanks to happy accidents, massive coincidences and a splash of laziness. Hey, I’m not gonna judge them on laziness; I’m a pro when it comes to being lazy.
Thankfully the cast are a little more interesting this time around, even if the pretentious Neil Druckmann has shoehorned in drama and emotion that just seem totally out-of-place in the series’ canon. Nate is a little older this time around and he’s actually out of “the game” as the pros call it. Instead of running around finding lost treasure in exotic locales, Drake pulls other people’s lost crap from rivers. Lovely. There’s even a level where you get to work his day job and recover some lost copper wires. Thrilling…
It’s only when Nate’s older brother turns up that things start to get interesting. The first hour or so is a little on the boring side as Naughty Dog spreads the cards and sets up the rest of the game. It’s a different change of pace and it’s probably something that’s carried over from the team’s experiences with The Last of Us. But The Last of Us this ain’t.
I won’t spoil any story details, but I will say that it’s a fitting – if a little drawn out – conclusion to Drake’s mark on history. I put the controller down, sat back and let the credits roll while processing what has become of the digital man I’ve been playing with for almost a decade. Could it carry on? Maybe, but you’ll have to play the game yourself and see what you think of the ending.
So, the story is pretty good but there’s a lot of time-wasting filler, though I can’t say I’m too sour about the whole experience. I enjoyed it about 90% of the time and I’m big enough to look past the predictable story. As far as they go, this one was no worse than any of the previous efforts.
Gameplay. It’s always been at the forefront of Uncha- ah, no, it hasn’t. Graphics are what got Uncharted noticed. Naughty Dog, fair play to the ladies and gents, do produce some good-looking games. That much I can’t deny. The previous games got all the praise for their visual appearance but were ultimately let down by some sub-par gunplay mechanics and repetitive jump and climbing things.
I’m pleased to say that this time around I actually found the combat to be fun. So much so that when I had the opportunity to go into a situation with stealth and grace, I’d say “fuck it!” and run in like Rambo. Gun combat is better refined over previous games, and despite the game being 30fps, it still responded to my every murderous whim very nicely. Guns don’ just clatter flatly; they pack punches with sounds echoing off the tropical cliffs. Shotguns spread their shrapnel over several feet to force a small group of South African militants (the private army Drake’s having a tough time with – a’write, bru?!) to stumble and take to the nearest bit of cover they can find. In a word, the gunplay is ace. It’s not perfect by any means and I can still find faults, but it’s definitely up there with the best third-person cover shooters available today.
Gunplay isn’t everything, of course, and Nathan spends half his time showing off his upper-body strength by climbing around anything he can get his little monkey hands on. I’ve never been the biggest fan of Uncharted’s climbing, mainly due to the sticky nature of it, but this time around I was quite impressed with how Drake moves around the game’s environments. Instead of just leaping from one hold to another, you can guide Drake slowly across while maintaining three points of contact – something you’d expect this rock-climbing killer to know, really.
The big additions to Uncharted 4 are the grappling hook and vehicles. The vehicles aren’t an every level occurrence, but it’s nice to be able to drive around in a jeep and explore some of the game’s world; I often found myself side-tracked during these moments as I’d drive around, forget where I’m going, hop out and have a mooch, then get back in and wait for the game to tell me where to go. Naughty Dog isn’t breaking new ground with vehicles, but its done a good enough job to make it a worthwhile pursuit.
The grappling hook, however, is another thing entirely. Firstly, it’s awesome. I love nothing more than jumping off a cliff while my enemies are shooting me in the back (Drake can take a surprising amount of bullets before he dies) and flinging the grappling hook to a conveniently placed rope hook, swinging forward, turning around and then sending those bastards to their death, action-man style. It’s a truly fun feature to have, but at the same time it had me like “what the fuck” during a few moments. Let me explain: as with previous entries, you’ll spend a lot of time holding up logs or other fallen debris so that Nate and his mates can scurry on forward. You’ll also spend a lot of time pressing the triangle button to initiate a boost up to a higher ledge. Sometimes your partner will kick down a ladder or a box, or they’ll say there’s nothing and that Nate will have to climb around. It’s during these moments I couldn’t help but curse the bastards who made the game. Why not just use the frigging grappling hook?!?! It’s a 15ft climb at most, throw the fucking rope up and have the other person hold it or attach it to something, don’t extend the play time by having me back-track for 10 minutes. Rant over.
It may be a small thing in the grand scheme of love, life and war, but to me these moment were kicks to the balls that dared to question to my intelligence. What? Do Naughty Dog think I’d forget about the rope? No, and I never will. Pull this shit again… I dare you.
Aside from a few niggles with the pacing and putting a lot of focus on the open-linear level design (I actually liked Uncharted 2’s linear levels) that forces you to spend more time playing that you probably need to, I can’t say that the gameplay wasn’t superb. The big “WOW!” moments aren’t quite as mighty and spectacular, and the “boss” fights aren’t particularly memorable, but the chunks in between were some of the most solid chunks of playing I’ve had in a long-time. If you’re a fan of a good third-person shooter then you can’t really go wrong with Uncharted 4. The gunplay is top-notch and the shift away from linear levels to “open-linear” welcomes more playstyles than the previous games ever allowed. Stealth is even a viable option, not that I ever opted for it.
No review would be complete without noting the visual splendor that’s been presented. I’ll never know why people refer to Naughty Dog as “Naughty Gods”, but I will acknowledge that the studio knows how to put on a good spread. The visuals are second-to-none on PS4 and I could even tell that without my glasses. The attention to detail, the animation, the way characters move and react to different circumstances – it’s like nothing you’ve ever seen in this medium before. Words can’t do the work gone into the game’s presentation justice, so I’ll keep it simple and say that it’s almost definitely the best looking PS4 game at this moment in time. Will that change? Obviously, but for now, Uncharted 4 is the bar that other games should be reaching for.
Disclaimer: This review was conducted using a retail disc of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End that was bought at the cost of the reviewer. This doesn’t affect the review score nor the content of the review in any way. Please read our Review Policy for more information.