Way back in 2007 the original Uncharted was released. Arriving a year after the initial North American launch of the PlayStation 3, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune was a refreshing experience. Developed by Naughty Dog, the same developers who brought us games like Crash Bandicoot and Jak and Daxter; Uncharted took a lot of those games mechanics and ideas and brought them into the modern console generation. Almost nine years (and four adventures later) Naughty Dog closes the Uncharted series with Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. Does Naughty Dog nail the final chapter of Nathan Drake’s incredible journey? Or is does this Thief’s end nothing special to talk about?
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End takes place three years after the final of Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception. Nathan Drake has settled into a life of normalcy with his wife, Elena. But, the devil’s hands are idle playthings, and Nathan’s long lost brother, Sam reappears. In trouble and indebt, Nathan must team up with his brother for one last great adventure.
A Thief’s End has the best story out of any Uncharted game; and that’s on all accounts. One of the main story elements of the Uncharted series is the adventure, or, the hunt for a certain fortune. A Thief’s End’s treasure hunt surrounds that of Sir Henry Avery, a pirate who’s rumored to have hid unimaginable wealth. Sure, while the story sounds a bit cliche, it’s handled well. You’re traveling all over the globe, finding new bread crumbs that Avery has left behind for you. As the story slowly unfolds, it quickly begins to parallel the struggle that Nathan, Sam and the rest of the story’s cast are going through.
Besides the treasure hunt aspect of the story, Uncharted 4 is also a much more character driven narrative. The relationship between Nathan and Sam really is the selling point, but surprisingly it was the time Nathan spent with his wife, Elena that really were the highlights for me. Naughty Dog nails the dynamic and dialogue between those two characters. Throughout the game, I always wanted to see more Elena. Sam does his job as well. Voiced by newcomer (to the series) Troy Baker, Baker does a great job bringing Sam to life and making his character believable. Sam to me seems like the less lucky version of his brother Nate. It’s interesting that a lot of Nathan’s back story is presented in this game through flashbacks with his brother, a character that has not been mentioned once up until now. Sam serves more as a plot device than anything else, but he’s a likeable character that seems to care for his brother. Sully returns as well, albeit underutilized. I wasn’t too concerned with this seeing as Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception was all about Nate’s relationship with Sully.
Unlike the other Uncharted games, Uncharted 4 takes its time to get going. Clocking in at 22 chapters don’t expect to be escaping from crumbling buildings and killing hordes of bad guys right off the bat. The game paces itself very well, easing us into Nathan’s current life. Sure, there are a ton of set piece moments and lots of enemies to shoot, but it’s the simple moments that really make the story shine.
More so than previous games, A Thief’s End includes an incredible amount of traversal (or “platforming.”) I’d say it’s about a 75/25 split for how much you’ll be exploring/traversing and how much you’ll be in combat. The game makes exploring the best it’s ever been with the inclusion of a new grappling hook mechanic. Nate uses it to swing from trees, repel from ledges, and even uses it in the occasional puzzle. Its inclusion never was intrusive and it’s a welcome addition to Nate’s arsenal.
When you’re not traversing, you’ll spend the rest of your time in combat. While mechanically, Uncharted 4 has the series’ best combat, but it was definitely my least favorite part of the game due to how fantastic the stealth gameplay is. Tall grass litters these “combat arenas” and while you’re crouched in them, you’re undetectable. Naughty Dog would like you to make your way around, stealthily taking out your enemies. It’s an interesting dynamic to bring into the fourth entry of your franchise, and one that definitely draws inspiration from Naughty Dog’s previous game, The Last of Us.
When you do start shooting, the game feels good. Guns control well, and there are a number of them to use. From Ak’s to RPG’s the usual arsenal is available for Nate. I was disappointed to see the enemies do the cliche video game thing of, “here’s a sniper enemy” and “here’s the heavy machine gun guy.” A conceit added to UC4 was that Nadene, one of the game’s new characters runs a private military corporations and these are her guns for hire. Sure, why not. At the end of the day they’re generic bad guys whose only purpose is to stand in my path as I make my way from point A to point B.
Uncharted 4 includes a cover mechanic that’s used to regain your health, but I found myself being shot from all angles for the majority of the game, so even if I took cover to regain health, somebody offscreen was waiting to shoot me. Again, the combat feels good and is serviceable, but it wasn’t my favorite part of A Thief’s End.
Naughty Dog continues to be wizards at their craft when it comes to the technological aspect. A Thief’s End is one of the best looking games currently in store. The environments, the animations, the music, the lighting. It’s all breathtaking. The game also includes a photo mode that you can find yourself getting lost in as you want to capture incredible moments just right.
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End also includes a class based multiplayer mode. It’s a pretty typical affair consisting of modes like Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch. Naughty Dog brings an Uncharted spin to it with the multiplayers traversal and unique weapons. The game works sort of like Counter Strike, where players accumulate in game currency that they can spend on certain items and abilities throughout the course of a match. These abilities include an upgrade to your current weapon (ie: grenades), a “buddy” that you can call out, which lasts for a limited time and follows you, and one of the franchises many “magical” trinkets. The most interesting of these upgrades is definitely the buddy system. Depending on your class, you can call down an A.I. controlled NPC who will help you during a match.
The multiplayer includes a plethora of customization options. From hats to character specific outfits, the multiplayer has a ton of stuff for players to unlock. Also included are character taunts which are pretty hilarious. These are bought using both in-game currency and store-bought currency. So be wary, you can buy a bunch of stuff in Uncharted’s multiplayer. I’ve only played it for about three hours, and I’m not sure that i’ll spend too much longer with it. Although, for fans of the series, it’s a nice inclusion and I can see plenty of players sticking with it.
As an overall package, the single player of Uncharted 4 is fantastic. It tells an emotionally engaging story that you’ll definitely want to see through to its conclusion and it’s an absolutely incredible send off to Nathan Drake and the Uncharted franchise.
The wait was worth it. With Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, Naughty Dog has crafted a brilliant final adventure for Nathan Drake and company. The single player is a breathtaking experience full of emotional moments, brilliant set pieces and a well thought out pace. Sure, there’s some traversal issues, and the combat sections can be frustrating, especially when the game wants you to try and stealthily navigate them. Some of the more “open” areas also fall a little flat. While they’re beautiful to look at, sometimes they were a nuisance to navigate. The game’s multiplayer is serviceable and will keep fans of the series coming back for more if they’re into it.
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is an absolutely incredible game, and easily one of the best that the PlayStation 4 has to offer. I’m excited to see the single player DLC that Naughty Dog has planned for the game and where it fits into the Uncharted Universe. Until then, rest easy Nate the Great. You’ll be missed.