Saying goodbye to an iconic video game hero is never easy, it makes you angry, sad, and overwhelmingly empty inside. When the closing credits of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End started to roll, fond memories from Nathan Drake’s early adventures filled my mind. Every tomb he entered, every charming quote he said.
With Uncharted 4 cemented as the final chapter in the long-running series, Naughty Dog had every reason to give PlayStation’s poster boy a decent swan-song and see him out in style. Thorough, as usual, no stone was left unturned by the established studio as one creeps up on the closing chapters, successful in their venture to leave you emotionally drained but altogether satisfied with the outcome.
Uncharted 4 begins near to where it ends, on rough seas with Drake and his brother Sam unsurprisingly in a spot of trouble. Naughty Dog throw you straight into the action and it’s quite the opener visually. It’s obvious Naughty Dog pushed the PlayStation 4 to the limit when creating these memorable set-pieces, creating a game where weather and terrain both move in harmony.
Like every Uncharted entry, you’ll be jet-setting off to different parts of the world that offer variety in landscapes, some barren, others lush with wildlife. Everything is placed with a certain level of detail, leaving you, on occasion, standing on the spot taken the scenery in or messing around with the well-crafted Photo Mode feature.
Nonetheless, you move forward and following some early point-and-shoot action at the game’s beginning, the coin is flipped to Nathan and Elena living together as husband and wife, the days of bullets and baddies swapped for cheap Chinese food and video games.
Those who enjoy beautifully crafted scenes heavy on conversation rather than action will savor the moments between the two characters, filled with an emotional payload built over a trilogy of games. Important as it may be, Nate’s relationship with Elena plays second-fiddle to his relationship with Sam, the older brother bestowed with the same treasure hunting aspirations as his sibling.
Nate’s retirement is short-lived when Sam – thought to be killed – comes out of the woodwork looking for help to finish a job they both started over fifteen years ago. Naughty Dog cleverly feeds you some back story on Nate and Sam to give you somewhat of an emotional connection to the new character, not biting much off the game’s campaign time while doing so.
The campaign as a whole plays out different this time around. Instead of working your way towards an ending with mystical artifacts in the hands of demented antagonists, Sam and Drake – not forgetting Sully – look for the pirate colony of Libertalia. As expected, other parties are trying to beat Drake to the prize, one such lead by the ruthless Rafe Adlerith.
Drake, Sam, Rafe, even mercenary leader Nadine Ross have their reasons to pursue and find the treasure of legendary pirate, Captain Henry Avery, but ultimately are looking for redemption rather than filling their pockets. The ambition driving them is no different than the ambition Avery and his followers had to create Libertalia itself, something the game touches on with various notes from famous dead pirates found by Drake on his travels.
While the story is the driving force of Uncharted 4, the action-packed set-pieces and gameplay mechanics take center-stage and sets it apart from other installments in the series.
When not enthralled in the cinematic beauty, you’ll spend your time mowing down dozens of mercenaries with a variety of different weapons. The gunplay mechanics haven’t changed much, it’s still simply point-and-shoot to kill an enemy in the open or by simply stacking up against an object for protection. To make A Thief’s End realistic from a shootout perspective, nearly all cover was made destructible, meaning that sandbag or park bench will only serve as a safe haven for a short period of time.
This keeps you on the move and fits into the addition of the grappling hook, Naughty Dog’s way of getting Drake from one place to another quickly. By finding a specific point in an area, Drake can attach the hook and swing in the air to reach far off places or come down on enemies with a crushing right hand; like in the featured image above. The hook can also be used to move crates and pull down obstructions blocking your path. It’ a handy tool that can be used in a number of different ways, depending on how imaginative you are.
Grapple hook aside, climbing will always be the heart of Uncharted and Naughty Dog have tinkered with the mechanic to make it feel more fluid and look more believable. Many cliffs now have different routes one can take to reach their objective, different in difficulty and layout. It’s a welcomed sight for those who dislike the very idea of a linear experience, with these optional routes common throughout the campaign.
Puzzles also make a return in Uncharted 4, giving you a much-needed break from grenade dodging to try to open up a new path. Their difficulty level varies, but altogether you shouldn’t have issues cracking the code and moving forward.
I never really dived into the multiplayer portion of previous Uncharted releases, mainly due to my obsession with the story. The online offering is identical to what the single-player throws at you. The use of various weapons and the grappling hook feature and a healthy selection of different game modes for those who like a challenge.
The game isn’t heavy on multiplayer maps, but those available are well designed and offer a variety of different routes to get the drop on your enemy. The revive system gives you and your teammates a chance to avoid death if revived, stopping the opposing team from scoring a point, which you’ll find yourself doing pretty often.
The multiplayer component was very easy to pick up and play, with the mechanics of single-player warming you up to the perils of online. With a well thought out progression system and the plethora of customization options, Uncharted 4’s multiplayer is something I can see myself playing for months to come.
Unsurprisingly, Naughty Dog has delivered yet another well-crafted story with Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, cementing itself as the most fleshed out release of the series to date and the biggest game to launch for the PlayStation 4 as of yet.
No stone is unturned in the action-packed finale that see’s the charismatic explorer bow out in finest final chapter you could wish for.
Note: Uncharted 4 copy used for this review was downloaded digitally on the PlayStation 4
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