The Uncharted series can quite possibly be seen as the defining franchise for the PS3. Sure, there were a couple of excellent other games including the LittleBigPlanet games, but nothing comes close to Uncharted in terms of the quality offered and envy that non-owners of a PS3 must have (or should have) felt. After the recent remastered versions of the original trilogy, Naughty Dog is now closing the book on the series with Uncharted 4 – A Thief’s End. Here’s our review.
I can see skeptics saying “there’s no way they’ll pass on Uncharted 5”, but Naughty Dog didn’t rush into a sequel to The Last of Us either so we felt safe approaching Uncharted 4 as the series finale it was announced to be. The game’s narrative starts out giving us a different vibe though – as we are introduced to a brand new key character very early on. This character is Sam, Nathan Drake’s brother and a fellow treasure hunter. Nathan’s wife Elena is also back, as she and Nathan have enjoyed a few years away from all the dangers that treasure hunting and adventuring brings with it. Sam ends up tempting Nathan back into action, and what unfolds after that (without giving anything away) is a tale full of emotional drama based on the relationships between the three main characters, as well as another tale of adventure that involves an evil organization that wants to claim that which you’re also after. It’s familiar, and it follows the Uncharted formula, but Drake’s fourth adventure does focus quite a bit more on the relationship aspects of the story than the original trilogy did. Tension reaches a boiling point more than once over the course of the (lengthy!) campaign, and it showcases Naughty Dog’s skills at using storytelling to elevate their game experiences.
The gameplay formula is instantly familiar to fans of the series. Incredibly set pieces, great action sequences and excellent use of cinematic viewing angles are all back for Uncharted 4. There are, however, also a few subtle differences when it comes to how the action goes down. Uncharted is still a linear experience – and it’s what works best with the cinematic formula it has – but the development team has given the player just a tiny bit of extra room to move this time around. The two main differences are that stealth is a much more viable option now and the fact that certain areas have a bit more room to explore. It’s a shame these weren’t implemented earlier, because that would have given Naughty Dog some time to perfect them for Drake’s final adventure. That’s not to say that these elements are poorly executed – far from it. The (often optional) stealth sections especially are good, and a nice change of pace. We’ve seen better and more fleshed out stealth experiences in other games though – and we’re sure Naughty Dog could have lifted the bar on these sections even higher if they had been given more time to grow in this little sub-genre within their game.
The climbing and jumping portion of the game is largely unchanged, but there’s a change to the combat scenes. Aside from ducking for cover and taking down enemies with your firearm and melee moves, you can now also utilize a grapple rope to move around and literally swing into action. It takes some getting used to, but it’s a gratifying experience when you first pull it off. I’m sure this will also add some depth to the multiplayer modes once those get played more, but we focused on the campaign for the sake of this review – in which the grappling action is rarely absolutely necessary and a bit difficult to master, but always exhilarating when it all comes together.
Of course another hallmark of the Uncharted series has always been its presentation and production values. Uncharted 4 – the first title to be developed from the ground up for the PS4 – sets a new bar in this regards. It’s easy to make a case for this game being the best-looking Playstation 4 game released so far, but the artistic merits don’t end there. The voice acting and quality of the animations are stellar – especially when looking at the performances of the main characters and the way the story is turned into an emotional affair through the use of facial animation and voice work.
Uncharted 4 is a marvelous game and everyone with a PS4 owes it to themselves to own it. If you don’t have a PS4, this is the best reason so far to go out and get one too – it’s that good. It’s shame that the series is coming to an end, but we’re sure Naughty Dog will pleasantly surprise us again with whatever comes next. We would have loved to see things like the stealth sections mature in a future Uncharted game, but we’re really just nitpicking here. Get this game, now.