Oh, would you look at that! Another Games and Gimmicks Review of basically what I consider the top game of the month (maybe GOTY contender…) Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End.
So let’s dive right into it: Uncharted 4 is simply put, beautiful. There really is no other way to describe it. In terms of single player action adventure content, there really is no other comparison to the Uncharted games. In the past we’ve been treated to amazing locales, intense gun battles and set pieces, and of course, plenty of climbing. I could describe the plot of the last four games, but rather get into too crazy of detail, let’s have the Wikipedia page describe them for us:
Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune sees Drake travel to the Amazon and an uncharted island off the coast of South America.Uncharted 2: Among Thieves explores the snow-capped mountain landscapes of Tibet, a museum in Istanbul, the jungles of Borneo and the urban landscapes of Nepal. Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception sees Drake through a number of locations, including the streets of London and Colombia, a château in France, a castle in Syria, a city in Yemen and the sprawling deserts of the Rub’ al Khali. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End sees Nate journey to the Rossi estate in Italy, a cathedral in Scotland, several locations in King’s Bay, Madagascar and several uncharted islands in the Indian Ocean
Whew! If you’ve ever wanted to be transported to some of the most beautiful locations in the world then these games have always been for you. Naughty Dog always seems to find some, heh, uncharted ground in their latest games. With each and every new game, not just uncharted games, we are treated to some remix of their already stellar formula. I shouldn’t be awe struck but I have to say that for various portions of this game, I literally played a bit slack-jawed. Meaning, this is exactly how I looked during the majority of my play-through:
Uncharted 4 truly feels to me like the ultimate culmination of the series. We enter the story with our protagonist, Nathan Drake as he is once again thrust into the uncertain world of Treasure Hunting. Drake is himself a consummate professional, like a triple threat, he does it all: shooting, fighting, climbing. (really when you think about it, this is the core of Uncharted). Without these pillars, the game would fall! Now I won’t get too in depth with the story so as to avoid ruining too much for those of you who have yet to play it, BUT SPOILER…the game centers around the mysterious world of Libertalia, a lost Pirate enclave said to hold the worlds most valuable treasures and ultimately, which relationships Nathan truly values. While we were last left with a satisfied Nathan Drake at the end of Uncharted 3, we now open Uncharted 4 with a happy but non content Nathan Drake. He seems to have it all now, a great relationship with his wife, Elana, a good job and a house, but we know, we know, deep down that it doesn’t seem to be enough for him. We are also treated to some wonderful moments early on with Nathan and Elana enjoying one of the PS1’s classic Naughty Dog games, Crash Bandicoot:
I really feel like this scene, should you choose to watch it because it is a bit long, truly encapsulates the state of mind of all of the characters in this story. Not only is this scene a special nod to Naughty Dogs first game, but it is also something that the Uncharted series needed. It needed this slower, more methodical scene to get straight at the heart of this game, that being that the main character is not happy. Nathan is finally in a good place with Elana, but he isn’t being honest about what he truly wants: some form of adventure. Ultimately this is Nathan’s true conflict: can he be this globe trotting debonaire adventurer without losing what he holds dear? Or is he really the scoundrel rogue that we thought he was? Nathan really isn’t a perfect hero and Uncharted 4 really tries to get the player to grasp this. Shortly after the scene above, Sam, Nathans’ older brother returns from what was almost certain death. The beginning of the game opens with Nathan, Sam, and the true villain of the story, Rafe, on the run from some goons. Sam ends up getting shot and being left for dead, a terribly low point for Nathan. Sam returns to reveal that he is in dire straights with the bad guys that broke him out of jail and Nathan is now his only hope for paying off the debt to Alcazar, a pretty ruthless bad guy.
So that is probably the best way to set up this game without spoiling some of the truly awesome moments. Nathan decides to lie to Elana to help his brother Sam search for the lost city of Libertalia to hopefully save Sams life. There are various moments jumping back and forth in the timeline to give you a real sense of the relationship the two brothers share. We get some very cool moments with Nathan and Sam as kids breaking out of and then into various locations. We start to get a good understanding of who Nathan is and why he is the person that he became. What a cool idea! Through the course of these video games, Naughty Dog has slowly been building and building upon their characters. Not in the literal sense but in a way to make the player feel like they truly know this character. We get the full picture of Nathan’s past and as a result, I think this helps the series. It more or less does a lot to wash away some of the more fantastical and unrealistic parts of Uncharted from the previous games. It is through Nathans relationships to his friends and loved ones that we get a better understanding of this Indiana Jones type character.
These relationships, and the choice to either nurture of neglect those relationships is a big theme in this game.
Now that we’ve discussed the story, let’s move on to some of the gameplay additions to Uncharted 4. It has been a few years since I played Uncharted 3 and 2 so you’ll have to forgive me if some of the elements I talk about were in those previous games. Uncharted 4 adds a few lovely changes to both fighting and how we navigate around the world. First, this Uncharted game is way more open world, or rather, maybe the worlds seem so well put together and big that you feel like you could spend hours exploring. I found myself swimming like a fish in a later part of the game where you and Sam explore a barren island in search for more clues to Libertalia. This is all a welcome change. Whether or not this is real or just a perception, I think the way the levels are laid out in this latest game are much more seamless and less ridged than previous games in the series. This leads to some of the fun gameplay additions which you will see in the video below:
You’ll see the fun little mechanic for when Nathan slides down a rock slide and the new stealth features. The rock slide adds some fun and serves to break down some of the more monotonous parts of jumping from rock to rock. It can get very nerve racking when this is coupled this with some of the rope climbing parts too. The added factor of sliding off a mountain side to your death and then catching yourself with your rope hook at the last second is a welcome addition. In the video below you can also see how some of the rope climbing can enhance the wall climbing parts of this game. I’m also watching this footage now and thinking that some kind of rock climbing video game would be an awesome idea right now (and no, I don’t mean you Grow Home).
Stealth is improved in this game too by giving the player the option to switch from attacking to stealth very quickly. I quickly picked up from the game that while the preferred method of defeating my enemies was through stealth, I was given the option in almost every instance to start a gun battle instead. In fact, I found that if you simply get away from your enemies even after starting a firefight and then if you navigate back to the tall grass, the enemies will then go back to searching for you. What an awesome change this is! It means I can honestly switch up how I play this game in almost every portion that requires me to fight some bad guys. It also adds more variety as I may start out with stealth, get bored and shoot some bad guys, then get overwhelmed and decide to hide. That or just keep shooting! Honestly, shooting has never been the strong suit of Uncharted games, but this game serves to redefine that methodology. The player is truly given the option, and it isn’t that hard to switch from stealth to fighting and back again.
Lastly, I will leave with my one con, which is not really a con because it just goes to show you that Naughty Dog has some truly amazing artist working for them. My one gripe with the Uncharted games in the past is the unfortunate uncanniness of things. In that some portions of a rock climbing section look so good that you literally have no idea which area to jump to next. You’ll invariably kill Nathan a few times when you think that ledge you could jump to grab was actually something the developers intended for you to grab. Should be noted though that I turned off aim assist and camera assist so that probably didn’t do me any favors:
So honestly I could rant and rant and rant about this game and how if you truly love a wonderfully told single player story, this is the mark for all other games to meet in the future and if you are not playing it you’re wasting your time with other games….But I digress! What is the ruling on Uncharted 4: A Theif’s End? Please, please, please GIVE IT A SHOT! If you don’t pick up this game, you’re wasting your money on a PS4.