Developed by Naughty Dog
Available Exclusively on PS4
Rated M for Mature
In the modern world of gaming, there are few companies that match Naughty Dog’s dedication to consistently making incredible games. It’s not praise I give lightly. There is an undeniable integrity to their approach, and time and again their consistent dedication makes games that rise far above the grade. Since Crash Bandicoot, they have not come out with a single game that has disappointed me. Since Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, every game has astounded.
Now, on my knees and lips properly wetted, you’ll be surprised to find that this isn’t a sloppy wet beej for Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. I really liked it. I borderline loved it. But it wasn’t a game made for me. For all of the epic set pieces, lovable characters, witty dialogue, tense action, and creative story, this is not a game for me. This is because, for the first time in the series, Uncharted 4 is inexplicably devoid of any supernatural element.
Fair warning now, don’t read this review if you don’t want spoilers. If you are jumping into the series right here, with Uncharted 4 as your first game, then consider this to be a 5 star, incredibly high recommendation. As a stand alone title, the game is as close to perfect as I’ve ever seen, aside from The Last of Us. The explosions are bright, the quips rapid, visuals stunning. It’s fun, and keeps you glued to your seat until the end. I beat it all in one sweaty and off-puttingly smelly 12 hour binge. 5/5, 10/10, 5/7, perfect game.
*SPOILERS JUST IN CASE YOU WEREN’T PAYING ATTENTION!!!!*
There’s a good reason that people compare Indiana Jones and Uncharted. Unforgettable hero, charming banter, deplorable villains, heart-stopping action, apocalyptic stakes, and heavy helpings of comedic spice. Oh, and let’s not forget, a dose of the crazy supernatural shit. Take a moment and think, what would Raiders of the Lost Ark be without the Ark of the Covenant? What would Temple of Doom be without Kali Ma? What would The Last Crusade be without the Holy Grail? What would Kingdom of the Crystal Skull be without… okay, bad example.
For the past three games, Uncharted has had, in order, plague zombies that you fought with Nazi weaponry, Marco Polo’s crew turned into black-toothed yeti monsters after bathing in the Tree of Life, and psychedelic sand demon/flesh eating spiders. Now, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End introduces… pirate traps. Not like, immortal pirates setting traps or any of that stuff. Just 300 year old pirate traps. That only sometimes work. Spooooooky!
Not only did Naughty Dog fuck with the formula, they also stuck their dick straight into the canon. I’m not going to go on a tirade about the sanctity of the Uncharted series storyline, but I at least expect by the third game I know if there are any spare siblings to crawl out of the woodwork. Unfortunately, Uncharted 3 wrapped things up too neatly, so now to get Nathan back into the game we are introduced to his long lost brother Sam. We learn that they used to be a globetrotting law-skirting dynamic duo, but Sam was shot 15 years ago when the brothers were attempting to escape a Panamanian jail with their old friend/current enemy, Rafe. Neither Nathan nor his lifelong friend Sully have mentioned this because it makes him, like, really super sad.
Granted, it doesn’t go so far as to not feel like Uncharted. It’s a blatant attempt to inject some drama into a series that clearly concluded in game three, but it’s by itself a quality title. I really enjoyed playing it. There’s a whole new dimension to the level design, allowing you to fight, move, ambush, and sneak along walls as easily as you do behind cover. Every arena is designed with this in mind, and swinging from a grappling point to the side of a cliff to toss a grenade behind some snipers is a kind of cinematic fun that used to be reserved for cutscenes. The criticism for the Uncharted games has always been that they are too “scripted,” relying on quick time events and pre-set sequences to deliver on the action. With Uncharted 4, the barrier between pre-scripted events and the ability to create your own action hero vision has never been thinner. You can create some truly Spielberg worthy moments in every fight.
Don’t get me wrong, there are still the signature cinematic sequences, full of running through collapsing buildings and escaping just before something drags you to your death. It’s still Uncharted, after all. It’s still the same game you know and love, but with about 200% more polish. It is, without a doubt, the most mechanically sound and technically robust title of the series. It’s absolutely gorgeous to behold, and a joy to play.
And as I said before, as a stand alone game, it’s perfect. If this were Uncharted: A Thief’s End without the “4,” it would be one of my alltime favorite games. Unfortunately, as a fan of the series, I can remember the epic moments from the titles of yesteryear. That awesome on-foot car chase is straight out of Uncharted 2. The intro boat sequence is a callback to Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. Running across a building as it crumbles is… well, it’s from every Uncharted game.
I know it must sound inconsistent for me to criticize the game for staying the same in the same breath as decrying it for removing the supernatural element, but there’s a difference between tweaking a formula to make it fresh and completely abandoning it. I loved these games for the crazy twist it would take towards the end. It was the perfect icing on the witty action-adventure cake, simultaneously adding camp and increasing the tension and wonder. I really did enjoy the pursuit of Captain Avery’s gold, seeing the various traps, and unraveling the mystery, but the whole time I was on the edge of my seat wondering what was really going on. I was imagining that Libertalia was some kind of prison for dragons or portal to hell. But no, it just turns out that they made their pirate paradise, and pirates will be pirates, so they all killed each other. Riveting.
I’d have to be absolutely insane to let any of these criticisms justify me calling Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End a bad game. As an end cap to the series, it does a good job, and filled my heart with little butterflies when I saw how it all worked out. I was excited playing the whole thing. But I can’t deny that after it was all said and done, looking back at the package, I was let down. If you are looking for a great action adventure game, it will definitely deliver. If you are a series fan like me, it’s not Drake’s greatest adventure.