Review – Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
Developer: Naughty Dog
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Release Date: May 10th 2016
Replaying Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End for review was interesting. The game was definitely my most anticipated of 2016 when it released. Production leading up to the release of the game was shaky, with the lead game designers being swapped over during the early stages of the game’s development, but the fact that Neil Druckman and Bruce Strailey had just finished developing the masterpiece that was The Last Of Us when they took this project on, I had every faith that this game was going to be great and it is, – for the most part.
The game opens with an aged Nathan who has left the treasure hunting life to settle down with his wife Elena. He now works as a diver for a salvaging company, but it is clear that he misses the more adventurous life. Then, to cut a long story short, Nate’s brother Sam is introduced into the fold and we get a fairly generic reason why Nate has never mentioned him in the past. Essentially Sam is in trouble and needs to pay off some dangerous people, which is why he needs Nate’s help in tracking down the pirate treasure that they began chasing a good number of years ago. Nate then lies to Elena about having to go to Malaysia for work reasons and their adventure begins.
The first thing that I want to praise this game for is its insanely impressive visuals. This was probably the best looking game that I had ever played through when I first played it. Throughout the duration of the story, the player is granted with several outright beautiful landscapes and vistas. During the first half of Sam and Nate’s adventure, we see them go to Scotland, (which is actually where I’m from,) but that is probably the most boring location that they visit, everywhere else is warm and exotic and truly stunning.
Even upon playing it through for a second time, the incredible visuals caused me several times to get confused when I was given control of the player character, often times thinking that I was still watching a cutscene before realising, “wait, I can play this?!” The animations are also smooth for the majority of the game, for example early on in the game there is a mass brawl scene that takes place in a prison and although I was playing and controlling the punches that Nate was throwing, it looked like a choreographed fight from a movie like the Raid, which really did impress me in a big way. Although at other points in the game there are some animations that are a little more janky looking, especially when climbing and using the rope, but I’ll get back to that later.
As a character study, this is by far the best Uncharted game. The script is the best it has ever been, the majority of the actors are brilliant in their roles and the relationships and emotions that are explored in this game are complex and compelling. However, Uncharted is as much known for its characters and their relationships as it is for its epic, insane set pieces and that is sorely lacking here.
There a few rinse and repeat building collapse and escape set pieces, which is nothing new to the Uncharted series and other than that, the big set-piece of the game is the jeep chase that we saw at the E3 prior to the game’s release. Yep, the biggest set-piece in this game is a glorified car chase, as in pretty much the exact same jeep chase as we played though in Uncharted 2, but in Uncharted 2 it led to an epic train battle, which then led to the escape of the collapsed train. So basically, the biggest set-piece in this game is only a portion of the awesome set piece that we already played through two games ago.
That is where this game sorely misses Amy Hennig’s influence. She really is a genius when it comes to epic action set-pieces, whereas because Neil and Bruce are better at character moments, these are the main focus of Uncharted 4. However, that’s never been the main selling point of the Uncharted series for me, but it’s what we got, so let’s go through the characters that appear in Uncharted 4.
First of all, I do like this version of Nate, he is older more restrained and more reluctant to get himself into danger than he was before. His brother Sam is an okay character, if a bit of an tool at times, although he clearly knows his way around a treasure map and his relationship with Nate is quite an interesting one. It’s also nice to see Sully again even though his role in this game is fairly reserved, he is getting pretty old after all.
The villains in this game aren’t great, which is pretty par for the course in the Uncharted series. The main antagonist is a wealthy man called Raef, he is about the same ages as Nate and he is a spoiled brat. He is a serviceable villain, but fairly generic and nothing to write home about. His sidekick, Nadine is a largely unnecessary addition. She doesn’t bring anything major to the plot and if she didn’t exist the game would most likely be no different to what it is now.
As I played through the game seven years after it first released, I marvelled at how well made everything was and up until about halfway through the game, my experience was totally smooth and seamless. However as I started making my way towards the end of the game, Nate started to randomly jut around as the animations felt more stiff and less free flowing. His hand was going through rocks, rather than leaning on them, his feet would either sink below the ground under him or hover above it slightly.
And then during one of the last chapters in the game, – during yet another collapsing building escape sequence, – while Nate was sliding he got caught on a piece of debris and the game glitched out indefinitely, all because I didn’t quite slide into the spot that I was supposed to. Eventually I had to restart the game from the last checkpoint to proceed. This was the only major glitch that I experienced during this second playthrough, but when the rest of the game is so smooth and that smooth standard is what you expect from all Naughty Dog games, this moment stands out like a sore thumb. Especially when you consider that Naughty Dog have had seven years to fix these things.
I feel like I have been quite critical of the game so far, but I really did enjoy revisiting Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End for review. I was working full time while playing through the game at nights, so it served as a nice respite from work and I savoured every moment of it. I had no intention to rush my way through to the end of the game, especially since I already know how it ends. I think I beat it over 10 nights or so and that to me was a nice rate to play through the game at, because after you beat this one, that’s it. No more Uncharted ever again if you believe what Naughty Dog says. The game was a suitable send off for the epic series and as of now, it is my second favourite Uncharted game, behind Among Thieves. Unfortunately the glitches that I experienced towards the end of the game and the disturbing lack of set pieces throughout did detract from my experience, but if you are a long time Uncharted fan this is a must play and the standard of storytelling is truly astonishing.
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