The Uncharted franchise has found much success through the years. Beyond being a critically-acclaimed IP, the series is also living proof that a video game can achieve a cinematic feel thanks to proper motion capture performances. Naughty Dog have continuously raised the bar in the action adventure genre, and with Uncharted 4: A Thief's End, they've once again thrown down the gauntlet. Saying this is an amazing game isn’t enough to describe what the developers have done. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is probably one of the best products to come out of this industry.
There’s a lot Naughty Dog has done to make Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End an unforgettable experience. For one, the pacing of the campaign grips you tight and never lets go. Once I started this adventure, the urge to keep playing never went away. Nathan Drake’s latest yarn revolves around his brother Sam Drake, whom he presumed dead for fifteen years. After the events of the last three games, we find Nate now older and out of the game, living a normal life with his wife Elena Fisher. Out of the blue, Sam injects himself back into Nathan’s life and draws his little brother back into the world of treasure hunting. The inclusion of Sam Drake was done with care. Even though he was never mentioned in the previous games, Uncharted 4 gives the player enough information and time to get to know the other witty Drake. By the time you hit the second half of the campaign, his character, motivations, and relationships with the others are clearly laid out.
Returning characters such as Victor Sullivan, Elena Fisher, and of course the main man himself, Nathan Drake, show growth during the campaign. It’s been years since their last adventure together and everything we love about them is intact, but they're driven by different needs and priorities now. This makes for a refreshing take on characters we’ve known for years. Sam's interactions with the old crew are also a treat. The antagonists Nadine and Rafe may not be as menacing as previous villains, but their motivations are properly explained. This is a highly personal journey for Nathan Drake, and it was told exceptionally well.
Pacing is also in check when it comes to the gameplay. Naughty Dog did well in juggling the different types of gameplay, adding challenges incrementally to keep the player invested. There’s a spike later in the game that changes the way you climb, but the addition of what I call the “Indy rope” makes climbing a fun and inviting experience. Climbing sections are no longer 'a few button presses and you're on the top’ kind of affairs. Nathan’s trusty rope is probably the best new feature, and thanks to well-placed beams and poles, it provides more mobility during gunfights. It also gives players the opportunity to admire the scenery, because damn, this is a gorgeous looking game. Climbing is doubly rewarding for all the eye candy and I may have played around a bit too much with the Photo Mode feature during my playthrough.
Gunfights don't break the mold of your typical third-person cover shooter, but there's added features to spice up the gameplay. For one, most of the cover you'll find will thin out the longer it's hit by gunfire, urging the player to keep on moving. Stealth is more implied here in A Thief’s End, and there isn't always a pipeline filled with enemies to kill. Most of the time, you get the element of surprise, giving the player a chance to sneak past enemies or kill them silently. Sometimes, when things go south, hiding for a bit can get the enemy off your scent. It’s a nice change and I appreciate the added option if you’re not in the mood for shooting thirty thugs in the next five minutes.
Driving is a new feature in this game, too. Certain single-player chapters provide a 4x4 jeep to explore and traverse the landscapes. These stages were a big highlight for me since you get to take in the visuals, hear hilarious banter, or simply satisfy the explorer in you. Puzzles are back and the developers pack in rooms and deathtraps that require you think in order to move forward. Fistfights are more dynamic and your friendly characters' AI aren't useless – they actually help. They'll help you get out from an enemy choke-hold, actually shoot and kill enemies, and even tag-team with Nate for a satisfying team takedown. All these gameplay features are placed well to remove any form of redundancy during this 10-12-hour campaign. Oh, and the big set pieces? They are still as crazy and entertaining as ever.
Multiplayer makes a return and this feels like a safe approach from Naughty Dog. Unlike the dynamic maps introduced in Uncharted 3, we now have static maps that complement the new rope mechanic. New features include sidekicks that allow you to summon an AI-controlled partner that can either support your team or be a menace to your enemies. Relic items are also new to multiplayer and add a supernatural element to the mix. One relic allows the player to lob a totem to damage nearby enemies, while another lets players move quickly through the map.
Sidekicks, relics, and special weapons can be bought on the fly with the money earned from pickups, kills, assists, and objective plays. You unlock more weapons as you play and use certain weapons, and the relic currency you earn during daily challenges and winning matches can be used to buy chests that will give you random rewards like skins, aesthetics, taunts, and more. While it’s as fun as the other Uncharted multiplayer offerings before it, they haven't added much to keep you invested after a few weeks. While it's a great distraction, multiplayer is definitely not the highlight of Uncharted 4.
This game brings a lot to the table. With all the gameplay features, cutscenes, visually stunning environments, and textured detail, you’d expect to experience a lot of hitches along the way. I did find a few, but they are so minimal that I was never detached from the experience. This game was handled with care, there's no denying it. From the amount of detail in the character animations interacting with the environments to the different locales you visit on various continents, this degree of quality is still quite rare to this day.
Naughty Dog should be proud with the work they’ve done in what could be their last Uncharted game. This was the perfect way to close the books on characters we’ve come to know and love since 2007. This is a game that could be an inspiration for writers, actors, and would-be game developers in the future. Your expectations will be higher than ever for action adventure games after you play this. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End will be talked about for months for many different reasons, and deservedly so. This is pure entertainment at its best.
Reviewed By: Carlos Hernandez
+ Pacing keeps you invested, eager for more
+ One of the most visually stunning game on the PS4
+ The “Indy Rope” brings new life to climbing
+ Well-scripted characters. Old characters show growth.
- Multiplayer feels like an afterthough