‘Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End’ Video Game Review
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is the fifth installment in the PlayStation exclusive Uncharted series released by Naughty Dog that began with the release of Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune in 2007 on the PlayStation 3. The first game would be followed up by Uncharted 2: Among Thieves in 2009 and Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception in 2011 on the same console, as well as a spinoff on the Vita titled Uncharted: Golden Abyss, also released in 2011. The series as a whole has been a critical and financial success and this latest installment will likely be no different.
When talking about any Uncharted game, one must talk about Nathan Drake, our resident treasure hunter, explorer, historian, sharpshooter, mountain climber, doting husband, and (possible) little brother. He has played many roles through five games, but the last two are new to the series and both have a large impact on the plot of Uncharted 4. The game not only continues the loosely connected overarching plot of the series, it also ties the whole narrative together in the end while strewing fun pieces of nostalgia that are throwbacks to the previous games. Be it a mention of some long-lost ancient city that Nate discovered (and subsequently destroyed) in his previous adventures or an attic full of mementos gathering dust after his “retirement” following Uncharted 3, a series veteran will find themselves smiling at memories of past games.
A Thief’s End’s plot is as well written and fun to follow as any other in the series, but was obviously meant to be a little more serious. Luckily, the trademark humor and great dialogue helps lighten the mood during some pretty dark situations. The biggest addition to the series from a plot aspect is the introduction of Samuel Drake. Sam is Nathan’s, up to this point unmentioned, older brother who comes to Nathan asking for help, so Nate agrees to go on one last adventure for the sake of his brother. Sam sheds light on a whole new side of Nate’s life that was never explored up to this point and leads to some excellent platforming and character-building flashback sections. Series regulars Victor “Sully” Sullivan and Elena Fischer return and their relationships with Nathan have evolved in some significant ways since we last saw them that may impact the plot.
Gameplay-wise, this installment falls very much in line with the rest of the series. All of the platforming, climbing, combat, chase sequences, and puzzles are intact. The platforming and combat aspects have been given some great additions that add excitement to the proven, though slightly aging system. Instead of relying on just his own body, courage, and luck in climbing sections, Nate now has access to a grappling hook which adds a fun swing mechanic to these sections and is part of an obvious attempt to make the environments less linear. Thanks to the grappling hook, climbing pitons can be used to access areas that would have been impossible to reach in previous games. As for combat, an optional system to mark enemies, which makes them easier to track in the larger zones, is a welcome addition. The marking system lends itself to playing through the combat sections using a purely stealth technique that was possible in the previous installments, but is much easier to pull off here.
Should you want to skip the stealth option for a more bullet-riddled experience, you will be happy to know that the cover-based combat system of past games is intact with the addition of swinging points for the new grappling hook mechanic. Another aspect of Uncharted has always been puzzles and Uncharted 4 delivers; puzzles range from a series of lights that need to be lined up in a particular order, a more platform heavy sequence, or a logic exercise. Whatever they are, these puzzles always make you feel good about the accomplishment and the thrill of continuing to the next section of the game.
Graphically, this game truly shows off the power of the PlayStation 4 and offers jaw-dropping locales to traverse during your global hunt for the latest macguffin in the series. The Uncharted games have always had some of the best graphics in gaming and A Thief’s End is no different; the effects and character models are possibly the best of any current game. The only thing more beautiful than the graphics may be the voice acting. The game employs voice actors Nolan North, Emily Rose, and Troy Baker as Nathan, Elena, and Samuel respectively. They join a cast of other wonderful voice actors who, as usual, nail their respective characters. Nolan North brings that trademark Drake sense of humor and wit to the protagonist who is easily one of the most likable characters in all of gaming.
The multiplayer mode for the Uncharted series has always seemed like a tacked-on addition to a game that most would play for the main narrative, but that assumption is completely false for this entry; A Thief’s End includes a wonderful multiplayer experience to match that of the campaign experience. The matches lend themselves to fast and furious firefights and the inclusion of the new grappling hook and swing mechanic is well utilized in the eight wonderful maps and three game modes. Be it Deathmatch, capture-the-hill-like Plunder, or command type Domination mode, hours of fun can be had, especially if a player has like-minded friends to play with. The matches are spiced up by the inclusion of both special “sidekicks” and “mysticals.”
Sidekicks are special AI-controlled cronies who help you out, while mysticals are special items that give you supernatural powers and call on the franchise’s more mythical themes. Naughty Dog has planned a rather unique DLC strategy that will give players more maps, skins, weapons, modes, and special mystical items over the next year until spring of 2017. The multiplayer may seem to some as a tacked-on option, but it is clear that the developers are meaning to make it worth your time and effort to play.
Uncharted 4 is an exciting romp and fits in perfectly with what has been an excellent series by Naughty Dog over the last decade and finishes up the story wonderfully. That being said, if there has been one gripe that many have had about the Uncharted franchise as a whole is the length of the games. This reviewer finished the first playthrough of this new entry in right around 16 hours, which is mostly par for the course when it comes to Naughty Dog’s latest games, such as the superb The Last of Us. Despite the somewhat short length, the experience of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End‘s main campaign and multiplayer is well worth the $60 price tag due to its great story, gameplay, graphics, multiple difficulties, and collection of artifacts that add to the replay value.
A big thanks to Naughty Dog for this game, as well as all the fun and memories over the past nine years. The adventures, or perhaps misadventures, of Nathan Drake and his crew will surely be remembered for many years to come and this reviewer is happy to have experienced them.
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End was reviewed on PlayStation 4 and is a console exclusive. A copy of the game was purchased by the reviewer.
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