It’s incredible to sit back and watch the trajectory of developer Naughty Dog. It’s hard to put into perspective just how impressive their Playstation 3 lineup was. First they developed one of the greatest action adventure trilogies of all time, in Uncharted. And then somehow followed that up with what I consider to be one of the best games of all time, The Last of Us. Almost five years after Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception we get the forth and what Naughty Dog is calling the final game in the Uncharted franchise, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. It’s a game that I and much of the Darkstation staff have on our most anticipated games of 2016.
From the opening moment of Uncharted 4 to the very last scene, you’re on a journey that takes everything that Naughty Dog has learned through their last four games and rolled it into this final adventure for Nathan Drake. The game picks up a couple years after the events of Uncharted 3 where Nate and his lovely wife Elena are living a rather domestic life. Nathan is now contracting his services to help recover lost items, while Elena is still trying to find her way. The game actually lets you jump into their world, traverse their home and control Nathan as he dives to recover lost cargo from a derailed train. It’s probably not a surprise to anyone that’s played this franchise that both Nathan and Elena struggle with domesticity. You then get a flash back to Nathan’s childhood in the orphanage where for the first time in the series we’re introduced to Nathan’s brother Sam who, at the time we meet him, is out of the orphanage and living on his own.
Similar to The Last of Us, Naughty Dog once again develops a relationship between the brothers that instantly draws you in. Whether it’s joining them on their adventure in their youth or later in the game going after Captain Henry Avery’s treasure, their bonds are undeniable. If you think I’m being vague, it’s because I’m purposely being vague. This is a game that, even more then any Uncharted game before it, is incredibly story driven. The relationships are far more nuanced. The walking and talking moments of The Last of Us make several appearances in Uncharted 4, especially towards the end of the adventure, and make for some truly memorable experiences. There are a ton of quiet genuine moments, and I’m not ashamed to say I cried a couple of times during 15+ hour experience.
But do not fret, this is still an Uncharted game and for every sappy moment there are a handful of quick witted Nathan Drake style one-liners that fit exactly with the character that we’ve grown to love over all these years. In fact not only do the one-liners keep coming but the banter between Nathan and his brother Sam are priceless. The dialogue in this game is expertly written and just left me grinning from ear to ear when I wasn’t shedding a tear from those more tender moments.
One of the big changes from Uncharted 3 to Uncharted 4 is the pacing. Uncharted 4 is more of an adventure game than it is an action game. There are still several moments of action but you spend a lot less time doing it. This game is much more about traversing the world, pushing the story forward, and actually hunting treasure. More than any of the three games before it, you actually have a drive to find this treasure and it propels you forward. Traversing the world is still fantastic. Nathan has more upper body strength then the world’s finest Olympians. He is constantly pulling himself up ledges, and doing his best Spider-Man impression swinging from ropes to get from place to place.
For me, Uncharted 4 is the perfect amalgamation of the last three entries into the series. You never get tired of any one activity because you never spend much time doing them. I will say though, if you weren’t a fan of the shooting or traversal in the games before, that has not changed much in Uncharted 4. The one caveat being there are far less bullet sponges in this game when playing on the Normal difficulty setting. Most enemies can be taken down with a couple of bullets, if not one head shot. There are a handful of armored enemies towards the end that do require a little extra effort. The game also adds in some driving segments that were some of the most fun I had in the game. If you watched the E3 presentation that Sony put on in 2015 you will remember an open market that you drive through. That segment is one of the finest of the entire series and one that I actually replayed after completing the game.
For me, Uncharted 4 is all about the moments. This is the first game in years that made me set my alarm early to get up to play it and stay up to the wee hours of the night to finish a chapter. It’s not one thing that Uncharted 4 does well that pushes the game forward but the sum of its parts. Without spoiling anything, the game ends with one of the most enjoyable boss battles I’ve played in a long time. Not to mention the epilogue which literally left me in tears.
Like all the games before it, Uncharted 4 is an absolutely gorgeous game. The details that Naughty Dog have been famous for continue to astound in 2016. There is a sense of scale and wonder to each of the environments that is truly astounding. In fear of breaking embargo I didn’t take screenshots during the review process but I know on my second play through there are over a dozen spots in the game that I will take advantage of the built-in photo mode. This is one of the best looking games on the market and that's without even getting started on the cut scenes.
Uncharted 4 also includes its standard fare of multiplayer which I did spend a couple of hours in during the review process as well as some time during the beta. However, if I’m being frank that’s not what I come to an Uncharted game for. Although I’ve enjoyed these modes in the past and probably will in the future, the quality of this mode for me personally doesn’t have a major impact on my enjoyment of these games. I will say though, from what I did play of Uncharted 4’s multiplayer, it was an engaging experience that I think fans will enjoy.
For me though, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is all about the Nathan, Elena, Sam, and Sully. That’s what I come to these games for and that’s exactly what I was treated to. When I reviewed The Last of Us, I said it was one the best games I’ve ever played, and I stand by it. But when I think about Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, I can say that it’s in a class of its own. It's the most fun I've had with a video game since Super Mario World. It's an absolute treasure that combines action and story in a beautiful concert that I never wanted to end. It’s one of the rare games that years from now I know I will remember exactly where I was when the credits rolled and I said goodbye to Nathan Drake, one of the most prolific video game characters of all time. Bravo Naughty Dog, bravo.
The owner and editor-in-chief of Darkstation.com. I've been apart of the website since 2002 and purchased the website in 2010. Owning and running Darkstation is a dream come true. I love video games and I love writing and talking about them even more.