Good Story and Characters
Graphics are awesome
Gameplay is pretty spectacular
Cover system not consistent
A Beautiful Game: Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
If you haven’t heard of Uncharted then where have you been for the last nine years?! The phenomenally successful Naughty Dog PlayStation exclusive of the first Uncharted (Drake’s Fortune) was such a stunning game that actually made me switch consoles. Since then the series has gone from strength to strength, with Uncharted 2: Among Thieves being one of the most awarded games of all time.
While all of the games in the series have been PlayStation exclusives, A Thief’s End is the first to be built for the PS4. Let’s see how it compares.
I’m not going to lie, I was initially quite worried when reading about the game. Firstly, Amy Hennig was let go from Naughty Dog for this game, if you don’t know she was the creative director behind the last three instalments, and I was pretty concerned about another Uncharted without her. It does, however, have the same creative team as The Last of Us, which is heartening, and my fears were dispelled as I found that, yes, it is just as fun as its predecessors.
So let’s break it down:
Following up from the last installment in which Drake was looking for the “Atlantis of the Sands”, this one begins with him in retirement. Someone from his past, and I won’t spoil it by saying who comes back to entice him back into adventuring.
Once again, the character development in this game is unparalleled, so much work goes into making the new characters part of the team and feel of the game that you totally buy them being part of the history by its end.
There is a little, well, not continuity error as it works, but an issue of storylining. The past that was revealed of Nathan in Uncharted: Drake’s Deception is changed a little, and it’s clear that it wasn’t part of the plan while making the last game, that said if you’re not looking too closely it probably won’t bother you.
In terms of plot you romp around the globe as Nathan, uncovering conspiracies, finding treasure. You know; the usual.
There are a few parts of the game that are slower, after the prologue the intro is pretty slow, and a few of the later episodes as well, but if you’re thoroughly invested in the series, it’s just a bit more time to explore the characters and backstory.
It will be the last game in the series, Naughty Dog has confirmed (though voice actor Nolan North has said he would continue in the role of Drake if the opportunity came about), and yeah I was happy with the ending. It felt like it did justice to my long-term relationship with the franchise.
You might have guessed from my title that the graphics in this game are impressive. But just the sheer extent of detail and originality of construction make it seem, at times, more real than real life. I won’t go on about this too much, just because I really have nothing bad to say here. They’re spectacular, flawless. Okay moving on.
The whole series has been known for its impressive action sequences, daring escapes, etc. But A Thief’s End takes it to a whole other level.
There are some nitty-gritty issues: for such a well-crafted piece of art, the hit detection is still an issue. There are many, many times during a play-through that you will shoot someone in the head/neck and they are utterly un-phased.
Also, can we talk about that? Why don’t neck shots count as headshots in games? Are AI soldiers built with magically bullet-resistant necks? Come on!
The stealth mechanics have also taken a big jump, aided by the addition of the grappling hook which is pretty fun. You also get a piton later on which helps to keep the puzzles as exciting as ever. They still feel unique when you come across one. I’ve never felt like they did a copy over from a previous game, which they could have gotten away with, so well done them.
One of my issues with Uncharted has always been that of linearity; most people get pretty much the same experience of the games as they don’t really have too much choice as to where you go. There’s a bit of an improvement here, there’s a slightly more open level design, meaning different paths, but they will all lead you to the same place. It’s one of the problems that you’re always going to encounter with a game that isn’t open world, though, and I’m not holding it against them.
Don’t you sometimes play a game like this, with AI-assisted jumping and a lot of clues, and wish nostalgically for a game like the early Tome Raider’s, that dropped you in the deep end (over and over) because there was a jump that was next to impossible, or left you wandering around with no idea what you should be doing? No, actually I don’t either, it was really frustrating, but all the same, sometimes you do feel as though Uncharted is holding your hand just a little too much. Even in the more tricky parts of the game, you’re always being assisted in some way.
While the game modes in the multiplayer are nothing spectacular, it has to be said that it is more than an afterthought to the game. There’s no way for a project like this it’s ever going to match up to the single player campaign, but it’s got momentum and is thoroughly enjoyable to play.
With a score of 93% on Metacritic (beaten in the series only by Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, which received 96%), 9/10 on IGN and Trusted Reviews, the game has gotten a fantastic reception, and will no doubt go down as one of the best early PS4 games.
In summary, this is not a perfect game, there is new lore that is introduced, a crucial character that had to work hard to be a part of the story, and such heavy scripting and linearity that when you’re playing you’re still observing to an extent.
All of that said, it is one of the most enjoyable gaming experiences you can come across, a technical and visual masterpiece, and a fitting end to a magnificent franchise. They didn’t let Uncharted wither away and die. They went out with a Bang.