Forget the set-pieces for a second; forget the fact that Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is the finale of one of the most popular franchises in history. Forget what shenanigans Nathan Drake and Sully have in plan together this time around.
Forget all of what is normally associated with an Uncharted game, and just admire the details for a second. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is not just another thrill-ride that takes you from one vista to another, throwing in a hundred-dozen enemies in between and a load of attractive cut-scenes.
It’s a game that goes on to show just how Naughty Dog has matured as a developer, taking the subtler aspects of narration into account to present a story-driven experience that goes beyond what Uncharted stood for.
It’s bold, it’s clever, it’s absolutely fantastic. It’s a fine mixture of brilliant direction, writing, and structuring that combines well with classic elements from previous games.
What Uncharted 4 does so perfectly is take note of the density and weight of the narration in The Last of Us, and implement within itself without sacrificing the lighter, humorous aspects that make the characters so lovable.
Everything from the start till the end of the game is filled with detailed. Every corner, ever set-piece, every cut-scene, and every gun fight is beautifully crafted and thought out, filled with meaning and effectivity that makes it less familiar than the previous, and also more exhilarating.
Uncharted 4 is a gestalt of brilliant design and presentation, and it sets high standards from the first second of the game till the very last.
It’s definitely the prettiest game to have been released on the PS4 to date, with stunning attention to detail, be it plot-driven cut-scenes, adrenaline-driven set-pieces, or violence-driven gun combat.
The charming and highly extroverted Nathan Drake is left to a forced retired job in a forgettable office on the shores, as he stamps papers till late night and relapses into a normal life. Elaina and him are settled in a quiet house as wife and husband – they play videogames together, eat lazily on the couch, and poke each other with forks.
It’s a nice, cozy life without worries, a life any average person would gladly accept, but Nathan’s extroversion and desire for the extraordinary keep him wanting. The game constantly explores Nathan’s deep drive for danger and thrill, but in a way that makes you question him instead of trotting along.
It’s an emotional-driven theme that explores his relationships with his loved ones, and how his own need for the extraordinary put those around him in danger, turmoil, and distress.
It’s evidently his selfish yet understandable side that comes forth every now and then, and while he keeps the lid on it for the most, his inner beast is released when his long-lost brother Sam arrives on his office doorstep on one ordinary night.
His brother’s arrival and the events that follow are a mere catalyst to regurgitate Nathan Drake’s adventurous side, and the game takes incredible twists and turns, constantly going in and out of the emotional-driven narration to the chaos that is home to our protagonist in a seamless fashion.
It’s a cathartic plot that offers the series’ best set of character depth and identity.
The acting and voicing of each character is absolutely perfect, resonating with the immensely detailed graphics that succeed in delivering life-like expressions and movements to deliver the unspeakable to the viewers.
Uncharted 4 is actually the quietest of the series because of its heavy emphasis on subtleties. That’s far from a bad thing, as the game has richness to it reminiscent of The Last of Us, and allows players to become more involved in the underlying characters instead of the action.
That’s not to say there’s no action, of course. The game masterfully delivers the best set-pieces in any video-game I’ve ever played, and new features such as driving vehicles gives added sense of exploration and a new pace.
Explosions and destruction are still a part of the experience, but they’re not mandatorily forced elements.
The combat is also greatly refined, as the added stealth system grants openness to the gameplay. Entire sections of the game can be played without killing a single enemy if you apply the masterfully implemented stealth mechanics with astuteness.
Melee combat is still there when things do go loud, but they feel more effective and meaningful. Each punch and kick is assisted with camera shakes that make them feel powerful and effective, and melee skirmishes that last a while feel like a true tiring struggle against a worthy foe.
Uncharted 4 isn’t just a compilation of well-thought set-pieces and explosive gunfights – it’s much more than that. Quieter moments prevail in the game not just because of the clever banters between Nathan, Sam, and Sully, but also because they give you a moment to admire the world around you.
The game no longer feels trapped and corridor-ish, and even when it challenges players with its verticality, it does so in a way that encourages one to take a moment and read the environment. Areas are more open, more natural, and some even have branching paths that are great to explore while driving a vehicle.
The quiet moments thus don’t just serve as a mere time-out, but are seamlessly integrated into the gameplay and story. They transition perfectly into chaotic, fast-paced set-pieces and gunfights without warning, making every instance worthwhile and memorable.
Uncharted 4 is hardly about the world and places the characters explore though.
While the obsession for secret areas and long-lost treasures still serves as a subject of debate and analysis for Nathan and Sully, it’s a more introverted experience that focuses on the party after these treasure than the treasure itself.
It’s a highly humane thematic representation of Nathan Drake’s un-quenching obsession with adventure and danger, and the high costs of this compulsion.
Uncharted 4’s singleplayer campaign is a lot more grounded, and features less “Nathan vs. one hundred nameless enemies” instances than its predecessors. Its multiplayer on the other hand is chaotic fun, and has more depth than the multiplayer titles of previous Uncharted games.
Players can utilize different special artifacts from the series to give them special abilities, or call upon soldiers to aid their team. There’s a well-established character progression system that gives users more reason to come back to it multiple times.
It’s very much run-and-gun aggressive fighting, but there’s heavier emphasis on tactics and survival in the multiplayer.
The added grappling hook – which is also a great singleplayer gameplay element, by the way – makes the multiplayer fast-paced and intense, yet the discipline required to lead your team to victory makes it more than just mindless fun.
The multiplayer is very intuitive for the most part, but it also rewards skill and tactical play. This makes it better than any other Uncharted multiplayer, and gives the game added value that goes beyond its singleplayer.
Of course, as with the franchise, the singleplayer campaign still makes the core of the game, and rightly so. It’s an experience enthralled by emotional-driven narration, brilliant action sequences and platforming, and convincing combat.
Simply put, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is a masterpiece, and easily the best entry in the Uncharted franchise. It’s the grandest of all finales that does more than justice to an amazing series of games.