Disclaimer: This game was reviewed on the PS4. A copy of the game was purchased by the reviewer.
One last time.
Growth; that’s the first word that comes to mind when thinking about Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, it manages to accomplish maturity and evolution while retaining all of the key features the series is known for, the story this time isn’t so much about characters rejoicing and chasing glory and fortune, but rather about the them being grown up. This is all accompanied by smooth combat and slick parkour mechanics, alongside mind-bending beautiful graphics, and some of the best acting in video game history.
Featuring multiple callbacks to previous games in the franchise, Uncharted 4 lets the player, as well as the main characters, reminisce in the previous adventures Nathan Drake and his friends have gone through, while introducing a brand new epic and globetrotting adventure of its own.
What a view.
What immediately becomes noticeable about the game is how beautiful it is, anything but saying it breaks the boundaries of what we’ve seen before is understating, the game is likely the most gorgeous console game that has ever existed to date. These beautiful graphics are lifted up to new grounds by developer Naughty Dog’s remarkable attention to detail, where you can spot dust particles flying in the air, pipes bending as you climb them, and almost life-like footprints as you walk.
These little details are what separate Uncharted 4 from other games and lets it stand on its own as a perfect description of what video games can accomplish, as well as featuring some of the best and most realistic acting and motion capture any video game has ever achieved before, character animations both during and out of cutscenes are borderline life-like, and the transitions from gameplay to cutscene and vice-versa are impressively seamless and barely noticeable.
Gameplay has never felt this smooth in an Uncharted game before, from more precise shooting to slicker-than-ever climbing, the game lets the player go through a flow of different gameplay elements that often have to be used together in a sequence in order to advance in-game. There’s a unique satisfaction garnered from successfully sliding down a hill, jumping down to an abyss, slinging your grappling hook up and swinging across the air while shooting at enemies. These sequences of events happen more often than not, and never fail to satisfy if they’re successfully done.
Climbing mechanics have been revamped in order to give a smoother feel, now instead of pressing the jump button towards the direction you want to go, players can additionally control Nate’s arms in a puppet-like manner, in which he reaches and grabs ledges without needing to jump. Some additional mechanics have also been introduced, such as the previously mentioned grappling hook rope — which leads to some of the greatest and most awe-inducing moments in the game — sliding down muddy or slippy hills, and a brand new rock climbing pick, which are all welcomed additions.
As players and fans of previous titles in the series may expect, there’s a couple of beautifully choreographed action sequences, however, these sequences — as adrenaline-inducing as they are — feel a step below to some much grander ones in the past (i.e. the train sequence in U2, and both the boat and plane sequence in U3), it almost feels like we’ve seen pretty much anything possible. Not to take away from the fact that there’s still some amazing over-the-top-action moments in Uncharted 4.
To make up for the “lack” of action sequences, Uncharted 4 ends up becoming the best overall experience; sure, there may not be a moment that stands out like the boat or plane sequence in U3, but instead the game in its entirety stands out, as there’s not a moment of blandness, every single section of the game stands out for doing something special.
Some of the most special moments of the game are simply exploring, U4 does a much better job than previous games in the series of encouraging exploration by the means of some of the most remarkable environmental storytelling in video games, this of course, as well as main character/companion interactions during both combat and stealth, is a clear inspiration from the developers’s previous title, The Last Of Us.
Some new areas in the game have been introduced, which feature a more open space to explore with different vehicles such as a Jeep, or a boat, in which players are still going through a linear path, with the added benefits of being able to explore the wide space, in fact, most of the game’s maps are bigger than usual, allowing for more exploration and for multiple paths that all lead to the same space.
Speaking of characters, U4 still delivers on the beloved banter between characters, in fact, it features some of the best moments between character interactions, some of these by the means of the optional conversations mentioned above, characters interactions never fail to amuse and bring joy, and finding other people’s stories through journal notes never cease to intrigue.
The story is also one of the best in the series, it sees Nate in retirement, after turning his back on the adventuring life, when suddenly his presumed dead brother re-enters his life, and asks him to return to his old lifestyle for one last time, more adventuring and treasure-hunting ensures, as Nate has to balance his personal life with doing what he does best.
Overall, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is the best game of the series, maintaining what made it so special in the first place, while also expanding the game and making it feel — just like its main character — like the grown-up version of itself, the evolution of Uncharted. With new additions that make it feel smoother and wider, some very impressive attention to detail, impeccable environmental storytelling, and the most beautiful graphics any game has seen before, Naughty Dog has once again proven themselves to be the best studio in the business. Nathan Drake’s final adventure did not disappoint.