In the last decade, few franchises have reached the heights Uncharted has gone to. Sharply written and fiercely paced, the Uncharted titles are a benchmark of action game excellence. With Uncharted 4: A Thiefâ€™s End, developer Naughty Dog looks to bookend the franchise with one last adventure featuring everyoneâ€™s favorite quippy action hero, Nathan Drake. In doing that, theyâ€™ve blended some of Unchartedâ€™s best aspects with some lessons learned from 2013â€™s The Last of Us. Without a doubt, this is the best Unchartedâ€™s ever been, and the greatest sendoff we could ask for our favorite smarmy pillager.
Narratively, this is easily the strongest Unchartedâ€™s been. It has everything expected in an exemplar action piece â€“ twists, exquisite locations, betrayal, and touching callbacks to the franchise and to Naughty Dogâ€™s history. This is the last Uncharted game Naughty Dog looks to work on, and theyâ€™ll definitely make sure you donâ€™t forget it. While the high-flying and glory that came with adventure littered the previous trilogy, Uncharted 4 works on a more cerebral level, showing how relatable and human Nathan Drake can actually be. Heâ€™s tired of the adventuring life (clearly not that tired), and this look at Nathan Drake post-retirement really gives Drake a bit of pathos we havenâ€™t seen from him before.
A large part of what sells that pathos is voice acting, and Troy Bakerâ€™s role as Sam Drake is one of my favorite performances of his storied career. You feel the tension and the loss Samâ€™s endured, and that Nathanâ€™s being exposed to it all over again. The dynamic that Baker and North bring to this brotherly relationship eclipses any other duo Iâ€™ve seen in video games, period. Whether theyâ€™re scaling walls together or taking down goons in unison, they really bring a lot to the table.
Action in Uncharted 4 is spaced out between bits of dialogue, platforming, and sleuthing around. As you play through the lengthy campaign, youâ€™ll notice there isnâ€™t as much rowdy gunslinging to be had. There are certainly goons to be dealt with, but it all feels very open to your own style of play. In a similar fashion to Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, youâ€™re given a lot of freedom of how to approach enemies. The change of pace that a simple grappling hook gives you is enough to have me trying many different options for each encounter â€“ until I get caught and start shooting up the place, naturally. Itâ€™s fitting that pirates are a main staple of the game, since youâ€™ll do plenty of swashbuckling maneuvers and fast paced takedowns.
This is an Uncharted game, through and through. There will still be plenty of cliffs with hand-sized indents, a bevy of puzzles that wonâ€™t take long to finish, and too many giant, wheeled crates that need to be pushed off cliffs. Breaking up the action with some mindless climbing and button-mashing has been a staple of the series, and it hasnâ€™t gone away in Uncharted 4.
This is easily one of the most gorgeous video games Iâ€™ve ever played. The scenery is immaculately colorful, yet subdued when it needs to be. The gorgeous vistas prove that the PlayStation 4â€™s still got some untapped power we havenâ€™t been exposed to yet. Faces seem humanlike and animated to an extent where I can really read emotions off of charactersâ€™ faces, something that isnâ€™t common in video games. Thereâ€™s a bevy of interiors, vistas, and natural shots, meticulously animated to fill every nook and cranny with visual splendor. It isnâ€™t often that I stop in my tracks just to get a better view of my environment, but I did it in at least half the breathtaking, mountainous areas I came across, and even got me using the in-game photo mode. it all adds up to one of the most satisfying visual experiences Iâ€™ve had with any video game. Period.
The multiplayer is serviceable, offering deathmatch, capture the flag, and related game modes youâ€™ve come to expect from shooters for years. Itâ€™s just good enough that it doesnâ€™t detract from the spectacular experience of the rest of the game. Thereâ€™s fun to be had, for sure, but it isnâ€™t something to hang your hat on or short yourself on other multiplayer experiences just for it. Upcoming multiplayer downloadable content will be free, so feel free to get your moneyâ€™s worth, just know that it isnâ€™t the main course, or even a side-dish.
Uncharted 4 has the leap in quality we saw from the first Uncharted to Uncharted 2. The characters are the best theyâ€™ve ever been, the visuals are truly breathtaking, the action is open-ended and extremely enjoyable, and it sets the bar for the action genre even higher than Uncharted 2. When the credits rolled, I had a strange, undefinable swirl of emotions in my stomach â€“ not because of the quality of the game, but because itâ€™s abundantly clear that this is Nathan Drakeâ€™s last hurrah. This is the end for Naughty Dogâ€™s prolific franchise, and itâ€™s hard to say goodbye.