Game Review: Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

It’s taken me longer than I thought it would but I’ve finally finished the Uncharted series (or not, because The Lost Legacy is now a thing) and it feels much the same as finishing a book series I’ve particularly enjoyed: bittersweet. On the one hand, I have more space on my (full) PS4 now, yay, but on the other hand, I’m going to miss Nathan, Elena, Sully, and their wild adventures (not to mention the gorgeous environments).

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Sometime between Uncharted 3 and 4, Nathan and Elena got back together and are now trying to live a “normal” life, though Nathan obviously misses his treasure hunting days. However, an encounter with his thought to be dead older brother Sam draws him back into his old life on the hunt for the treasure of the infamous “Pirate King” Henry Avery in order to pay off Sam’s debt to a drug lord who helped him escape from prison. As usual, they aren’t the only ones hunting for the treasure, and this time their rival is a businessman with money to burn and the backing of a private military company.

There’s really not that much to say about the gameplay. It’s still the same combination of jumping, climbing, swinging, shooting, driving and puzzle-solving in gorgeous environments as in the previous games. I did feel as if stealth is a much more viable (and often encouraged) solution to ending conflicts this time around. There’s even an achievement if you manage to stealth through a particular section of the game, and unlike certain other games in the series, I wasn’t failing at stealth so often that I managed to get the achievements for stealth takedowns in a single level.

I’ve said before that I almost feel like saying the graphics on a PS4 title are great seems a little redundant but I especially liked the facial animations in this title. I find it’s often too easy to fall into uncanny valley territory, even in many triple A titles, but I wasn’t bothered at all by Uncharted 4’s faces. They didn’t have that “plastic” look of, say, Dragon Age Inquisition (which, TBH, sometimes look like they’re made out of modelling clay, to my untrained eyes at least). I really can’t stress how pretty this game is, with sprawling vistas, busy cities, opulent mansions, and some gorgeous water features. Heck, I could practically smell the meat cooking in an outdoor market. This and Horizon: Zero Dawn are prime examples of the graphical capabilities of the PS4 IMHO.

I feel like this final installment is the one where Nathan stopped being less of a machine that dispenses wisecracks and more of a character. I still found myself sighing and rolling my eyes and some one-liners but smiling at others. Also, Nathan Drake doesn’t deserve Elena, she is an amazing lady. Another character I liked was kick ass South African mercenary Nadine, who can and will kick Nate’s ass.

I had the most trouble with two aspects of this game: treasures and mandatory shooting sections. When I first started the game, I told myself that I’d find all 109 treasures for this final installment (using a walkthrough) but unfortunately some vague instructions caused me to restart certain levels multiple times because I missed the window of opportunity to get a particular treasure (the game autosaves frequently). The other time I had trouble with this game was near the end, when the game forces you into shootouts with wave after wave of enemies. Up to this point, I’d mostly been stealthing my way through these encounters, so I kept failing as I fiddled with the shooting controls, that’s on me though, and to be fair, the jet ski levels and mandatory stealth sections in previous games caused me no end of grief. Occasionally I did get a bit lost in some of the game’s wide open spaces (the game takes an “open linearity” approach to level design, where the levels are big open spaces that you can explore but the actual progression is linear.

In terms of diversity, Nadine is black and while I love her as a character she is also an antagonist. There was also some controversy surrounding a black character being played by a white actress (Laura Bailey). There’s also a minor Latino antagonist who is…..a drug lord, are you surprised? At least the main villain is a rich white American man now?

In sum, Uncharted 4 is (or was) a fitting sendoff for a great series, and to be honest I wouldn’t object to further adventures with a certain spoiler character from the very end of the game. In terms of length I spent just over 30 hours obtaining all treasures but not the optional conversations, journal entries, or rock cairns, and I’m nowhere near close to unlocking all of the achievements, so if you’re a completionist you might take a bit more time than I did. You can also earn points to unlock different graphics modes (sepia, rainbow colours, black and white, etc.) infinite ammo, zero gravity, etc. that might be fun just to play around with. I think the game is accessible to those who haven’t played the first three games but since you can buy them all on the same platform I definitely recommend picking up the remastered collection before starting on this game, it’s worth it, trust me.

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