- + Meticulous attention to detail, accompanied by eye-watering graphics
- + Reaches a definitive ending, and then some
- + Stealth segments add much needed variety to gameplay
- - Third act runs a tad too long
- - Inability to lure enemies to your position easily during stealth segments
Want to look beyond the score? Check out the full review below…
Start Replay: “Uncharted Waters”
Amidst the delays and staff departures during Uncharted 4’s development, I grew concerned that the final product wouldn’t live up to expectations. It turns out I had nothing to worry about, as Nathan Drake’s last adventure also turns out to be his finest.
Throughout each iteration of Uncharted, its developer, Naughty Dog, has always upped the ante. The original wasn’t a raging success, but it showcased a tight and engaging storyline alongside some superb graphics. It’s astounding to see the series reach its conclusion, least of all because “A Thief’s End” feels like a total reinvention and a breath of fresh air. Something that came as quite a surprise considering how many adventures have come before it.
With the intention of wrapping up Uncharted’s storyline for good, Naughty Dog has left no loose ends. Nate’s older brother, Sam, is an integral part of the tale that’s weaved throughout its 22 chapters, and series regulars will no doubt grin seeing the return of a few familiar faces. In what appears to be the perfect send off, Uncharted 4 is packed with references to Nathan’s previous adventures; all-the-while exploring life outside of his death-defying escapades.
Though the allure of pirate treasure leads Nathan out of retirement and onto one last adventure, it’s the evolution of his relationship with key characters that remains a focal point. Pairing Nate with his older brother results in the perfect coupling to fill any major blanks left in their past. Without giving any spoilers away, the story is told with a great amount of care and its ending left me comfortable enough to close the book on the series for good.
Uncharted 4 encompasses a bucket load of improvements to gameplay, not to mention the introduction of some pretty slick gadgets; the rope hook in particular. But a notable highlight lies with a switch in composer, moving away from series veteran Greg Edmonson and drawing the likes of Henry Jackman. Those who aren’t familiar with film music will have no doubt come across Jackman’s talents before. He’s not only responsible for scoring the likes of Kingsman: The Secret Service, but also the more recent Marvel movies, Winter Soldier and Civil War. This subtle change meant the game felt worlds apart from its predecessors – in a good way.
For all the hard work put into its story, gameplay has received an equal if not greater amount of attention. Given Naughty Dog’s ability to squeeze unbelievable power from any piece of hardware, it’s no surprise that Uncharted 4 is the prettiest game I’ve ever laid eyes on. However, it’s not just the high level of detail put into character models and scenery that’s impressive, it’s also the physics and smaller pieces of motion capture that truly stand out. Even something as simple as using a car’s winch and tying it around a tree feels as it should do, as I grabbed the cord and walked around the tree before fastening it closed. In any other game I’d simply walk up to my mark and press a button, after which the winch would magically appear set up and ready to go. It’s astonishing and feels like a huge technical achievement, despite the being such a small detail.
Once I eventually came across surpassing enemy threats it was a pleasure to see the implementation of a brand-new stealth mechanic. Whereas earlier titles lacked any substantial stealth element, Naughty Dog has taken the time to rework its enemy A.I and allow players variety during certain segments. Similarly to that seen in the Metal Gear Solid series, instead of an enemy catching one glimpse of you and raising an army, you’re now given more leeway to avoid detection. In order for an enemy to see you a small indicator above their head must first fill up white, before turning yellow if they are suspicious, and eventually turning red if they latch-on to your movement.
Although I would have welcomed the ability to lure enemies by throwing rocks, you can hide bodies if they are taken down beside long patches of grass. It’s a major improvement that’s highlighted by the fact you can later revisit any encounter through a handy menu selection; allowing you to further refine your stealth skills. As I mentioned earlier, a rope hook becomes an essential new tool to take advantage of and allows for some majestic travel across the more open environments presented to you. Approach any spot signified by the rope hook and fling it to the designated point. You can then jump and swing in style to safety or take out an enemy for a slick stealth attack.
There are many things that blew me away, including the amazing set pieces and action that landed on-screen. Getting caught up in a car chase whilst switching fluidly between hand-to-hand combat, driving sequences and rope hook shots, is all executed flawlessly. It’s a testament to Naughty Dog’s superb level design that regardless of the hectic action, it all remains pretty accessible. In addition to the jaw-dropping campaign, the bonuses and secrets you can unlock also ramp up the replay ability. How about replaying the entire campaign in 8-bit pixels? Yeah, good luck with that.
Whilst I find it hard to say anything bad about the game, I do believe its third act carries on a bit too long. I might be silly to judge something that packs so much quality into a campaign over 12 hours long, but I reckon pitching the story a couple of chapters shorter would have worked in its favour. There simply seems to be a bit too much to clamber over in order to reach its all-important conclusion.
Uncharted’s campaign has always remained a focus for me. Even when multiplayer was introduced during the third instalment I never felt a need to play. However, here I did spend time flexing my muscles against other players and thoroughly enjoyed myself in the process.
In total there are three modes to choose from: Team Deathmatch, Command, and Plunder. Deathmatches are self explanatory, whereas Command requires you to capture zones on any given map and Plunder tasks you with bringing an important idol back to your base. All the same gameplay mechanics, including the rope hook, remain intact to use. In a bid to widen the mode’s appeal player abilities are also included to add a bit of flavour. During a match you’ll collect money from each kill, which in-turn enables the purchase of ‘Sidekicks’ who are heavily armoured and can give support, and ‘Mysticals’ that are inspired by the elusive treasures and relics Nathan has sought after in previous adventures.
These include the Cintamani Stone from Uncharted 2, which once purchased can revive fallen comrades. Whereas the golden El Dorado statue from Uncharted 1 can be tactically placed near enemies, resulting in a series of ghostly orbs that spawn and damage anyone nearby. When it comes to selecting who to play as, every notable character from across the series is present. This was the icing on the cake for me, as not only could I choose any of my favourite heroes or villains, but also kit them out in additional accessories and outfits. Each returning character has been remodelled in the newer graphics engine, and their respective voice actors return for the most part.
If you remain stuck to the campaign you’ll be missing out on a hugely enjoyable multiplayer experience.