With several delays preceding the highly anticipated launch of one of Playstation’s biggest first party franchises onto the PS4, Naughty Dog has finally delivered the memorable farewell to the epic adventures of Nathan Drake.
As one of the most celebrated video game series running since Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune hit the scene, the series has only gotten better with each story and awe-inspiring adventure successions. While many may consider Uncharted 2: Among Thieves as the series crown jewel, there is no denying that Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception was the most bold and ambitious in the series, which captured fans and critics alike.
Now with the fourth and final game running on vastly improved hardware over its predecessors, the question we have asked ourselves going into Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is how much better could Naughty Dog improve on their already golden Uncharted formula. Will the series take a hit with the departure of Amy Hennig, the series lead writer and director? Will the game answer some of those burning Uncharted questions, which delves more into Nathan’s past?
Driving these answers home from the start, the departure of Amy Hennig from Naughty Dog, who is without a doubt one the greatest video game writers and game directors of our time, has had an influence on Uncharted 4 in my opinion, to what specifics of the game, I will never know. Yet, being the optimist, I’m of the opinion that much of Hennig’s influence has been well preserved for Uncharted 4, why else give her a substantial plug in the credits. For her past work you say, lets just agree to disagree.
From the start Naughty Dog lets you know they are swinging for the fence with the more capable PS4 hardware as Uncharted 4 is a love song to your optics. While there are some very slight screen tearing and object contact collision errors, the untrained eye will more than likely never notice it as each chapter seems positioned to visually outperform the last. Uncharted 4 borders on the ridiculous in term of detail and fidelity. You will see the dirt under Nathan’s nails, characters skin texturing realistically wrinkles when turning or manipulated by various objects. Upon leaving the water and Nathan is drenched, dripping and gesturing with the motion of wiping his face as the extra water falls from his hands, with his hair also properly yielding to the excess of moisture.
Uncharted 4 will often grab your attention at objects and gorgeous views in the distance. While speed running games has become a thing nowadays, it almost seems sinful on your first play-through to so with a game this beautiful to look at. I was compelled to investigate every cave, room, under and overpass, dark corner or lush highly vegetated forest area. As a result, I found many glimmering treasures to add to my trophy case. Sometimes rain showers arrived and then I found myself in sunlit areas where you can almost feel the wind while listening to the birds in the distance, chirping with varied melodies. Uncharted 4 truly pulls players into the world of Nathan Drake and not only by its intoxicating visuals.
Uncharted 4 throws players into an exciting and wild ride and from the very start fans might catch on to how closely many situations borrow from past games. The first sign of this is revealed in the beginning as Nathan and his brother Samuel are speeding to a mysterious island with the private military known as Shoreline hot on their tails. This scenario quickly turns into Nathan doing what he does best (aside from climbing of course) taking cover and taking aim from his boat at enemies, drawing memories from Nathan and Elena’s first reception in Drake’s Fortune.
Eventually Uncharted 4 reveals Nathan’s new reality of normal as now a married man with a day job. The writing must be applauded as it permeates through that this guy’s heart still yearns for the adventure, despite taking the high rode of placing his priorities in their proper order. As the player I also found myself torn by Nate’s new dilemma. As you walk through memory lane with Nathan, perusing memorable trinkets from his grand adventures of Drake’s Fortune, Among Thieves and Drake’s Deception, which have become dust collector’s in his attic, Nathan it seems quietly asks himself could he still be the Nathan Drake of old. This is never more evident than when Nathan like many great athletes who hang them up while in their prime, takes to playing with a toy gun and taking cover behind stored boxes while shooting toy bullets at hanging targets within his attic. Even Nathan makes the claim that he still has it and hasn’t lost his touch after pot shooting toy targets who aren’t shooting back.
Everything within the world of Uncharted 4 fits sensibly. As you walk though your home as Nathan, pictures illustrate drawings, images and exquisite locations complimenting both profession or previous endeavors of Nathan and Elena. Clothes are on the floor in some areas revealing a home very much lived in while feeling cozy and intimate. There is even a clever sense of non-fiction that becomes of Nathan and Elena as they power on the original Playstation. You truly can’t help but to smile as the Playstation intro music and startup screen reverberates with charm. This nostalgic moments manifests into playing Crash Bandicoot with Nathan and Elena discussing the game and eventually their life.
Answering questions about Nathan’s past, Uncharted 4 goes in depth explaining a young Nathan and his adventurous and impressionable personality to ancient artifacts. In fact, Nathan and his brother Samuel are well versed at a young age in the knowledge and understanding of ancient manuscripts, tapestries and the like, which as you discover runs in their DNA. However, for all of Nathan’s vast education on lost cities, his ostensibly unlimited dexterity, which at times borders on the supernatural, he still has very little to show for his long list of discoveries or does he actually have more than he realizes?
Consisting of 22 entertaining chapters followed by a send off epilogue, Uncharted 4 is the final chapter, at least for Nathan’s story, and through out this experience each layer of the narrative impressively compliments the next with organically driven dialogue through brilliantly performed character and voice acting. Actors Nolan North and Troy Baker as Nathan and Samuel Drake respectively are tremendous in their roles. I would go as far as to say that this is probably Nolan North’s best performance as the legendary Nathan Drake. While Emily Rose and Richard McGonagle reprise their roles as Elena Ashley and Victor Sullivan, new comers Warren Kole as Rafe Adler and Laura Bailey as the tougher than nails Nadine Ross brought an entertaining edge to this experience.
As the story goes without spoiling too much, Nathan Drake who is surprisingly reunited with his older brother, finds reason enough to deceive his wife for a shot at revisiting his glory days, on the word of his brother who Nathan feels somewhat indebted to based on grim circumstances of the past. There is more to Uncharted 4 than the typical run and gun swashbuckling adventures fans are used to. As the player you are constantly thinking about how long will this opulent lie holds up, is this new adventure worth my marriage, can I get to this long lost treasure in time to save my brother’s life, is there truly a pot of gold at the end of this colorfully dangerous rainbow and when will my luck eventually run out?
The process of Uncharted 4 deals with a mature narrative while always keeping players on their toes with epic set-pieces of explosions, increasingly dangerous terrain, as well as aggressive enemy types, fast-paced sequences and more. Puzzle solving here is simple yet thought provoking. Upon figuring out an elaborate puzzle equation there is always a feeling of excitement, building your confidence for the next. Naughty Dog has mastered the process of engaging players with narrative tools when traversing exotic and unique locales, which are not frustrating but does require some thinking and analyzing to figure out. The great story telling and intrigue associated with finding each clue keeps you moving forward, making you just as curious about finding the mysterious pirate loot as the impressive cast of characters.
With Sullivan having aged a bit he no longer takes often to the physical exhaustion of adventuring the catacombs like in time past. However, once in Madagascar, Sully gets the itch of the good old days and joins the action from a more hands on approach, but not too much. Though Elena has a significant role as Nathan’s better half, most of the side kick duties as shifted toward Samuel, which places Nathan in an unusual role as the little brother. Though Nathan is still very much his same witty and capable self, Samuel, do to his ability to master his surrounding as proficient as Nathan with a fearless bravado, which he reminds Nathan of and his genuine love for Nathan as the older brother, Nathan’s edge is slightly pulled back just a bit, but far from harmful. This new dynamic of Nathan make him more human and vulnerable, which I appreciate.
Uncharted 4 is closely tied to previous games in the series, but not to the point where newcomers would feel lost in translation. However, there is no doubt that fans of the series who have played the previous games will gather far more excitement and appreciation for what Naughty Dog is doing here.
Based on the games conclusion this does strongly reiterate the fact that Nathan Drake’s time in the sun has come an end, yet based on Samuel and Sullivan’s newfound partnership, revisiting the world of Uncharted may not be over. If I didn’t say it earlier, I thought Nadine Ross was an amazing character who I would love to see more of.
Concerning the games multiplayer offering, we find the addition a much improved experience over the previous MP of the series. As fans of the previous Uncharted multiplayer titles, while the visual are expected to be better, Uncharted 4’s multiplayer shines in its accessibility to be fun and well balanced. Maps are vibrant and kept intimate with enough wiggle room to avoid danger with climbable terrain and new abilities which can turn the tide of battle. The multiplayer is presented in simple form with quick matches and private matches as well as trials, which offers a series of trials to test your abilities. Loadout’s, are customizable and are supported by assault, support, charger, tactical, recon and covert, all equipped upgradable perks and combat attributes.
Characters can also be customized. There are a total of eight Heroes and twelve Villians with the addition of sidekick heroes and villians who are classified as hunters, saviors, snipers and brutes. Sporting a snappy run and gun 3rd person feel if you’re a newcomer, players can select the warm-up option, which corals new players with other new players for a game of team deathmatch. In addition, there is also command and plunder modes to chose from at the moment.
Naughty Dog has stuck gold for the fourth time with Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. Uncovering every stone and revealing as much tangible story details possible, Nathan’s last adventure is great one. My time spent in this engrossing world was immersive, one I wanted to stay in despite my longing to desperately discover the games truth. Though the visuals are consuming much of the experience with breathtaking details, Uncharted 4 is a complete blockbuster package handsomely adding to the Nathan Drake legend.