Uncharted 4 Review: A Thief’s End Review
Back in 2013, Naughty Dog gave us a hint at a new Uncharted game. We didn’t know at the time whether Nathan Drake would
take the lead again. We finally saw a trailer with Nathan Drake as Sony was closing their E3 2014 Keynote. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End was originally slated for a 2015 release when announced at E3 2014, but was then delayed to March 2016, then to April 26, and then one more delay to May 10, 2016. Initial delays were because Naughty Dog underestimated their high ambitions for such a big game. As disappointing as it was, I didn’t mind this type of delay because it will definitely help deliver a better game at the end. But near the end, the shorter delays were a little depressing because the game was so close, yet so far. Naughty Dog set the bar high and did not disappoint.
Whether you are a long-time fan of the series or a new one, you can definitely dive right in. This fourth major entry into the series continues Nathan Drake’s treasure hunting adventures around the globe. New players might miss tiny bits of the story as some conversations refer back to the earlier games, but the story still does move along and is engaging. The Uncharted series plays like interactive movies. You play the game to get to the next movie scene to find out how the story progresses.
The Interactive Movie
Naughty Dog has implemented real-time cutscenes into Uncharted 4. There are no black bars surrounding pre-rendered cinematics as in games with traditional cutscenes. The game seamlessly transitions from gameplay to real-time cutscene and back to gameplay. I found my on-screen self sitting still waiting for the cutscenes to finish because the characters where still talking, when in fact it was finished and I was already supposed to start gameplay. The lack of a signal for me to start playing wasn’t really a retraction, it showed me how immersed I was in the story that I forgot I was part the story.
Naughty Dog has been releasing small tidbits about Uncharted since mysterious voice in the teaser that was shown back in November 2013. We’ve got hints of the storyline during the 2014 Sony E3 Keynote and found out that Nathan Drake is back. 2015’s Sony E3 Keynote showed us a little bit of showed us some of the Uncharted action we can expect. I was in the audience in San Francisco when found out about Sam, Nathan’s long-lost, presumed-dead brother, who reappears during the PlayStation Experience 2016 keynote.
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End takes place 3 years after the events of Drake’s Deception and while Nathan Drake has left behind the less-than-legal treasure hunting to settle down and live the quiet life with his wife Elena, but he still longs for the thrill of his adventurous past. Sam Drake, Nathan’s presumed-dead older brother, reappears after 15 years to ask for Nathan’s help in locating Captain Henry Avery’s long-lost treasure because his life depends on it. This sets Nathan off on an adventure that brings him to the cliff side towns on the coast of Italy, the snow-capped mountains of Scotland, the mountains of Madagascar, and more. One never knows where the next clue in the treasure hunt will lead you.
It isn’t Uncharted without Nathan Drake climbing and hanging off of ledges. Surfaces he can latch to look very natural in this game. They all fit in with their surrounding environment. When scaling up buildings, Nathan can grip Windows, drain pipes, trim pieces and more. Grips on the sides of mountains look like natural eroded rocks. There weren’t very many hand holds that looked very out of place.
Drake has learned a new thing or two since his last outing. It seems that he has learned a new (or old trick) for this game. I say old because it may have been something he knew how to do prior to the events of Drake’s Fortune but wasn’t used at all in the first three games.
The encounter with Sam shown to us during PSX 2016 showed a new story mechanic in which the player decides between bits of dialogue. Players were worried about the consequences of these choices, but Naughty Dog assured us they were rare in game and are for the immediate conversation only. In this case, Sam asks Nathan about which adventure was the most memorable, and its up to the player to choose the dialogue. The choices of answers asked the player which of the first three Uncharted dames were their favorite. Nathan recounts the story of his adventure in that game to Sam as the scene fades away while the brothers reconnect. This branching dialogue feature is few and far between in the game and only affects the immediate story. There are no long-lasting effects of the choices like they do in a game like Mass Effect.
Companions tag along for the majority of the game. The companion AI has been improved. They don’t feel like mindless robots following you around this time around. They almost feel like a second human player that is supporting you while you take the lead. When trying to be stealthy, they follow suit. They also help take down enemies that are off-screen or are close to them. The only time’s enemies have spotted me is if I showed myself to them.
Puzzles in the game aren’t too difficult but are challenging enough to make one use their brain. The companions sometimes help out by offering small hints as part of their banter to help you out. With or without hints, the completion of puzzles to advance was very satisfying.
As Drake and company are chugging along, there is lots of friendly banter between Nathan and his companions. When Sam is tagging along, we get a lot of brotherly conversation and brother supporting brother. You can tell they were very close. While in Madagascar Sully joins in and makes them a trio. The conversations between the three are like three friends lounging around . There are jokes, there are questions about each other’s pasts, and even stupid jokes. The voice cast did a great job in giving the characters believable personalities and relationships.
The incredible amount of voice work not only covers the interactions between the characters, but their observations about the environment as well. These voice cues also help guide you along to stay on the right track or to warn you about any upcoming enemies.
I was a little disappointed to find in the options menu a that Uncharted 4 only supported 2.0 Surround Sound. An action game of this caliber should have top notch sound to match the beautiful graphics. I think this is ok because the voice work more than makes up for the lack of 5.1 surround sound.
Uncharted 4 is hands-down the most beautiful PlayStation 4 game I have seen. You know the game is making Playstation 4’s processor and graphic chipsets work hard when the cooling fans are running full blast. This wasn’t a surprise to me as the Drake’s Fortune, Among Thieve’s, and Drake’s Deception all pushed my PlayStation 3 in the same way.
Everything is detailed as far as the eye can see. I really mean that. In Italy, you can look across the bay at the boats docked and the cliff side houses. The game really opens up in Madagascar. It dawned on when I was staring down from a tower on a mountain that you can see some things miles in the distance, and after traversing the terrain, you will be upon it without the game transitioning from level to level. I looked down on the ground and could trace the path I took in a virtually seamless experience from ground level to the top of the mountain.
Camera share button
- Encounter Select– You can select any of the major encounters that you have previously played through in the game.
- Character Model Viewer– As you play the game, you earn points that unlock different character models in the game. You can examine and rotate these highly detailed character models. Drake alone has several character model based on the different ways his character looks in the game.
- Photo Mode – allows one to take pictures within the game. There are even advanced options such as using a preset Filter, adjusting the Depth of Field, adding frames, creating a Vignette, and adjusting other properties like film grain, brightness, sharpness, saturation, and motion blur. You can even remove the characters if you just want to take a picture of the landscape. I did have a little trouble finding the “shutter” to snap a pic. I then realized it was the Share button on the controller.
- Concept Art Galleries– there are a lot of concept art gallery that can be unlocked by using unlock points earned while playing the game.
One great piece of news that Sony gave us is that all future game modes and map packs will be FREE. All items will be unlock able via gameplay as well. There will be no people that will have an instant advantage buy buying all the DLC. You have to play to win.
The Multiplayer Character roster includes charters from past games. There are a couple of modes available at lunch with more to come in the future.
- Plunder– A capture the flag type game as well as
- Captain– protecting a random designated player
- Team Deathmatch– pretty much the standard multiplayer map fare
Future modes include: Ranked, Command, and Trials. The Playstation Blog has more info on each of those modes and the future roadmap here.