I feel like there is extra pressure when writing a review for a game that has already been released, especially when it has received universal praise from both critics and consumers. You can say to yourself you won’t read the reviews or pay attention to the hysteria that surrounds a big title like Uncharted 4 (UC4), but when the embargo breaks five days before a game’s release and people are throwing terms around like ‘masterpiece’, coupled with the fact that the developer’s last game was The Last of Us, and it’s hard not to have your expectations lifted somewhat.
Suit up for one last adventure
I began UC4 trying to stay as grounded as possible and from the get-go the Last of Us influence is obvious. The game’s opening chapter introduces us to Drake’s brother Sam and sheds some more light on Drake’s previously unknown childhood. After some young-brother shenanigans the game fast-forwards to the Drake brothers in a foreign country in the midst of you know what… a treasure hunt. The game’s opening chapters try to evoke the same emotional response as the opening from The Last of Us, however some sluggish pacing means that it doesn’t have the powerful effect it desires. From hereinafter the story’s pacing is relatively solid as you take control of Drake in pursuit of one last treasure payday.
The Uncharted series has always had interesting premises; the search for undiscovered treasure while using actual historical figures and urban myths is a core feature in the games. Of all the game’s settings, I will say that UC4 is top of the list. The search for infamous pirate Henry Avery’s treasure and the lost settlement of Libertalia is filled with captivating anecdotes and interesting tidbits surrounding the building of the folklore-famous colony, and I often found myself enraptured at discovering more details about Avery and his exploits (even if they are faux fiction).
Just two brothers, hanging out
UC4’s lush and vibrant locales are a sight to behold and you can easily find your playthrough time skyrocket from 15 to 20 hours due to spending excessive periods of time using the game’s photo mode
One facet of UC4 that is masterful is the game’s graphical fidelity. The visuals are an eye-catching delight and it easily contends with The Order: 1886 as the prettiest game I have played on this generation of consoles. UC4’s lush and vibrant locales are a sight to behold and you can easily find your playthrough time skyrocket from 15 to 20 hours due to spending excessive periods of time using the game’s photo mode. The level of detail in the environments is outstanding; everything from the ripples in the ocean to the cracks in the walls of whatever dilapidated building Drake and co are scouring at the time is simply stunning. Furthermore, the character modelling and animation is hands-down the best I have seen on consoles. The other technical aspects of the game are also very sound with the game running at a smooth 30fps with next to no drops or major glitches and the sound design and voice acting all top-notch.
Uncharted 4 definitely shows signs of the series maturing. This could be due to the new directors or the fact that Drake himself is getting older and is written that way. However while he’s emotionally more mature, the Nathan Drake you puppeteer around still has the uncanny ability to mow down opponents with methodical precision, so you’ll still get that classic Uncharted tonal disconnect. Not only have the characters matured but it seems Naughty Dog have refined the frustrating gameplay elements that hindered the preceding trilogy. One of the biggest improvements is in the cover system, which is a massive boon considering you’ll spend an ample amount of time hiding behind objects to make sure Drake’s charming looks stay intact.
The series’ other mainstays such as old mate Sully and Elena are here, but they play a slightly smaller role than they have in the past. Sully is as sarcastic and sharp-witted as ever and the Drake-Elena dynamic is excellently written. However, the real MVP when it comes to supporting characters is the villain; their persona is one that you can’t help but hate, which is a sign of good writing. Most of the game’s standout dialogue moments occur when the chief bad guy is involved.
…the chemistry between the crème de la crème of voice actors, Nolan North (Nathan Drake) and Troy Baker (Sam Drake) starts to shine, and the excellent rapport between the two creates an authenticity that gives both Drake and the game’s story an added depth that the preceding games never had
After the game wakes from its slumber, the chemistry between the crème de la crème of voice actors, Nolan North (Nathan Drake) and Troy Baker (Sam Drake) starts to shine, and the excellent rapport between the two creates an authenticity that gives both Drake and the game’s story an added depth that the preceding games never had. Sure there were emotional and well-acted scenes in the past, but this is different – this is two brothers, and as the saying goes: bros before…
Even though Uncharted’s gameplay is relatively linear in nature, the set-pieces and shootout sequences feel quite open. There are multiple occasions where you can approach scenarios with either a stealth approach or engage in all out warfare. Another impressive gameplay feature in UC4 is the implementation of the puzzles. I’ve often found the puzzle aspect of the Uncharted series to be a bit humdrum, however in Uncharted 4 they are smartly placed and don’t hamper the pacing of the game.
For all its blockbuster traits, Uncharted 4 is at its best when you are allowed to play the role of the explorer going at your own pace. Having the freedom to take in the surroundings and delve into some of the game’s lore creates an extra level of immersion I’ve seldom found in the Uncharted series. An example of this (and one of the game’s best moments all things considered) comes about two-thirds of the way through the game, when you are given the liberty to explore your surroundings – which happens to be a small abandoned town. Here you will unearth some history surrounding Henry Avery, however what elevates this moment is the course of action the game’s tone takes. By engaging in an optional conversation you can gain a stronger appreciation for the situation Drake and the gang find themselves in, and I felt closer to them as a result.
Not the worst view I’ve seen
As the culmination of Drake’s adventures comes to a close, Naughty Dog somehow manage to dampen the experience by drawing out the inevitable. It feels that it’s done for no other reason than to extend the campaign’s length as it’s more of the same fare (climbing, grappling and shooting) until the final disguised QTE donnybrook breaks out. Despite its frustrating and rather anti-climactic gameplay, the final showdown is impressively cinematic and serves as a fitting end for Drake’s Hollywood-esque adventures.
To ensure that you get a little more bang for your buck, Naughty Dog have tacked on multiplayer, just in case once Drake’s story ends you need to get that Uncharted fix. While it does add an extra level of replayability, the multiplayer modes included are your stock-standard, run-of-the-mill type of affair. You’ve got Team Deathmatch – both casual and ranked, Plunder – which is a take on Capture the Flag and Command, which is similar to Control or Hard point in other comparable multiplayer games.
There is also an upgrades system, where you can unlock new characters, customisation options for your characters, along with weapons and weapon skins. Upgrades can be purchased with money earnt from getting kills, assists etc.
Uncharted 4’s multiplayer is neither here nor there. It’s a fun accompaniment that will have players engrossed for a while, however even the most ardent Drake fans will struggle to choose UC4’s multiplayer offerings over bigger MP-focused titles once the honeymoon period ends.
We can’t all be Drake
Uncharted 4 is a good game for fans of Hollywood-esque action-adventure blockbusters. It has huge set pieces, excellent production in both sound and visuals, and its premise is an intriguing take on a historical figure’s escapades. Despite some repetitive gameplay moments, there’s no denying that it is fun to play. But while it ticks a lot of boxes, the game does suffer from some pacing issues both at the beginning and the end of the game which hurts the momentum somewhat, but it’s certainly not enough to ruin the fun. At the end of the day, Uncharted 4 gives fans a safe and fitting farewell in Nathan Drake’s final chapter.
Reviewed on PS4 // Review code supplied by publisher
- Naughty Dog
- Sony Interactive Entertainment
- May 10, 2016