Developer: Naughty Dog
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Distributor: Ster Kinekor Entertainment
Release Date: 10 May 2016
(This review is based off the single player campaign of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. The multiplayer portion could not be tested in its current state as servers lacked the traffic to find complete matches. We will publish a fully detailed multiplayer review soon)
Uncharted has always been a staple for PlayStation fans. We have fallen in love with the series and all its characters over the past decade since the original Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune hit the PS3. To say that Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is the ultimate Uncharted experience would be an understatement, as it is much more than that. From the moment the opening chapter played out in front of us, all the way until the credits rolled, the game took us on one exhilarating roller-coaster ride which played with our emotions, questioned our morals, and put our shooting skills to the test. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is the definition of brilliant game design.
Retired from the life of plundering tombs, Nathan Drake, now married and living a “normal life”, has come across an opportunity to get back into the action when his older brother Samuel Drake makes a deal with one of the most dangerous men in the world. Doing what family does best, Nathan sets out to find Captain Henry Avery’s lost pirate treasure, so that Samuel can repay his debt. It might sound pretty simple in theory, but there is always more than meets the eye as expected in an Uncharted title. This time a military group called Shoreline are well-funded and well-organized, they threaten his every step in the pursuit for infinite riches.
Think of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End as a well-oiled machine. It has its great combat, solid story, spectacular visuals, large expansive environments, and its stellar action. To make this machine run in perfect condition, all of these elements, which we expect, need to be present – which they are. Every single second of the game plays as if you have just stepped into a world where video games are perfectly refined with no bugs, DLC purchases, and a true and well-written story which gets to the point. This is Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End.
Nathan’s latest adventure takes a while to pick up in Uncharted 4, with a solid 2 or so hours set aside to give you a little back story on Nathan and his brother. While you are going about their re-introductions, tutorials and such will guide you through what you should already know. We were introduced to the new grapple hook and how it works, and the new and improved shooting mechanics. The game does well to settle you into the new ways in which Naughty Dog has approached a few things. Traversing includes a new slide movement when sliding down mountain slopes and roofs, and the grapple hook will be vital to you getting around in the game.
Other small things are slowly introduced in the story like a few new combat features like a grapple hook swing and kick, and the ability to horse kick a mercenary off a cliff. At one stage you can even drive a car around a large environment at your own will. These small additions need no real tutorial as they come naturally when playing the game. Some of them even made us question why they have been missing in the first place.
Stealth in Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End has received some major attention. Almost every combat area in the game can now be completed without shooting a single bullet. Enemies now have alert signals above their heads which indicate if they have spotted you or are alert to your presence. Using cover and tall grass and bushes will assure that you do not get seen and you can plan your attack when they least expect it. The only issue we found with this new stealth mechanic was that we could not hide bodies away. This meant that taking an enemy out outside of the tall grass, would always lead to a search party as his comrades would find the body, and begin searching for us.
In general, the combat areas are about 5 times the size of Uncharted 3, which gave us more than enough room to play around in. Some even had grapple hooks, which meant we could make use of them to swing onto unsuspecting enemies. There were plenty of walls to climb, and some even had small holes which led to pathways behind enemies. Variety was clearly the main improvement here, and it really shines. When it comes down to shooting, Naughty Dog has polished up the mechanics pretty well. For those who just want to aim and shoot, there is a new and improved aim assist feature which will snap to the next enemy as you kill them. In general, shooting felt smoother and more refined than say the Nathan Drake Collection, and we really had no issue at all with it.
Not only have the combat areas been increased, even normal transition areas are filled with new and more ways to get to your objective. Sure we kind of missed a few of these pathways along the way, but when we got to where we wanted to be, we realized that we could have taken another route. Given that Samuel is by Drake’s side for 80% of the game, he also comes in handy during traversing and combat scenes. Luckily he does not get spotted when you go all Batman on the enemies, and when given the chance, he even kills them quietly too. When you do decide to go all guns blazing on them, so will he. When you need a boost up to a ledge, Samuel comes to your aid, and when you are in need for a joke, he will be there too. Samuel kind of adds that companionship that we now feel has been missing in past titles. We had Elena and Sully, but it’s nice to have a bigger brother around.
When you are not shooting up a band of misfits, or breaking into an auction to steal a million-dollar artefact, you are solving the many puzzles that wait in the tombs and catacombs you visit. Puzzles are not the most challenging we have ever encountered, and thanks to Nathan’s good old notebook, everything is normally there to guide your way. Saying that, the puzzles found in the game have a certain modern-day twist to them and show how far the series has gone in recent years. Again, making use of the game’s great movement system will make sure that you never fall to your death while getting from point A to Point B even while solving an obstacle ahead, puzzle or not. This was the biggest issue we had in previous titles, and thankfully in Uncharted 4, the traverse system is the best we have experienced. We seldom died due to poor in-engine glitches, and more in combat, which is the way it should be. Even when making use of the grapple hook, we easily got to where we wanted to be.
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is one of the most gorgeous games we have ever set our eyes upon. An hour of our total game time was probably made up of us staring into the distance or just rotating our camera around to take in the stunning environments. When we entered a large area where we could drive around, we spent well over 30 minutes getting out of the car and walking through the streams of water which flowed gracefully throughout the valley. It was mesmerizing beyond our wildest expectations. Not to forget all the classic treasures you can find by doing just that. The game has a ton of them in it which all go towards unlocking new bonus content.
The same is then said for the rest of the game as every puzzle, combat area or cut scene, made sure to draw us in like never before. Facial animations are flawless and really bring out the emotions on characters which then translate to our hearts and minds. Voice work is on point even during the most intense and dramatic moments. It all sets a new standard for game design, one which we hope other developers follow suit.
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is truly a triumph in-game design. Every location you visit throughout the 16-18 hour campaign is filled with unexpected surprises and breath-taking experiences. Games like this are beneficial to our lives as they take us on adventures we will remember for years to come. Games like this have the power to change an industry.