Uncharted 4 takes us back into the world of Nathan Drake and the insane adventures and dangers that he gets himself caught up in. Taking place 3 years after the events of Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception. Uncharted 4 brings a close the story of Nathan Drake. Uncharted 4 begins with Nathan and Elena having retired from their lives of being fortune hunters and are trying to lead “normal” lives, with Nathan taking up a job at a salvage company.
But as is the life of Nathan Drake, things don’t stay normal for too long. Nathan’s brother Sam pops back up in his life and pleads for Nathan to help save his life by finding the secret, lost treasure of Captain Henry Avery. An adventure that Nathan cannot say no to, they embark on a mission to find Avery’s pirate utopia, Libertalia, and gain Sam’s freedom in the process.
The campaign aspect of the game is 23 chapters long including a prologue and epilogue, and will roughly take 13 to 15 hours with the usual taking your time and trying to find the occasional letter and hidden treasure. There is a trophy (Charted – Speedrun) for completing the game in under 6 hours. With multiple difficulty settings from explorer mode (easiest) to crushing (hardest) the game is accessible to any skill level. I however recommend playing on either moderate or hard difficulty to deliver that perfect level of challenge.
Returning to the franchise are Nolan North (Nathan Drake), Emily Rose (Elena Fisher), and Richard McGonagle (Victor Sullivan). Who bring these characters back to our lives and make us believe they have grown from when we first met them in Uncharted 1 all the way to the end in Uncharted 4.
Joining the cast are Troy Baker as Samuel Drake, Laura Bailey as Nadine Ross, and Warren Kole as Rafe Adler. Troy Baker as Sam adds a new level of dynamic to the Drake family, being an already accomplished voice actor, Baker slips easily into the role of Sam, and plays well off of Nolan North’s Nathan. Kole brings cockiness and intrigue to the role of Rafe Adler, an old “friend” of the Drakes’ who in the current day setting plays the rival for Avery’s fortune. Nadine Ross is leader for Shoreline a group of mercenaries who often become target practice for the Drake brothers. Nadine is the letdown amongst the newer characters, mainly being relegated to the boss of the hired goons who has few, and the voice acting being subpar. Early on in the game Nadine sounded Australian with a bit of South African slipping in here and there, later on in the game, Nadine sounded almost entirely South African.
The opening credits provides a recap of the events of the previous 3 games. Covering major events, and adventures that our heroes have endured such as El Dorado, Shambhala, and Ubar. The opening credits gives a sense of finality to the game; a look back as we come to the end of the journey.
The prologue and first 5 chapters serve as a re-introduction to the Uncharted franchise and life of Nathan Drake, as well placing the set pieces that propel Nathan, Sam, Sully, and Elena into an adventure to find Captain Avery’s Libertalia. These chapters move a bit slow and are strewn with story and conversational pieces, as well the occasional running, climbing, jumping, all the classic Uncharted mechanics. Covering the Drake brothers younger days, to their stint in a Panamanian prison where we are first introduced to Rafe, and then finally the current day where the story really kicks off.
“Chapter 4 – A Normal Life” did lead to one of my favourite moments in the entire franchise; as Nathan Drake playing a level from the original Crash Bandicoot on a PlayStation 1. This is such a nice little nostalgia trip for gamers who have grown up playing Naughty Dog games, and it also acts as a callback to later on in the game when Nathan is required to run away from a vehicle down corridors and hurdling over obstacles.
The middle act of the game goes at express pace, travelling from location to location, finding clues and hidden treasure, and dealing with Nadine, Rafe, and the Shoreline goons. There isn’t much time for site seeing, or rest stops for the Drake brothers and Sully, as they must race against Rafe to find the clues, solve the puzzles, traverse mountains, buildings to be the first ones to Libertalia and Captain Avery’s hidden treasure.
The third act does become slightly sluggish, completing repetitive tasks and taking down goons, but it does deliver on some great banter and moments between the Drake brothers, displaying the tight bond that they share despite being separated for such a long time.
“Chapter 17 – For Better or Worse” would have to my favourite chapter in the entire game. The chapter is strewn with some fantastic gameplay, and new set pieces, and the conversations between Nate and Elena are extremely well crafted. Made even better by the fantastic voice acting between Nolan North and Emily Rose. The player feels connection that these two characters have, they feel the love they share.
The whole game is about family; from the Drake brothers trying to find their deceased mothers’ belongings, Nate trying to save his brother, to Nate and Elena discussing their present lives and their future. So it makes sense that the final boss battle isn’t some overdone set piece like Nate’s battle against Lazarevic in Uncharted 2. However in saying that, the final boss is still tough, testing the players’ reflexes and dexterity.
The game closes with a fantastically done epilogue, which I won’t spoil for anyone, but it brings closure the story of Nathan Drake and Elena Fisher. It was the perfect send off for Nathan Drake and for the franchise.
Uncharted 4 largely keeps with the linear theme of the previous Uncharted games, there are occasions players can opt to explore, or take a different climbing path up a mountain or a building. The somewhat linear path doesn’t give off a claustrophobia like feeling, instead whether the player chooses the intended path or another, it always feel natural. With stunning scenery to get caught away admiring, nooks, crannies, and caves to find hidden treasures, and Photo Mode, Uncharted 4 improves on what was already great.
The grappling hook is the newest addition to Nathan Drake’s explorer’s kit. Using to swing across large expansive valleys, or grapple objects in flowing streams, it’s also a fantastic aid in swinging from a beam and performing an aerial takedown of henchman. They vast options of guns is still a core part of the Uncharted 4, from handguns to automatics, shotguns to RPGs. What Uncharted 4 has managed to improve on its predecessors is the gun fights. Unlike the previous three 3 games, the gun fighting with goons is sparse and well spread throughout the game. What makes the gun fights better is that it is not always the only option, players can opt to sneak through areas and silently take out the enemies, never having to openly engage in open gun fights.
The AI works alongside you, they try and stay out of sight, and will duck and hide if you do. They also provide assistant in pointing out possible pathways and enemies. As was the case with Ellie in The Last of Us, if the AI character does get within the line of sight of enemies, it won’t alert them and you can continue to move stealthily.
The driving mechanics don’t feel poorly added on, but an organic expansion of what Naughty Dog already do so well. The driving is seamless and easy to pick up and master.
Naughty Dog continues to wow with mo-cap technology and the stunning visuals that seamlessly blend cinematic scenes with gameplay scenes. The tech has come a long way since Uncharted 1 which at that time looked amazing in its own right. Some of the cinematic scenes look as if they are real life renders and not CG.
I haven’t managed to put that many hours into multiplayer, but from what I have played so far. The multiplayer in this game improves on the multiplayer from Uncharted 3 and using the mechanics and physics that made the multiplayer from The Last of Us to make a really impressive and fun online experience. Players are prompted to complete an introduction and trial matches against AI to learn the basic weapons, power-ups, and manoeuvres.
I did face issues trying to play online. Finding games to significantly long, I would regularly be matched to several other players then be removed from the lobby and put back in the search for another game. In games I have had issues with lag and drop outs. Overall multiplayer has been some of the funnest and exciting gameplay since the Last of Us online play.
Uncharted 4 is an amazing achievement in storytelling and gameplay. Easily the best story out of the entire franchise and an experience that feels like playing a movie. No doubt that a fan will combine the cinematic scenes with gameplay to create a movie like experience. While the game does suffer with repetitive gameplay and lazy plot advancements it is completely outshined by what Uncharted 4 does extremely well. While it doesn’t live up to the excellence of The Last of Us or Uncharted 2, it is easily the second best Uncharted game.
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is the perfect addition and conclusion to the Uncharted franchise which lifelong fans will appreciate. Naughty Dog continues to prove that they are the best PlayStation developer and one of the best industry wide developer. This is perfect for new PlayStation 4 users who never got the chance to play the Uncharted series on the PS3, as remaster developer Bluepoint has remastered the previous games in a Uncharted: The Nathan Drake collection.
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is a must buy.