Uncharted 4: A Thief's End Review

Overview

 Shooting at the market

STRENGTHS

+ A wonderful end to Nathan Drake's journey

+ Absolutely gorgeous

WEAKNESSES

- Shooting mechanics improved but still lacking

- Unvaried enemy types

uncharted: A Thief's End INFORMATION

Release Date: May 10th, 2016

Developer/Publisher: Naughty Dog/ SCE


Uncharted 4 has everything you'd want from the next iteration of the series; a game engine refined, lush and beautiful graphics and a story that concludes the Nathan Drake saga. As bombastic and charming as ever, the only thing holding Uncharted 4 back are the shooting mechanics that have always been less than stellar in the franchise yet never sour the experience. 

Story - Uncharted 4 Review

 Uncharted 4: A Theif's End Review - Beautiful view

In a vacuum, each of the Uncharted games have a similar structure and quest. It's impressive that the mythos and history can be combined so effortlessly (the same as its greatest influence, Indiana Jones). But the plot has never depended upon this, it is the character development in which Uncharted thrives. Uncharted 4 is the pinnacle, especially for Drake. While Uncharted 3 explored Nathan Drake's relationship with his father-figure, Victor Sullivan, it's his relationship with his brother that builds upon his history and family even more. Even further, Nate and wife Elena, seemingly at peace are put to the test with the reemergence of his brother Sam. Yes there is a treasure to be found, but that's not the real journey. This aspect really makes Uncharted 4 sit above its predecessors.

A Thief's End also does a good job of fleshing out Sam's tale in that his character isn't tacked on. Sam has his own story arch that directly affects Nate and his relationship with both Elena and his brother. It's still Nathan Drake's tale, but Sam's self discovery is just as engaging and drives the story as well.

Technical - Uncharted 4 Review

Uncharted 4: A Thief's End is quite possibly the most beautiful game on the PlayStation 4. The transformation of Drake and friends from his last PS3 outing, Drake's Deception, which was gorgeous in its own right, is put to shame in comparison. The character models, fluidity of movement in running, swinging, jumping and combat is buoyed by a tremendous physics system. Combine this with colorful settings, from jungles and beaches, to villas and the rundown docks of the city and you'll be hard-pressed to find a better looking game.

The voice acting, as always, continues to be fantastic. Because of the improvement in graphics, the emotional range of the characters is better realized which helps carry heavier moments (the heaviest and most serious of the series). Dubbing is right on, matching the terrific motion-capture performances. If there are technical flaws, they are so insignificant that they do nothing to negatively affect gameplay.

Music - Uncharted 4 Review

There is literally nothing separating Uncharted 4's music from the top movies. The composer, Henry Jackman has a Hollywood pedigree and it works tremendously well here. It's not necessarily the melodies or the catchiness of the tunes, but it's quality and mood setting are unrivaled. Because of the cinematic nature of A Thief's End, music doesn't have to always be a back drop to a specific, repeatable scenario, it can elevate a cutscene or a playable scripted event. Some of it is subtle, some of it is simple, but it all sounds like it's been taken (in a good way) from the latest epic blockbuster. It's not only the action scenes that feel this way. One particular track, "Lure of Adventure" is a perfect emotional build up to the forthcoming journey. It starts out slowly plodding but eventually, starting about half way, it reaches heights that correspond and add to the character's excitement. Another standout, "Cut to the Chase" excels at amping up the intensity in a scene that is one of the best of the series. The music here is much more than background to your folly, it embodies the spirit of our hero's adventure.

Gameplay - Uncharted 4 Review

 Uncharted 4 Rope Swinging

If there is one weak aspect of Uncharted, it has been the gameplay and in particular, the shooting mechanics. A Thief's End doesn't necessarily solve this issue, but it is slightly improved. The cover-based shooting has never been poor, but it isn't great, and for a series that spends so much time having the player shooting, you'd want it to be better. Much of the weakness stems from the actual enemies, who are open for their bullet exchange business. There aren't many different enemy types, with the dreaded armored enemies probably being the biggest variation. Uncharted 4 did try and improve this but making more alternatives to cover (which is destructible in many areas now) such as the hooked rope and improved melee moves. While the rope is most useful in traversal outside of combat it still plays an important role during fire fights. First of all, the rope can send Drake flying quickly through the air to another space, quickly evading fire and hopefully flanking your enemies. Overall, enemy AI seems improved, limiting Drake's ability to stay behind the same cover and just pick off enemies at his own pace.

Melee combat is improved mostly due to the better physics system. Whereas it felt like a last resort in previous games, it is much more effective tactic here. It's faster paced, with a familiar reaction system used to dodge, block and counter attacks. There are many areas where your combination of rope swinging and melee can lead to a more stealth approach, clearing the field before the bullets start flying.

Traversal, while a trope in most action games now is still a blast, and the aforementioned rope creates more interesting ways to get where you need to. Traversal of course is also a huge part of the puzzles, usually climbing an ancient structure to hit the correct lever or button. As always these are solid, not too difficult but short and satisfying enough to break up the action.

Uncharted 4 Review Roundup

 Sam and Drake

Uncharted 4: A Thief's End is a fitting end to Drake's story. It has the best story of the series and is a culmination of all that has come before it, leveraging those experiences to perfection. Visually it is stunning and could possibly be the best looking game when the PS4 hangs up its controllers. If there is one flaw, it's the shooting aspect of the gameplay, and because that is such a large piece of the game, it can somewhat dull the experience. However, it's not nearly enough to prevent A Thief's End from being a must play and show piece on the console.

 Uncharted 4: A Thief's End Score - 9