It’s no small claim to say that Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is a fitting finale for one of gaming’s most endearing protagonists. Nathan Drake swings, shimmies and shoots his way through what is easily the best game in the beloved franchise, helping make it one of the greatest games on modern consoles.
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is set a few years after the events of Drake’s Deception, and picks up with Nate living his life as a salvage diver having given up the swash buckling tom-foolery of his treasure hunting years. He’s also settled down with his on-again off-again better half Elena (who’s now become a travel writer) and the two live in their idyllic suburban house, safely ever after.
That is until Nate’s long lost brother Sam shows up with the job to end all jobs – tracking down Henry Avery’s mythical pirate booty. His treasure by the way, not his legendary buns of steel.
Clocking in at around 15 hours, the story hinges on the loving but often thorny relationship between Nathan and Sam (voiced by the superb Troy Baker) and is one of the finest achievements of the game. As a character introduced in the final quarter of the franchise, Sam could easily have been a bit-part player in the game’s world, but thankfully, Baker and the writers at Naughty Dog have made him an integral member of an already stellar cast.
Nate and Sam indulge us with their witty back and forth, jabbing each other in ways only siblings can. They drive home the idea that this relationship has been forged through years of common experiences, as well as filling each other in on the bits they’ve missed. It’s something that I don’t think has been done so well since Naughty Dog’s other incredible game The Last Of Us, with the relationship between Ellie and Joel (also played by Baker).
Though engaging until the end, some parts of the game tend to go a little overboard on the cinematic experience. More than once I found myself five minutes deep in exposition having only briefly hammered triangle to prop up a knackered door. While I completely understand that the deep story is best told through the beautiful cutscenes, I sometimes found myself wanting somebody to shoot me so I could be involved again.
Speaking of beautiful graphics, Naughty Dog had been touting Uncharted‘s visuals for months before release, with fans swooning and melting at the sight of Nathan Drake’s next-gen face topped with his next-gen hair oozing his next-gen sex appeal. Rightly, people were also sceptical as developers tend to, shall we say, tart up visuals in trailers.
From the first few seconds of gameplay, however, it becomes very apparent that Uncharted 4 is a painfully gorgeous game – both graphically and in tone. Emotions are perhaps the most impressive thing conveyed through the stunning graphics, with every wry smile and furrowed brow speaking characters’ true emotions. It’s something that just wasn’t possible until now and makes A Thief’s End one of the best looking games ever released.
The gameplay, too, is solid enough. Nothing much at the core of the game has changed since Uncharted 3, bar a couple of new abilities. Drake now has a handy-dandy grapple hook that allows him to swing with reckless abandon between crevices and shimmy up and down otherwise deadly drops. Drake also now has the ability to slide around on his arse. Which is nice.
Combat (both gunplay and fisticuffs) is fun, but the best way to play is the Nathan Drake way – running, gunning and punning your way through the set-piece battles. Enemies will eventually destroy the rickety boxes you cower behind which adds some welcome tactical head scratching, but ultimately shouldn’t give you too much to worry about on the mid to lower difficulties.
While undoubtedly a game built for its single player story, Naughty Dog have also gone to the trouble of including a beefy mutliplayer mode. It’s typical multiplayer stuff with some customisation options thrown in for good measure, and while it’s robust enough to keep people busy for a few months, it’s hardly broken new barriers in online gaming.
Despite not improving greatly on the game’s combat elements, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End draws a line underneath a modern epic, encapsulating everything that makes the series so great. Put simply, it’s a must own – not only fans of the franchise – but for anybody who enjoys a ripping good adventure yarn.