It’s finally happened, people. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is here and it is utterly fantastic. After losing some momentum after the somewhat disappointing Uncharted 3, Naughty Dog has delivered what is arguably the best entry in the franchise. Everything that has come before, including the phenomenal The Last of Us, has shaped Uncharted 4 into the incredible game it is. If this sounds like too much high praise, please understand that nothing I say about Uncharted 4 can properly do it justice. It really is as close to being a masterpiece as any game can be.
What makes Uncharted 4 work so well is how it manages to contain everything that the series is known for while still introducing enough new elements that make it fresh. And I’m not just talking about gameplay mechanics specifically. The entire game unfolds at a very leisurely pace, comparatively speaking. It isn’t afraid to take its time getting to the action, or letting scenes between characters go on as long as they need to. It’s a sign of the confidence Naughty Dog has with its storytelling and overall gameplay approach, which I found to be quite refreshing.
It would be negligent of me to not bring up how much of an influence The Last of Us is on Uncharted 4. Since we now spend significant time with the characters, their motivations and desires are delivered in a more convincing manner. There is a level of nuance and subtlety to the story and characters that hasn’t been seen in this particular series. Having fully rounded individuals helps elevate the game from being a standard action title to something more. The tone is still lighthearted for the most part, but The Last of Us‘ penchant for deeper characters definitely bled over to Uncharted 4.
Past games have been somewhat narrow with their design but Uncharted 4 has expanded its environments and combat. Any given locale will now have separate paths to take. While some of these side roads may not yield anything interesting or worthwhile, they do at least give players more choice of where to travel.
On the combat front, stealth is now a more viable form of combat than ever before. It wasn’t until the final parts of the game that I began to use weapons during combat. Before that, I would be as stealthy as possible and take out enemies without being seen. This aspect is helped by the fact that you can now tag enemies in order to track them better. You can obviously still play this game by going in with all-guns-blazing, but I found a deeper satisfaction from killing entire areas full of bad guys without firing a single shot.
If you do decide to forgo stealth and kill everything with bullets, then you’ll find that the open environments help immensely. More so than any other Uncharted game, the enemies are extremely aggressive once they spot you. Moving to different cover points is essential as hunkering down in one spot will get you flanked quickly. Being forced to remain on the move certainly made for some of the most thrilling combat encounters I’ve ever had playing these games. It was deeply satisfying to come at my foes from above and below using a combination of guns and good ol’ melee attacks.
The game balances out combat with a hefty dose of platforming. While you mostly still climb using Nathan Drake’s incredible upper body strength, there are new tools to help getting around the environment more interesting and fun. You can use a rope to sling over large chasms and to save yourself from falling to death. There is also a new mechanic that lets you slide down steep cliffs. This last mechanic can get a bit over-used (even Drake remarks on this) but it ultimately doesn’t hamper the overall enjoyable platforming sections.
Naughty Dog has long been the master of presentation and Uncharted 4 is quite possibly the best looking game currently on the market. What I found interesting is how it progressively gets better looking, particularly when you reach the second half of the game. There are moments–many moments–where you will have to stop to take it all in. Everything is rendered with such a high level of detail that it will leave your jaw on the floor. Seriously, if you can find me a better looking game than Uncharted 4 I’d like to see it. Nothing on consoles or even PC is touching this game from a graphical standpoint.
The mandatory multiplayer mode makes its return for a third time. Those who enjoyed the previous MP modes will feel right at home here as much of the core mechanics remain unchanged. The biggest add-on is the ability to use relics as weapons. These mythical items can turn the tide of battle in your favor if used correctly. The MP itself runs at a smooth 60 fps which will make playing across the competitive modes a lot easier on the eyes. Those who are purely into this game for the single player experience won’t find much here but MP-heads should be satisfied, even if the mode is somewhat mediocre.
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is without a doubt the very best exclusive game released this generation. I realize that isn’t saying much considering how lackluster this console cycle has been, but that shouldn’t change the fact that this is one of the best games ever released. In a landscape that is now dominated by MOBAs and open-world shooters, Uncharted 4 stands as a beacon of light for fans of AAA action-adventure games. It doesn’t get much better than this, people.
This review of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is based on a digital copy for the PlayStation 4 which was paid for out-of-pocket.