Uncharted 4: A Thief's End (PlayStation 4) Review

By Az Elias 11.08.2016 2

Review for Uncharted 4: A Thief

It is the game every owner - and would-be owner - of the PlayStation 4 has been waiting for. At this point, Naughty Dog needs no introduction; having broken new ground in terms of interactive storytelling with the Uncharted trilogy and, in particular, The Last of Us last generation, the developer single-handedly made the PS3 a console worth having just for those experiences alone. Expectations have naturally been extremely high for what has been billed as Nathan Drake's final adventure in Uncharted 4: A Thief's End, but has the team managed to pull it off?

The truth is that this isn't a mind-blowing game. It's a beautifully made and very good one, but there is rarely ever a standout moment in Uncharted 4 that will leave its mark in a way that Naughty Dog's other recent titles have. The Last of Us had many of them, Uncharted 2 certainly had them in playable form, and while Uncharted 3 went over the top with its set pieces, no one that played it will ever forget that cargo plane sequence. This is the bar the Sony subsidiary has set itself, and it only makes sense to hold the fourth Nathan Drake expedition up to those lofty standards.

Now settled into family life with the ever-present Elena, Nate is retired as a treasure hunter, but following playing through some chapters at pivotal moments in his life, the brother never mentioned in the entire series up to this point makes an unexpected knock on Drake's door, calling him back into the game he so used to love. It's a tough one to digest at first. Presumably, using a family connection is a more believable way to get Nate to U-turn on his decision not to re-embark on his globe-trotting adventures than, say, a long lost best friend. For what other reason did Nathan Drake need a brother in story terms, otherwise? Troy Baker— sorry, Sam Drake's appearance is written into the canon in a way that makes sense, but it doesn't make it any less dubious.

Screenshot for Uncharted 4: A Thief's End on PlayStation 4

Whatever the case, Nate's back on the hunt to pick up a trail he and his brother left behind fifteen years ago in a search to find the lost treasure of English pirate Henry Avery, who also founded the pirate colony of Libertalia, somewhere near Madagascar. With the help of old friend Sully, the group of three finds itself on the road to a variety of locations, all of which have some breath-taking views - as expected of an Uncharted title, but they are accentuated here with the upgrade in hardware. The Share button will get its use, that much is certain.

Some locations offer a semi-open world segment, and these are a welcome addition if only to give more of a sense of actually searching for hidden points of interest in unknown settings. Too often has the path been convenient for Drake in past excursions. Thankfully, as well, they are not too expansive so as to result in yet another clone of a boring fully open world game, there is plenty of the usual linearity to balance it out, and, of course, there are collectibles that are much better tucked away this time, with many requiring going off the beaten path in order to find them.

New to the platforming gameplay is the grappling hook - a simple-to-use tool that allows Drake to latch onto appropriately placed beams and other grapple points, and swing or abseil up and around cliff faces, buildings and all the rest of it. Aside from the fact that Nate learned how to do all this with his brother as a kid and hasn't used it throughout the series since, it's a fun mechanic that doesn't often cause any trouble during its use, but does make for some outrageous manoeuvres that make the insane life or death jumping sequences in previous Uncharted titles look like child's play - and that's saying something. Even its use for pulling a vehicle up a steep slope is a clever one, despite bringing little to the gameplay there.

Screenshot for Uncharted 4: A Thief's End on PlayStation 4

Perhaps what's more oddly thrown into Nate's arsenal is a climbing piton that is acquired late into the game, allowing him to jump and hook into particular areas of cliffs, Tomb Raider style. It seems unnecessary both in terms of when it is picked up, but also for Nate, who has never needed anything of the sort up till now. Tomb Raider made it one of its forefront pieces of equipment for Lara Croft, which worked out well, since it was pretty enjoyable leaping into the air and smacking that thing into the side of a cliff. While it may have looked like blatantly copying if Nate used it earlier on in his adventure, it may as well have been left out entirely - especially as he barely uses it.

Combat is a mixed bag once again. Hand-to-hand fighting is stripped down, with not as much choice in the counterattack and dodging options as Uncharted 3, but there are some cool double team moves that are amusing to pull off. These only really become available if Nate or his current partner is grabbed and struggling to break free, though - a situation that occurs frequently when engaging with fists. Gunplay is pretty much same old, same old, with weapons that don't really deliver much variation; it's still point and shoot with whatever can be picked up from the ground, and usually involves finding the strongest sidearm and sticking with that, fending off the not-so-clever AI in the process. Lack of being able to throw grenades back is also a frustrating element that seemed unnecessary to remove.

Where Uncharted 4 has made improvements is in its stealth possibilities, with notes taken out of The Last of Us' book. Somewhat disappointingly, there aren't many enemy encounters throughout the game, but a handful of the ones that are there feature well designed areas that provide options in how and where Drake can take down his foes. Jumping down and attacking from height is now much better executed, almost guaranteeing there are no misses when going for a jump kill, and the grappling hook also allows for some crafty swing-and-kill action. The extra freedom and ability to tackle enemies in a far less linear fashion was definitely needed, and is a redeeming factor on the combat side of things.

Screenshot for Uncharted 4: A Thief's End on PlayStation 4

There are a number of ridiculous plot elements that raise questions and eyebrows, with Elena playing her share in that, but the story is also let down in terms of its antagonists. Nate and Sam's former associate, rich boy Rafe, and his hired South African mercenary group leader, Laura Bailey— sorry, Nadine, are some of the weakest in the series after Uncharted 3, and don't leave a lasting impression when all is over and done with.

On the flipside, Uncharted 4 does excel in its ability to tell a great treasure hunting narrative that progresses well over the course of the game. Whilst the latter portion can drag on slightly, the story and gameplay work together to build a good sense of discovery as the two brothers get closer and closer to their goal and solving the mystery behind Henry Avery. It always feels like they are onto something big, but it throws a curveball into the mix when it starts teasing a supernatural element akin to those seen in all prior titles and the odd plot hole arises. Whilst some questionable decisions crop up in the final sections, and whilst the game lacks the set pieces that made the series what it is, what's left is still a highly playable, visually stunning and more than acceptable send-off for Nathan Drake.

Online multiplayer shouldn't go without a mention, either, and deserves checking out after the adventure is over, but it is unfortunately removed of previous popular modes, such as Elimination and Survival - both of which were personal favourites. If Deathmatches and Plunder are liked, though, it's essentially the same fun as before, with the option to use in-game cash for perks to help turn the tide of battle.

Screenshot for Uncharted 4: A Thief's End on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

Naughty Dog spoiled us with The Last of Us. As such, it was always going to be a difficult task for Uncharted 4 to meet those standards, let alone exceed them. The unfortunate thing is that whilst it has improved on certain aspects over the previous Uncharted entries - namely stealth, a little more freedom, and a real sense of discovery in hunting down a long lost treasure - there are a few too many slip-ups with regards to plot and characters, with lacking combat and set pieces also contributing to the pitfalls. It is undeniably gorgeous to look at, and the fun is definitely there on multiple occasions, but it is missing that Uncharted charm that made the series so great in the first place.

Developer

Naughty Dog

Publisher

SCEE

Genre

Action Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

A fantastic series of cut-scenes.
A mediocre, unimaginative game... like the rest of of the Uncharted.

I understand that I'm not the target kind of gamer, but these games have always felt too "press X to win" for me. Plus, zero need for exploration.

I'm glad that C3 is one of the few that didn't spare a 10/10 so easily, though.

Can't a fella drink in peace?
                                -Farnham

I never touched the series until the Uncharted Collection on PS4. I ended up doing the equivalent of skim reading with that because I was anxious to finish it before 4 came out.
 
4 seemed a lot more conflicted to me. Its more serious, raw and emotional tone worked well, but ultimately only really made me think about The Last of Us 2. A lot of Uncharted 4's little nuisances seem more useful for that series, and almost seem cultivated in preparation for that, for example:
 
I loved how Nate and Elena bickered during gameplay, how that built up and occasionally erupted whilst heaving a crate into the right place, or navigating an obstacle. It was really believable, and it reminds you the costs they pay for being adventurers (and so on) - something you never sense in earlier games really. I would say however that those undertones didn't HAVE to be dialed in so heavily. In a game like The Last of Us I'd say that's a phenomenal way to further the story organically, but in Uncharted, I think certain elements, like that, end up disrupting the pace a little too much.

All that said, for the scope, the craft and the execution of the game that is there, I'd probably bump it up a point myself. It may not be anything new, but it's still the most memorable gaming experience I've had all year. 
 

( Edited 12.08.2016 15:13 by The Strat Man )

Tom Barry [ Reviewer - Editor - Resident Sim-Racer @ Cubed3.com ]
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