Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End Review

Uncharted 4 is the most cinematic video game I’ve ever played. During my time with the game I felt as if I was playing through a movie. The series has always been about taking players on a grand adventure through beautiful environments in search for a secret treasure all while evading the bad guys. Uncharted 4 doesn’t really change what previous games have established but it does add some new features and maintains what made the previous three games so great.

Once again you play as Nathan Drake and this time he’s retired from treasure hunting trying to live a normal life. He’s married to Elena and works for a salvage company in New Orleans. You can definitely tell Nate misses the life of adventure. Nate’s brother, Sam, who Nate thought was dead, shows up one morning and asks Nate to help him find a secret pirate treasure. Sam was shot during a prison riot fifteen years earlier (before the events of the first game) and tells Nate that doctors had saved him and he eventually broke out with his cellmate, a violent drug lord who gives him three months to find the treasure or he will die. Nate eventually agrees so they team up with Sully and proceed on with the quest. The voice acting here is some of the best of I’ve ever heard in a video game. Troy Baker voices Sam and does a phenomenal job. You could even say he steals the show. Between the cut scenes and banter during gameplay every word spoken was believable. Uncharted 4 is a story-driven game and the story definitely delivers on most fronts. Nate’s relationship with his brother is very well developed and the story even throws you back in time to see Nate and Sam as kids only further fleshing out both characters. Sadly, the villains in the storyline are not as well developed which is a shame because they are interesting characters and I would have loved to learn more about their backstories. You learn a few things about their past based on some conversations.

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Throughout the game you’ll traverse through several gorgeous environments. One of my favorites was the villa in Italy which is an auction house Nate and his team need to infiltrate. The attention to detail is staggering. I found myself constantly stopping just to view the distant landscape. Even inside the villa the attention to detail is amazing ranging from the beautiful texture work to the superb lighting. This quality of excellence carries throughout the entire game. Even the animations are amazing. You can see every emotion each character is feeling just by watching their face and their movements during gameplay is fluid and smooth. Transitioning from gameplay to cut scene is always seamless making it so you’re never pulled out of the immersion. Every now and then you’ll see some textures pop in during cut scenes or foliage popping in in the distance but these are minor gripes that are easily overlooked. Uncharted 4 even has a neat photo mode so you can pause the game at any time and adjust various filters to take screen shots. Yeah, I was constantly taking screen shots. I just couldn’t stop. I would definitely say Uncharted 4 is one of the most beautiful games I’ve played this gen. It runs at thirty frames per second and I never noticed any dips. It was smooth experience all the way through.

The gameplay in Uncharted 4 is excellent, even better than previous entries. The aiming feels great, the shooting feels intense, and most importantly jumping around the environment is more fluid then ever. Rarely did I feel as if I missed a jump due to poor camera angles. There’s a big focus on stealth this time around and you can even sneak past guards avoiding combat altogether. Stealth is not very in depth however. Once you come up against some enemies Nate will enter a crouching position and you must hide in tall grass or stay out of sight and sneak around to pick everyone off. There are no silent weapons so you’ll be snapping necks and kicking bad guys off ledges. If you’re spotted, all enemies know where you are, of course, and you’ll need to shoot your way out. Nate is now equipped with a grappling hook so you can now hook a rope onto objects and swing around to reach distant platforms. This doesn’t really add much to the gameplay but it’s just another way to get around. The environments are huge, often with multiple paths to get to your destination and in a few chapters you’re even given a jeep to drive around in.

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The Uncharted series has always been an action-adventure series and my biggest problem with Uncharted 4 is the lack of action. You’ll engage in several firefights but if you’re expecting large-scale battles similar to previous games, you will be disappointed. The flow of the game usually goes like this; jump around, explore, solve a puzzle, shoot some bad guys, rinse and repeat. The end of the game pits you up against more plentiful and tougher enemies but considering how great the combat felt, I always wanted more. Even though the game has a big focus on stealth, towards the end I often ignored sneaking and just started shooting just so I could enjoy some more combat. As great as the adventure is I don’t really feel like replaying it anytime soon due to the lack of action. I know how the story plays out and if this was a movie, I’d definitely watch it repeatedly, but it’s not. It’s a game. The beginning definitely starts out slow but the pacing never really picks up significantly which I think is definitely a step down compared to the last two games specifically. The combat is what would keep me coming back, that and higher difficulties. But I’m just not in the mood to explore it all over again so soon.

Most of the puzzles won’t have you scratching your head and some of the changes to the combat are questionable. For example, you can’t throw back grenades anymore. Why? This is actually annoying because enemies can magically throw grenades right at your feet so you’ll always be jumping and rolling out of the way and when you’re finally somewhere safe, another grenade lands at your toes. Objects are destructible and many of the objects you’ll be taking cover behind will gradually break apart from gunfire leaving you exposed. This is actually really cool and you’ll need to think on your feet rather than hang back and pick off enemies one by one. The enemy AI is rather good, too, often flanking your position and taking cover. Even your allies will kill a few bad guys. Melee combat has been overhauled, eliminating the quick time events and instead you need to just press the attack or dodge button. Melee is very simple at best and is in desperate need of a block button. Dodging is merely rolling out of the way. Why you would roll away to avoid punches all the time is beyond me. Of course the melee fights against the main villains play out in a more cinematic fashion making you mash buttons at certain times and are layered with dialogue.

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The music has to be the most disappointing part of the game. It’s not as epic as previous games and never gave me the feeling that it’s time to kick some ass. Every now and then you’ll hear a good tune but there is nothing memorable about the soundtrack. I understand the score was done by a new composer and maybe that has something to do with it. The sound effects, on the other hand, are amazing. Gunfire and explosions are loud and extreme making the firefights themselves sound awesome. If you have a good sound system or headset you’ll feel as if you’re right there with the characters. Little sounds like footsteps, animals in the jungle, and even little things like the tires of your jeep spinning out of control sounds fantastic with excellent quality.

During the journey are tons of collectibles to find. Collectible treasures are not new to the series. You’ll see a little sparking white light indicating you can pick it up. You can even find various journal entries that give you more backstory on the pirates among other information. Finding collectibles gives you points which can be spent on bonuses like different render modes and gameplay modifiers. These do increase replay value but the lack of combat still won’t keep me coming back often. There is a multiplayer mode which I did not check out and apparently there’s going to be some single player DLC. Hopefully that will add a little more action to the experience. But I am interested in playing through it at least once to see what it’s all about and how the characters develop.

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Uncharted 4 excels at storytelling and adventure. One can even say it sets a new standard for linear games. However, if you’re coming into this expecting a grand action adventure experience you may be disappointed. I was engaged with the story all the way through and exploring the detailed environments was fun but the lack of combat compared to previous games is going to keep me from replaying. It’s not that I don’t like the game but it feels as if now that I’ve beaten it, there’s no reason for me to go back. The pacing never picks up speed and there’s too much breathing room, if you will. That is not to say the game isn’t for everyone. Many people have probably put Uncharted 4 at the top of there list and with good reason. It’s excellent production values and gameplay are top of the line. It all just depends what you want out of an Uncharted game. Needless to say, Uncharted 4 is an excellent conclusion to Nathan Drake story.

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3 Comments

  1. June 23, 2016    

    Just finished it! I love the storyline but it did feel like a lot of the time you were watching a movie. I wish they could’ve added a flying element to the game, but the rope swinging was really awesome. I would totally recommend this game, but that’s because I favor the third person over first. Man, we’ve come a long way since the first tomb raider!

    • June 23, 2016    

      I never liked the original Tomb Raider games but didn’t hate the reboot. I like the Uncharted series a lot more. However, in the end I felt this one was lacking a bit compared to the previous games. But the story and cinematic elements were top of the line.

  2. January 18, 2017    

    wow another game on thief theme, i like to enjoy games on the theme of thief

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