Uncharted: The Last of Us Thieves
Once in a generation, a game like this arrives – a shining technological achievement surrounded by immense hype and months of delays that still performs at or above expectations. Set to be the first and final Uncharted title to arrive natively on the PS4, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End ventured through an interesting development cycle, which included the departure of origins writer Amy Hennig (and her subsequent replacement by Neil Druckman). Yet through all its setbacks and conceived red flags, Uncharted 4 is easily the best looking and best playing game of this generation (and, perhaps, of all time).
Uncharted 4 begins on a rocky, rainy, and stormy boat ride to a foreboding set of cliffs lingering almost out of sight. As you, Nathan Drake – treasure hunter extraordinaire – steer the small boat in the direction of land, armored ships and soldiers open fire. With the overturning of your ship and the screams of “Nathan!” drowned out, the screen fades to black, and you awaken in a flashback of Drake’s childhood – the orphanage. And this is where Uncharted 4 begins its early departures from the previous titles.
If ever I could make a complaint about any of the previous Uncharted entries, it would be that I felt the narrative wasn’t fleshed out fully. Often, the games began in the midst of action, and there was little preamble to set up any story. The games relied on the mystery of the hunt and the exploration of ancient ruins to piece together worthy stories. Uncharted 3 offered the first glimpse into Nate’s childhood, but it was more-or-less to set up a minor plot point (in other words, it was more about character development rather than actual plot). In 4’s flashback, we have the introduction of Samuel Drake, Nathan’s older brother, which the game’s entire plot hinges upon. Uncharted 4 utilizes the first five chapters to set up the narrative (with one of my all-time favorite Easter eggs in chapter four). Unfortunately, for thrill seekers looking to plunge directly into the famous Uncharted action, they’ll probably find the opening sequences too lengthy and/or too boring. But as work of art and exposition, the introduction to Uncharted 4 and its first few chapters is not only necessary but, to me, welcome.
Gameplay here is three quarters familiar and a fourth wholly new. Yet all of the familiar features aren’t so because you’ve played prior Uncharted games; no, it’s directly due to Neil Druckman and The Last of Us’ influence. Any fan of The Last of Us will find character and object interactions, along with some of the dark pieces of the tale, nearly identical in Uncharted 4. And this is okay because it offers a better look at the characters we love and a closer examination of the artifacts and journals (and the thoughts of Drake as he pours over them). Still, the addition of The Last of Us elements doesn’t take away from Uncharted 4’s identity; in fact, it strengthens it for the aforementioned reasons. Gun play plays with smooth precision, and the reticle now glows red when you’ve marked a kill, never leaving you wondering if you actually finished off the pirate lurking around that one corner. The biggest improvement in gameplay, for me, was the tidying up of the platforming.
Uncharted 4, as we all know, makes its money on its epic stories and high octane battles – but most of all its influence in improving the platforming genre. In Uncharted 4, Naughty Dog seems to have found perfection. Not once did I fall to my death because of a mistake I made. In fact, you no longer have to guess the direction you need to move. Most of the scaffolding stones or ledges are close enough that, if you hover Drake’s hand over them, he’ll grab onto it himself and move along. I did, of course, fall to my doom a few times, but it was never the game’s fault; I just would get curious and discover what I was jumping to was actually a bit too far away. Lastly, Uncharted 4 features two new platforming features: the grappling hook and hill slides. Each were integrated flawlessly (the hill slides perhaps appearing too often), and are easy to use. Pressing L1 throws your hook, and you can use it to swing to new areas, climb, or wall run (which, by the way, was also perfected. My wall run abilities were poor in the first three titles, but Naughty Dog nailed this one).
You can’t discuss an Uncharted or Naughty Dog game of recent memory without drooling over their immaculate presentation. Without a doubt, and proven by Digital Foundry, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, is the best looking and performing console game of all time. The attention to detail, a perfect 1080p at 30fps, no screen tearing/buffering issues, and breathtaking character models and scenery all add up to create an immersive and real experience.
The last piece of Uncharted 4 that I’d like to talk about is the multiplayer. Beginning in Uncharted 2, multiplayer has evolved in each iteration. Uncharted 4, fortunately, finds the multiplayer in its sharpest form. With multiple game choices to choose from, a leveling system with multiple unlocks, and an Uncharted store (that offers costumes, character unlocks, etc.), I see myself spending multiple hours immersed within the multiplayer. My biggest concern is that you can purchase Uncharted points from the PSN, though nothing you buy is actually game winning. Most of the items you can purchase are for aesthetic purposes only (much like the DLC costumes from Uncharteds past. The gameplay is identical to the story, and it is the smoothest 3PS multiplayer experience I’ve ever had. Whereas in older Uncharted games, I felt unbalanced teams killed gameplay, Uncharted 4 appears to take note from The Last of Us. The multiplayer is unique to The Last of Us, but it shares a feeling of, if working together or deadly accurate, you can succeed.
When looking back at my time with Uncharted 4, I found myself eager to consume every last drop of the game. It’s hard not to be impressed with the impeccable graphics, witty dialogue, and tremendous acting. I only had one sound issue in the game (splashing continued through an entire cut scene), and that was it. With a solid multiplayer that can offer plenty of hours of additional gameplay across multiple modes, Uncharted 4 is the full excellently story drive experience gamers long for with a multiplayer that doesn’t feel tacked on. Naughty Dog continues to improve upon their winning formulae, which leaves me overly excited for what comes next.