For most avid entertainment enthusiasts, there are a select few titles from various media forms that truly catch our attention and respect for their storytelling capabilities and enthralling visuals. A few examples are the Godfather Trilogy, The Wire TV series, a humble Japanese anime called Naruto, Studio Ghibli’s Princess Mononoke and the original animated Jungle Book by Disney. When it comes to video games, the honour extends to titles such as Red Dead Redemption, The Last of Us, Grand Theft Auto, and last but not the least and the one under review here, the Uncharted series.
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
To be specific, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. When it comes to next-gen console games, UC4 takes the cake. It raises the bar to previously unforeseen levels for a Sony-exclusive title. Naughty Dog delivers a much more mature game with all the nail-biting excitement, insane action scenes, daredevil climbing and swinging and, now honest-to-goodness swashbuckling that we’ve come to know and love in the Uncharted series. Well, the swashbuckling is new, but it’s amazing.
(Spoiler Alert: In describing the gaming experience, I needed to describe a few initial game scenarios)
The game begins with a thrilling chase sequence on the high seas. This is where the other protagonist, Samuel Drake, Nathan’s older brother, gets a brief introduction. However, Sam is mostly an NPC (a non-playable character) but is crucial to the story, since you spend most of the game, chasing, saving or chastising him.
We catch a unique glimpse into the Drake brothers’ past and how they came to be — from humble beginnings in an orphanage to an Indiana Jones-like life. We also get a look into a more domesticated Nathan Drake. One with a wife, a nice house in the suburbs, where they spend their days talking about their day jobs (he’s a salvage diver now), washing dishes and watching him try to beat her score at Crash Bandicoot. Yes, Crash Bandicoot. Playable on the original PlayStation inside a game made of the PlayStation4. Trippy eh?
As the game develops, players begin to realise that Nathan Drake’s quest for Libertalia, the fabled pirate Utopia and its treasures, set up by the pirate Henry Avery is quite relatable to his own life as a treasure hunter-turned-husband-turned-treasure hunter. Players will catch similarities between the famous pirate’s own insecurities about his treasure and Nathan Drake, who constantly has to battle inner demons to do the right thing, even while doing the complete opposite of it. This game isn’t just about jumping from one shaky ledge to another while popping bullets off like some juvenile drunken gangster from the 1950s. The game is heavily accompanied with a flurry of emotions between Nathan, his wife, his brother and even our beloved Sully. The premise of the story for this game is filled with gorgeous locations one can explore, incredibly well-written dialogue and adrenaline-charged action scenes.
Samuel Drake, as mentioned earlier, is central to the UC4 storyline. We’re shown how Nathan supposedly lost his brother to gunfire, while dramatically escaping from a South American prison. The reason they were in the prison in the first place was to try and get a lead on the treasure of Henry Avery. We’re shown that he turns out to be alive after 15 years and indebted to a very dangerous drug lord whom he owes a part of the treasure in exchange for breaking him out of the aforementioned prison. An interesting development is when you are given the reins of Samuel Drake and you guide his prison escape alongside infamous drug-lord Hector Alcazar.
So he pops up at Nathan’s home, forces him out of retirement and off they go. The One Last Job plot is visible from miles away, as soon as he shows up. Which is totally fine, by the way. The job takes them hunting to a gorgeous mansion in Italy, across the cold, barren landscapes of Scotland, the intricately detailed and muddy savannah of Madagascar and its incredibly crowded marketplaces, where you can make friends with a lemur and finally over to the ominous island where Libertalia is supposedly hidden. These set pieces are honestly the best in the whole series, or any other game for that matter.
The gameplay and narrative work seamlessly with each other. There are gigantic puzzle rooms where spinning cogs and sliding symbols must be turned, tweaked and solved so that even bigger clockwork machines spring into action, opening doors and exposing discrete chambers, each of which lead you closer to that elusive booty. Just when the player thinks the game is calming down, there’s a storm or an explosion, or a giant bell tolls for your head, or on your head. Even the conclusion of the game is set up so beautifully, one can’t seem to do anything but think how long Naughty Dog is going to take to release the next title in this series.
The voice acting by Nolan North as Nathan Drake and Troy Barker as Samuel Drake is unparalleled, making the game an absolute treat to play and as well as watch from the couch. This last part is especially important. Uncharted delivers as a series no other game has ever done before. It compels anyone watching or playing it to be completely hooked and doesn’t allow them to let go unless they have something really important to do.
A brief shoutout goes to the games’ Multiplayer Mode. The series has always had a sense of fun gameplay attached to its multiplayer modes. Players here are free to create their own playing styles, using a multitude of weapons and special modes. Naughty Dog has gone above and beyond to ensure that all the players have a level playing field. It has promised that all maps and modes released will be free of cost, while all boosts and in-game store items can be unlocked through gameplay.
Ten. On. Ten. That’s the only score that this game deserves. Anything short is considered blasphemy. Admittedly, it may sound biased, but all players and watchers alike are invited to try it for themselves and witness the spellbinding glory that is Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. Naughty Dog delivers everything one could have possibly wanted from a Nathan Drake finale. It delivers even more as a fantastic benchmark title for the Sony PlayStation 4. It shows how developers can truly create masterpieces if they just take their time, instead of spewing out rehashes of the same endless nonsense every year.
This is one we’ll be talking about for years to come. And playing for even longer in fond memory.
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is a magnificent and fitting finale to an already incredible series. It carries on with the series’ brilliant and seamless integration of dialogue, storytelling, action and animation. Most importantly, it gives those of us, who have been playing this series for the last decade or so, a sense of comfortable closure.
Amazing set pieces.
Intense and heart-tugging story plots.
Peerless gameplay and nostalgia
Amazing multiplayer modes with free DLCs.
|AI could be a little smarter.
Certain plots are predictable.
Some questionable physics when it comes to climbing precarious ledges and ancient wooden beams.
It’s the last one in the series.