A Fitting End
Written by Jessie Seilhan
Uncharted is a series that has defined third-person action and adventure for nearly a decade. The blueprint created during Drake’s Fortune was perfected with Among Thieves, expanded with Drake’s Deception, and now cemented with A Thief’s End. Nathan Drake has found untold fortunes, forgotten cities, and mystical beings during his time, but the one thing he never seemed to find was closure. Naughty Dog is here to give Drake just that, with one last globetrotting romp that pushes the power of the PS4 to the max and delivers one of the most memorable and polished experiences of this young generation.
The Last of Us taught Naughty Dog quite a lot about storytelling and pace, putting characters before set pieces. UC4 reaps these benefits, fleshing out Nathan Drake’s backstory while also giving him real consequences in the present. He basically hung up the pistol after UC3, settled down with a wife, got himself a normal 9 to 5 job, but the return of his thought-to-be-dead brother gets him back in the exploring game, kicking off 15+ hours of globe-trotting adventures that put him at odds with the pedestrian life he chose after the last journey. The way this game explores the relationship between Nathan and his wife is both mature and impressive, giving gamers more to think about than what weapon they will use in the next encounter. The superb acting by everyone involved, especially Troy Baker as the brother Sam, matched with Naughty Dog’s trademark visuals makes for the most graphically impressive game ever launched on a console.
This entry into the Uncharted universe doesn’t add too much to the formula, but the landscapes have been expanded and the addition of a grappling hook does mix up the climbing and shooting. Instead of narrow city streets or ancient linear ruins, Drake and company have wide open areas to check out. We’re talking Tomb Raider levels of free roam environments, with winding paths, secret caves, and full freedom to approach situations however you like. While this liberty is only reserved for a few missions, the grappling hook does add verticality to more traditional sections, where you can whip around a map before slamming down on a foe with your fists. The gunplay is the same as it always was, but new golden guns pack a lethal punch with each shot and are as scarce as they are deadly.
Multiplayer returns in a more refined nature than in previous games. While players can choose between various classes and loadouts, everything ends up fairly balanced on the battlefield. That is until someone spends some hard earned in-game currency on a power weapon, AI compatriot, or mystical power like a totem that instantly kills anyone within the vicinity. The maps feel long enough for sniper battles, with enough dangerous jumps and tight quarters to make both the rope mechanic and close quarters combat feel like viable options. It features daily challenges, like knocking out X number of foes using a grenade, while offering a metagame currency that unlocks single use booster packs and novelty items for accessorizing your favorite Uncharted character.
Uncharted 4 is almost the perfect game. The audio and visuals are top of their class, the high-water marks drown the competition, and the little moments rival The Last of Us in their subtlety, but not quite in their impact. At the end of the day, this is another jaunt to mysterious places, filled with crumbling bridges, mercenary shootouts, and plenty of boxes that need to be moved in order to scale a wall or two. There isn’t anything new in Uncharted 4, which is what keeps it from reaching perfection, but it nails everything it goes for and is the best reason to own a Playstation 4 to date. Don’t hesitate adding it to your collection if you own the console, as the single-player campaign is good enough to justify the purchase, regardless of the value you find in multiplayer shooters. Time will tell if this franchise gets a sequel (and the ending does tease a bit), but A Thief’s End is the best way to close out a legendary series with class and style.
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