Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is the swan song to the series that easily became a flagship IP for the PlayStation 3 and Sony’s gaming division itself. With the insane budget obviously afforded to this game, and my personal favorite in the series being Uncharted 2, how does this current gen and final outing for Nathan Drake stack up on the PlayStation 4?
Uncharted 4 has continued the move in the direction of being a cinematic movie-game experience. This is the same direction that Uncharted 3 took, a step away from the more balanced exploration nature of Uncharted 2. This immediately means good news and bad news: the good news is that all of it works, and the shootouts have returned to the more snappy feel of the very first Uncharted entry, feeling fairly light and enemies reacting appropriately. Additionally, the platforming is further sped up over its predecessors to expedite the process much like Rise of the Tomb Raider, also taking literal concepts from said game like using a climbing pick nearly identical to Lara’s climbing axe. And I mention this because this segues into the bad news: the gameplay portion is simply uninspired. I mean, it still uses the literally borrowed concept of two-person section transitions a la Gears of War. Even its occasional puzzles don’t quite break any new ground. This is a reminder that Uncharted was Sony’s answer to Gears of War while combining it with Tomb Raider. This was the “Tomb of War”: something anyone who’s played either of those franchises prior to Uncharted would entirely understand. And that’s why, at the end of the day, the gameplay works: it’s a design that’s been iteratively done until it’s come out very well polished. Closing out on the topic of interactive-cinematic sequences, some set pieces really do end up being quite the ride, and I can’t deny there were definitely some intense moments of movie-game interactivity that were well designed.
While the credits rolled about 10 hours later, some things were done in an effort to give a person a reason to go back. One of them are some quasi-open areas to explore, and as always, this targets the collectathon nuts with plenty of little trinkets. What really adds some hours, though, is the multiplayer suite. While it suffers being based off the uninspired core gameplay design, being essentially a more loose version of Gears of War multiplayer with people swinging around like monkeys, it’s a LOT deeper than it initially looks with plenty of unlocks, mods, perks, etc. to keep you occupied for easily another chunk of double-digit hours. I found myself continually returning to it, and you might, too, if you give it a chance. You also might notice it runs in 900p/60, giving it a more fluid and engaging feel than the campaign despite being graphically scaled back. Of course, now that we’re talking graphics…
As a person with a PC gaming rig, I am impressed. That says nothing but praise for what has been accomplished graphically. It has expected framerate dips, but none that affect the core experience, and are completely forgivable given the scope of what a feast this is upon the eyes. Without going into detail, let’s just say anyone with eyes will be impressed. But this section is presentation, and here’s where this game goes above and beyond the call of duty. Not only is facial animation top-notch, but the dialogue is both well-written AND well-acted. Even the most silly of story moments later came to fruition, and the surprising delivery of character drama and feelings is so well done that it sets itself up there among the big-budget movies on the silver screen. It’s this “movie” side of this movie-game hybrid that is given all the tender loving care it deserves to ensure these are characters that feel as organic and real as possible. I actually began to understand these digital people, and that says a lot about this accomplishment without real actors and actresses,. And yet, it doesn’t stop there: the treasure you’re chasing also has its own story, one that I don’t want to spoil, but one that is also equally as interesting and well-delivered as the story of your very own characters. It’s between the gorgeous graphics, the excellent voice acting and animation, the dual parallel story, and the action-packed set pieces that this game truly sets a benchmark for the entertainment value offered by a movie-game.
Some people only care about certain aspects: some only care about gameplay; some only care about content (aka “value-per-dollar”); and some only care about graphics. But this is a review, and I have to take all three of those things into account. When I do, the reality is quite simple: the uninspired gameplay design is pretty much this game’s ONLY flaw. Even then, it’s not broken or inoperable, but rather well-polished. If you’re not into the movie-game genre hybrid concept or only care about gameplay, then this game is immediately not for you and I’d understand you walking away from this. But anyone who can appreciate a well-directed movie will find that Uncharted 4 offers pretty much the pinnacle of interactive, mental entertainment.
I give Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End…