UNCHARTED 4: A THIEF’S END is the final game in the UNCHARTED saga, four of which being made by Naughty Dog and one made by Sony Bend. UNCHARTED 4 is a fitting end to this series, due to the phenomenal game that has been created for us. This last adventure takes Nathan Drake, our hero, pulled back into the treasure hunting world by his long lost brother, Sam, painting a slightly darker and more story filled narrative. Through the use of a darker narrative and some new gameplay mechanics, mixed in with the old Uncharted formula, we are treated to the best Uncharted game and what could be PlayStation 4’s best exclusive.
A THIEF’S END is everything we know and love from the UNCHARTED games turned up to 11. The map is much more open, giving us a new sense of exploration and freedom. The story telling has reached a peak in this franchise, carefully crafting a darker tale in which we can relate to all of these characters, hoping for their survival.
The sense of exploration and rewards for exploring are unlike the previous games. With a wider world to explore, there are a plethora of items to encounter. Treasures return from the preceding games, with journal entries, objects you can interact with, and optional conversations thrown in, we are seeing THE LAST OF US bleed into this world. This new blend of UNCHARTED is enough to make any player want to explore the world around them so they can find the extra little pieces that really tie this game together and flesh out the story completely. A reward lurks around each corner for the player willing to look for it, creating a sense of fulfillment a step above the preceding games, while raising the replay value.
A THIEF’S END adds in new gameplay features that make this game stand apart not only from the earlier games in the series, but it’s contemporaries as well. These features also come in handy when exploring hard to reach places that would not have been possible to reach otherwise. On the rest of Nate’s adventures, he is climbing all over the world with just his bare hands. In the newest installment we are given unfamiliar tools to make traversing the terrain easier and more accessible, opening up the world. The grappling hook is used to grab onto limbs and swing or climb, while the piton is used to drive into softer rock, making it easier to reach previously inaccessible areas.
If either of these were done wrong, it could spell disaster the gameplay of this game. Adding in new aspects to games is a dangerous and risky move, but this is one that ultimately pays off in the end; the inclusion of these feels so natural that one could even forget that they weren’t available options to them in the former games.
In terms of more horizontal changes, the geniuses over at Naughty Dog decided to add in 4X4s for us to traverse their insanely beautiful world. The 4X4, coupled with a winch, provide us new ways to travel immense distances. At some points you’ll be required to create a path by pulling down obstacles with the winch, or pull yourself up a hill too steep to climb. Driving across a more open map grants new freedoms to the player, as you can rush straight to your objective, take the scenic route, or go treasure hunting along the way, letting players explore at their own pace.
Another part of THE LAST OF US has bled into here: buddy combat. Nate and Sam play in a way that can really only be compared to Naughty Dog’s last game. Whether it’s new dual takedowns, which are incredibly satisfying, looking for objects to climb buildings, or just Sam having your back in a shootout. All of these feel so incredibly natural, mixed with their performances, you get a great feeling game.
These new additions are superb and very worthwhile, but coupled with a bad story they would just fall at the wayside. A THIEF’S END tells the strongest story of any of the former games; crafting an emotional roller coaster of a ride, we are met by twists and problems at nearly every turn. These treasure hunters just can’t seem to catch a break through this narrative.
We see the clichéd story of a person who gets sucked back into the “game” just one last time, after working so hard to get out of that life. With meaningful scenes of reminiscing over your past adventures, you can truly get the sense of what it means to give this all up and why Nate is so willing to jump back in to save his brother. Nate’s long lost brother appears, telling Nate he needs his help to track down the biggest pirate treasure of all time, or else he will be murdered. They trot the globe together, trying to not only find the treasure, but also showing us just what happens when you let greed take over. On the search for this fortune we are met with a fascinating story of pirates and at what lengths they went to keep their abundance of gold and jewels.
The folks over at Naughty Dog bit off a large bite when writing this story: throwing in Nate’s long-lost brother into this well known and established world and having him fit in is a daunting task, and an even harder task is to make the player feel something for him. Somehow they were able to accomplish these challenges, crafting a well written character who is performed incredibly by Troy Baker. The way that Sam and Nate, played by Nolan North, play off of each other is some of the best script writing for two character. These performances truly bring these incredible characters to life.
We follow these well written characters on the journey of a life time, traversing the world to hunt down lost pirate treasure that the Drake brothers have been trying to uncover for decades. Chasing them along the way is a cast of villains who want nothing more than money themselves.
One of the main criticism of the former games are that they feature weak villains. It is safe to say that these criticisms cannot be placed against this game. The different aggressors that we meet on our world wide treasure hunt are all well written villains whose motivations are understood. Another villain that takes main stage in this game isn’t a person, but a concept. Greed. Greed is what powers most of these characters, in some form or another they just can’t seem to let go of the idea of getting this treasure, ultimately consuming them.
Gameplay and story are the most important parts of a game, with the graphics being the cherry on top, and this game is no exception to the rule. To say this game is beautiful is a vast understatement. No console game has ever looked this gorgeous, making players truly feel immersed in the world of UNCHARTED. The graphics help bring this well made game to life, showing us a beautiful world that we want to explore and see more of. The way the light shines through trees in the jungle, the way light reflects off water, the individual strands of cloth on someone’s clothing are the finishing touches that piece this masterpiece of a puzzle together.
UNCHARTED 4: A THIEF’S END is without a doubt an incredible, jaw dropping experience that everyone who owns a PS4 needs to play. The darker narrative in this game is a fantastic addition to flesh out these characters even more than past installments. Naughty Dog excelled at giving the player a more open map that rewards you for exploring and interacting with. Through the use of new gameplay, we get something that feels native when adding in new mechanics to the fifth installment can be a disaster for some games. All of these great achievements would be for naught if they weren’t properly acted out, with Troy Baker and Nolan North giving us some of their best performances yet, creating believable characters in a believable world.
Naughty Dog has learned from their mistakes with the previous UNCHARTED games to create a magnificent send off for our favorite treasure hunter.