Nathan Drake is embarking on his final adventure in Uncharted 4 and the team over at Naughty Dog has given us a fitting ending to his travels. The gang is all here with Nathan, Elena and Sully along with some new characters and a reference or two about characters seen in previous titles. Uncharted 4 begins with Nathan Drake having settled down into a nice, normal life with a house, a wife and a new career that allows him to have some adventure but not necessarily have to risk his life on a regular basis for that adventure. It isn’t too terribly long though before some events take place and he is pulled back into his former life one last time.
Uncharted 4 takes you to a variety of locales around the world. You’ll experience different environments that will provide different challenges to overcome. All of the environments look stunning and you will undoubtedly spend time simply spinning the camera around to look at everything. Uncharted 4 has a photo mode that I used pretty regularly to capture some of the most beautiful vistas in the game and alter some of their details. There are some environmental pictures that I took near the end of the game for example but I was able to remove the characters in the picture so as not to spoil it for anyone. You can change a number of different things like the brightness, the saturation, whether you use a frame or not and lot more. It helps you to appreciate the beauty of the game and is a great way to show off some of those majestic views.
Like most sequels Uncharted 4 assumes you have played the first three. So with that said if you are new to the franchise be sure and go through the Uncharted collection before going through Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. Having gone through all of those games myself, and after thinking about it for a while, I think that Uncharted 4 is my favorite of the series. There were certain things that I wanted to see happen that did. The gameplay is also fantastic and Naughty Dog did a really great job with the epic set pieces in the game, some of which you have seen in trailers. With all of that set the story for Uncharted 4 started out a little slow to me. Now that I have beaten the game and I know the entire story I really enjoyed it but it does start out slow. It took me a little while to really hook me into what was going on but once it did I couldn’t wait to see what happened next. The Uncharted games are fairly linear titles but there are some nice open spaces in Uncharted 4 that you can explore at your leisure as you are driving a jeep through the countryside or exploring an abandoned city. There are treasures and collectibles to be found everywhere so it is worth your while to explore and not simply rush from one checkpoint to the next.
One of the problems I would have with previous entries in the series was the gameplay always felt a bit off to me. I don’t know why but it didn’t quite click as well as it should have, in my opinion. That is fixed in Uncharted 4 and Naughty Dog has even given you a couple of different ways to play the game. You can use free aim if you want where it is up to you to eliminate your enemies manually or there is a lock on aim feature which will snap to an enemy when you zoom in making it easier to dispose of large groups of enemies quickly. I found this option to be fantastic as it caters to two different markets and should really help out people who might not have a lot of experience with this series or this genre as a whole. Another option I really liked was how they handled QTEs in the game. There are a number of QTEs that you will come across on Drake’s journey but if don’t like to button mash then you don’t have to. You can go into the controls options and select the “hold” option for repeated button presses. What this will do for you is when you come across one of those moments when you would have to furiously hit the triangle button to accomplish your objective, instead you can simply hold down triangle to achieve the same result. This is the option I chose and I found it incredibly useful not having to button mash in those instances. I would love it if other developers would give us this amount of freedom where we can choose how we would like to play.
The graphical fidelity in Uncharted 4 is very impressive. I mentioned the environments up above but the main characters look pretty incredible as well. The micro expressions you see on Elena and Nathan as they flirt with each other, for example, is fantastic. The detail in the character models is fantastic in the face, their hair, the clothing they wear and everything else. Developers are really start to nail this type of stuff and when you have a studio that is as accomplished as Naughty Dog they can create something truly special. The voice acting is also top notch as you would expect and helps bring brevity to situations that require it as well as punchlines when Elena is giving Nathan a hard time about something. The soundtrack for the game is absolutely phenomenal and helps to set the mood for whatever situation you might be in. There were times when ominous music would start up when I knew I was getting close to a firefight or at least something else where I needed to watch my step and proceed with caution.
With that said the enemies are not the only things you have to worry about in Uncharted 4. There are parts in the game where areas you are exploring might be booby trapped so you have to be able to respond quickly when you see an icon or type of warning appear on the screen. That might be simply rolling out of the way or jumping over an obstacle that is front of you or simply taking cover behind rock. I mentioned some of the gameplay above and it dawned on me as I was getting deeper into the game that Uncharted 4 seems to value exploration a bit more than combat. There is still a plethora of combat encounters in the games including some amazingly high speed and tense moments but with that said it feels like there were more of them in previous iterations of the franchise. For me I thought this was a fantastic move as I wasn’t overloaded with anything. I would go through a big encounter against a group of enemies and then was left alone for a little while as I tried to solve environmental puzzles and reach my destination. One sure fire way you could tell you were about to enter a gunfight was your ammo count all of a sudden showed up on the lower left part of the screen. When that occurs you have an encounter that imminent and better take some cover. One of things I really enjoyed doing was hiding in tall grass and taking out enemies quietly as they walked by. The A.I. in this game is pretty smart though and it seemed like there were times when I put pick a spot in the tall grass to wait and some of the enemies would begin to avoid that particular location. That didn’t always happen but it made me think of an extra step during the occasions that it did. The A.I. of your partner was also on point for 95% of the game. I can only think of one or two instances where my partner got me in trouble. Other than that they would move from cover to cover smartly and there were even instances where they would silently take out an enemy before I even spotted them. You can also mark enemies locations by clicking in the left stick which helps you keep track of where everyone is. That is something I found to be extremely useful, especially in the later stages of the game.
In addition to the campaign, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End also has a multiplayer component. During my time playing some multiplayer matches I didn’t notice any lag at all and everything seemed to run smoothly. There are a number of different things that you can do here. There are trials that you can play which is basically a huge tutorial and helps you learn some of the tips and tricks of Uncharted multiplayer. Different trials include one for getting kills with grenades, summoning and using a sidekick, using a mystical power and more. You get money for everything you do (such as killing people or finding treasure) and you need to reach your financial goal in these trials to successfully complete them. Then you have your standard multiplayer with three different game modes include the normal Team Deathmatch, Command and Plunder. In Team Deathmatch is a fight to the death against the opposing team and you whomever can get the most kills wins. In Command you have to capture zones to earn points to add to your team’s score. You can also knock out enemy captains to earn extra points. If you choose to play the Plunder game mode you will need to bring the idol back to your base.
There are eight different maps available that are from various locales in the campaign and some of the locations might be a bit of a spoiler you so you can to go through the story before jumping into the multiplayer. There are also challenges you can try and complete to earn some Uncharted Points. These challenges include anything from calling in a certain number of Brute sidekicks to taking out a certain number of enemies with grenades, marking a certain number of enemies using a Marking booster and more. Once you have enough Uncharted Points then you can go into the store and purchase some items that will help you include a one use booster chest, a hero weapon chest, different characters and more. You can get these Uncharted Points by playing the game but you can also get some by using real world money. Buying 500 Uncharted Points, for example, will cost you $4.99. Overall my time spent with the multiplayer was an enjoyable one and Naughty Dog seems to have put together a nice suite for everyone to enjoy.
There are a variety of weapons for you to use in the game but ammo tends to go quickly. Because of this you will always want to keep an eye on your weapons and if they are running on empty then pick up a gun an enemy dropped or some spare ammo that you find on the ground. There are your standard pistols, shotguns, sniper rifles, rpgs and things of that nature. If you happen to find gold weapons then be sure to pick those up and use them. They don’t tend to have as much ammo as your normal weapon but they are far more powerful and could help you take out that armored enemy that has been giving you problems. The type of weapon you have isn’t all that important and I didn’t see any weapon specific trophies that you need to worry about (although some of the trophies were hidden and I couldn’t see what they were). Some of the trophies seemed to be a bit more generic like get 50 headshots, beat the game on all of the different difficulty levels and standard things like that. For those who enjoy multiplayer there are also multiplayer trophies but it seems like Naughty Dog has learned their lesson in this regard because the trophies appear to be more attainable and you don’t have to play 160+ multiplayer games to get them like in The Last of Us.
Once you go through and beat Uncharted 4 there are some new things that open up to you. There are bonus items like skins, weapons, render modes and gameplay modifiers. You can play through and have Uncharted 4 rendered in 8-bit mode, for example, but it costs you some points to unlock it. These points are easily attainable by going through the story and by the time I was done I had 201 unlock points. For your reference I will point out that unlocking that 8-bit rendering would only cost me 5 points so you kind of get a feeling of what you can do. The gameplay modifiers are super intriguing as well as there is a “Bullet Speed Mode,” “8-bit audio,” “4-bit audio,” “Infinite Ammo” and more. I’m not sure if using any of these trophies turns off the ability to earn trophies or not but these type of things usually do so use them with caution. There are statistics for those who like that type of thing as well plus you can look at all of the treasures you have found (and see question marks for the treasures you missed). One really cool feature is that when you use chapter select to go back to a chapter it tells you what you have done. For example, in chapter three on my first playthrough I only found 1 of 4 treasures and I trigger 0 of 2 optional conversations. I love it when developers do that type of thing because if you are trying to get the trophies are acquiring all of this treasure you know the general spots where you missed treasure instead of having to go through the whole game again. In addition to the chapter select is an encounter select option. This is super interesting as it allows you to begin play from combat encounters you have already played in story mode. Remember earlier when I said there was a little less combat in this one as compared to the previous entries in the franchise? Well with this option you can go straight to the encounter you want. Chapter 5, for example, has three big encounters and I can immediately jump into any one of them at the push of a button. That is a really great idea by Naughty Dog.
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is another amazing title from Naughty Dog. I have a couple of minor issues with it but overall it is exceptionally well done. The story starts off a little slow for me and there were a few times when I would see graphical pop-in but this is an exceptional product and something the development team at Naughty Dog should really happy with. It is a fantastic final act for Uncharted and one that fans should love and spend a lot of time with over the years. Naughty Dog is one of the best studios in the industry and they continue to prove it with each new game they release. For those who are wondering there is not a scene after the credits but you do need to let the credits roll to unlock the trophies for beating the game. There is an epilogue to play though after finishing the main game which really helps to tie up everything nicely. If you own a PlayStation 4 and you enjoy this genre then this is a game that you must buy. Even if you aren’t typically a fan of these types of games this is something you really should experience. This is an adventure that you don’t want to miss out on but be sure you go through the first three titles beforehand so you can get the full impact from the events that take place within Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End.