Uncharted 4: A Thief's End Review
Uncharted 4: A Thief's End Box Art
System: PlayStation 4
Dev: Naughty Dog Inc.
Pub: Sony Computer Entertainment
Release: May 10, 2016
Players: 1 to 10 players
Screen Resolution: 480p-1080i Blood, Language, Use of Alcohol and Tobacco, Violence
In the end, Drake saved the best for last.
by Garrett Glass

There’s a profound exchange between Drake and Sam as they reach their final destination. “So Nathan, and be honest with me, how does this [compare] to your other adventures?” Sam asks. Nathan chuckles and replies, “Ask me again when we finish.” Nathan’s non-answer might resonate with players. Naughty Dog has raised the stakes so consistently throughout the series that it’s difficult to determine if his latest and final adventure is his most enthralling. Searching for Captain Avery’s treasure in yet another lost city might as well be a checkmark on Drake’s bucket list. In Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, the journey is more important than the destination. It’s not as fast-paced as its predecessors, but that’s because it encourages players to pause and reflect.

To accomplish this, Naughty Dog penned a more personal story. Nathan has been spending his time diving for a salvage ship and going home to his loving wife, Elena. He leads a normal life, and insists on maintaining his new lifestyle. Of course, he abandons it as soon as his brother, once believed dead, informs him that he’s in trouble, and only the money earned from excavating Captain Avery’s treasure, which can only be found in the lost pirate utopia of Libertalia, can earn him his freedom.

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The introduction lasts a couple of hours and the game doesn’t allow you to truly experiment with the mechanics until after Drake and Sam’s reunion. Symbolically, Drake has been out of the game for a while, and his older brother has yet to embark on an adventure of similar scale. Although of course there's plenty of action, Uncharted 4 provides ample quiet moments for Nathan to reacquaint himself with his brother, as well as further his relationships with Elena and Sully. There’s a trivial mechanic where Drake can initiate conversation with the triangle button, and a couple of instances where players can select his responses a la The Walking Dead by Telltale Games. The real bonding, however, is displayed in the excellent dialogue, the top-notch voice acting – particularly the banter between Nolan North (Nathan Drake) and Troy Baker (Sam Drake) – and the realistic facial animations that carry over from cut-scene to gameplay. Bear in mind that it can become a bit overbearing – some chapters are light on the action, and there’s even a chapter later in the game where a long flashback occurs that might test your patience. It’s the longest single-player game in the campaign, and it does start to drag near the end.

Although still designed to be linear, the environments have also expanded, and, as expected, they’re more beautiful than ever. In the later areas, Drake gains access to a 4-wheeler and a boat, and as long as he returns eventually, he’s free to trek off the beaten path. Even without the vehicles, it’s difficult not to pause and click the share button every quiet moment you get. Uncharted 4 has a diverse color palette to fit the multiple settings, such as fall-colored brown of Scotland, rich red sands of Madagascar, emerald oceans, and, of course, the luscious green jungles and the obsidian-colored mountains near the end of the game. If there’s any complaint to be had, it’s the occasional dip in framerate and some noticeable occurrences of pop-in textures. However, considering that Uncharted 4 has such a diverse palette and is capable of delivering outstanding real-time cutscenes showcasing the same facial expressions as in game, I’d say it outclasses even the recently released Ratchet & Clank in terms of raw graphical power.

Uncharted 4 introduces a clock tower level that I feel highlights its platforming mechanics’ greatest strengths and most damning weaknesses simultaneously. Uncharted 4 introduces two new mechanics that call for proper timing: the rope and slopes. Often, you’ll combine the two. For instance, Drake might grab onto a ledge that abruptly collapses, causing him to fall onto a slippery slope, and his only chance for salvation is to hook his rope onto a branch and swing to safety – all in real time. In the clock tower, you have that plus the turning of gears and other components– some of which you have to jump through. Of course, with the turning of gears comes the usual frustrations: Nathan can become stuck at times on walls, odd animations sometimes occur that make me question whether or not Drake should or shouldn’t have successfully landed, and if you don’t align the camera just right then you might plummet towards your death. These are flaws that have carried over since the beginning of the series. They are marginally improved upon thanks to the new additions to the platforming mechanics, but it’s not like they ruined the previous games anyway. Still, at its best, Uncharted 4 seamlessly transitions from cut-scene to gameplay, making me feel like a true Indiana Jones.

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