This article contains no major story spoilers, but it may contain traces of peanut.
Every so often, a game comes along which really sets a new standard for the video game industry. We had the Last of Us in 2013, the Witcher 3 in 2015, and now, in 2016 we have Uncharted 4: A thief's end.
Uncharted 4 tells the tale of Nathan Drake, a treasure hunter with an impressive knack for finding legendary lost cities and artefacts (somehow without ever managing to bring back anything valuable).
In Uncharted 4, Nathan has moved away from the life of a treasure hunter, settling down with his long-time love interest Elena Fisher (who is clearly the boss in their relationship); and they agree that neither of them will be involved with treasure hunting any more. However, Nathan still longs for the adventure and the thrill, but doesn't want to tell Elena. It's ok Nathan, my girlfriend can be scary too...
However, without going into too much detail (spoiling this game for anyone is a MAJOR douche move), Nathan hatches a plan to go on one last adventure, to find a treasure valuable enough to pay off a debt his brother owes to some very bad people.
Anyway, now that I've given you a brief overview, hopefully the game doesn't seem too much like uncharted territory (see what I did there?), even if you've never played the series before.
Gameplay, gun-play, and grappling!
Uncharted 4 has some incredible improvements on previous entries in the series. As a player of the previous three games, over the course of playing them I noticed that Naughty Dog would gradually improve the gameplay experience overall, particularly with the gun-play and with core elements such as traversal.
In Uncharted 4, this improvement has been less of a gradual step, and more of a huge leap in the right direction. At some points in Uncharted 4, it feels like you're playing a cutscene in motion. I remember swinging from a cliff to punch an enemy in the face, picking up his gun in mid-air, and smoothly transitioning to a full-on firefight. Simply put, it's freaking awesome! The guns themselves feel powerful, and the feeling of hitting a well placed headshot, or emptying an AK-47 clip into an armoured brute, has never been more satisfying.
As well as the combat element, the Uncharted series has always had climbing and traversal as a core element. In the first Uncharted game, climbing could sometimes be cumbersome, and could often be infuriating as Nathan jumps to his death instead of the ledge you wished to climb to. It was also quite often used as a filler section, bridging the gap between combat encounters and other, meatier parts of the game. The incorporation of climbing into more exciting sections of the game began to occur more often in Uncharted 2 and 3, where the sheer verticality of the climbing levels actually instilled a sense of vertigo in the player.
Uncharted 4, once again, takes these improvements, straps them to a rocket, and launches them even higher than expected. One of the best new additions is the grappling hook, giving both combat and traversal a new lease of life.
In terms of traversal, the grappling hook adds new ways to give players an incredible adrenaline rush. There are time when you may have to make a particularly long jump, after swinging over a canyon of sharp rocks with the aid of your rope. Or you may slide down a slope, falling off the cliff at the bottom, only to throw your grappling hook at the last minute and swing to safety. Later in the game, you can also acquire a climbing piton, allowing Nathan to attach an additional climbing point to porous surfaces, or to leap to a cliffside, dramatically slamming his piton into the rock and holding on for dear life. The combination of the rope and piton in climbing make for some truly buttcheek-clenching moments.
The rope can also come in handy in combat encounters, allowing Nathan to reach higher areas. On one particular level, I used it to reach the top of a high tower where a sniper was overlooking the area, allowing me to sneak up on him, take his gun and use it to my advantage. However, though it can be used in a strategic way, it's also awesome to go all guns blazing, swinging in like a murderous gun-toting Spiderman and taking the enemy by surprise.
In my opinion, the simple addition of the grappling hook feature has really opened up a new variety of gameplay possibilities, and made the game far more dynamic in terms of both combat and traversal.
Also, for a large portion of the game, Nathan is accompanied by various companions who seamlessly fit into the gameplay. At times, I would nearly be discovered by a curious enemy, before Sam (Nathan's brother) suddenly pounced from the grass to strangle them. As the old saying goes, curiosity killed the murderous gun-wielding mercenary.
The various companions Nathan drags along on his journey can also help with simple gameplay elements such as climbing, boosting Nathan to higher ledges or offering him a hand to grab as he scrambles up a dangerous Cliffside.
But does it look pretty?
Now whatever game comes out, there will always be that one person who's like "Oh I can't play that because the graphics are rubbish". Yes, you can play it, just shut up.
Well luckily, nobody can ever say that Uncharted 4 has poor graphics, because quite honestly it defies belief at times that the game is actually animated. It literally looks like real life. I've never played a game before and been completely dumbfounded by the graphics.
You can see in the screenshot above (which I took in photo mode by the way, not to brag too much) that the graphics are simply stunning. Sometimes when I go outside I look around and think "this doesn't look as real as Uncharted 4". Also, I say "sometimes", because I don't go outside often, I mean the wifi out there is terrible.
At this rate, Naughty Dog are going to put Pixar out of business, because the graphics in Uncharted 4 are, quite frankly, beautiful.
There was one particular level in which I had to slide down a series of rocky slopes, and I decided to fire a shot at one of the rocks in order to see what the physics were like in the game. I shot a rock, dislodging it from the slope, and it then proceeded to slide down, tumbling and knocking other rocks which then also tumbled. It was so realistic I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn't lost in some sort of Inception-esque dream.
So not only the graphics, but the physics in the game are stunningly realistic. Add another tally to the "things Naughty Dog did well" list.
Surely there has to be something wrong with this game? It must be the story!
Wrong again, the story in my opinion is one of the finest plots in the history of videogames, and has somehow surpassed the emotional, heart-wrenching story embedded in the Last of Us (another incredible Naughty Dog game, they seem to have a knack for this...).
Uncharted tends to follow a relatively simple formula, a hunt for a legendary treasure which goes wrong at several points, leading to a satisfying ending with a distinct moral element. Uncharted 4 takes this formula and rewrites it, delivering an epic story of twists and turns, love and deceit, and gives fans of the series one of the most satisfying endings to a beloved character in all of gaming history; while still opening the door for future instalments. I won't go into details, but at certain times in the game, my heart skipped a beat as Naughty Dog elaborately played with my emotions, or gave me a beaming smile as they merged witty comedy with extremely convincing dialogue.
For example, during one mission you have to drive a car accompanied by Sully and Sam, who tell stories and have an amazingly realistic, flowing conversation. Upon leaving the car to search for treasure, whoever is talking will make a remark like "Oh ok, don't listen then", to which Nathan will reply "I'll be back in a minute, hold that thought" or something in a similar tone. When you return to the car, Nathan will say "You were saying?", and the character who was originally talking will continue with "Oh yeah, I was" and then proceed where they left off. The conversation flows so naturally that it's almost as though you're watching a movie, or actually watching three sentient beings have a natural conversation.
Overall, the quality of the story in Uncharted 4 is unmatched by any other I've ever played, combing a natural flow of dialogue with a fascinating mixture of treasure hunting and discovery. You know that empty feeling you get after finishing a particularly good book? Or after Game of Thrones finishes for another season and you're left with this empty void in your life? That's the feeling I got when I finished Uncharted 4, and though I was completely satisfied with the ending, I still felt heartbroken when it was all over. I really want Will Smith to come over, zap me with a memory wipe straight out of Men in Black, just so I can play Uncharted 4 all over again. And while he's at it he could probably wipe my memories of some embarrassing nights out, the nights out I can actually remember that is...
After finishing the story, I had a go of the Multiplayer component. Naughty Dog, once again, have produced a pulse-pounding, intense experience. Usually in games with a prominent focus on the singleplayer experience, the multiplayer element can seem like a half-baked attempt to extend the life of the game. However, the Uncharted 4 multiplayer is genuinely really fun! The parkour element really adds to the verticality of matches, while amazing mystical artefacts such as the Wrath of El Dorado can cause chaos on the battlefield, really boosting a team's chances.
Several game modes are available to play, from the simple Team Deathmatch to the more objective-focused Command mode. The multiplayer experience is also bolstered by a range of power-ups, purchased by earning cash from killing enemies, reviving teammates, or picking up treasures scattered around the map. These power-ups can include mystical items, powerful weapons, additional grenades, or companions such as armoured minigun-wielding brutes who wander around the map, killing players for your team.
Therefore, the overall multiplayer experience for me was very positive, and I think Naughty Dog have really managed to incorporate a cohesive multiplayer experience into the game, while also extending the life of the game for the future.
A Thief's End, and the ending the fans deserved.
In conclusion, Uncharted 4 is graphically stunning, has a compelling and genuinely emotional story, and includes some of the most exhilarating gameplay experiences in gaming history. The ending also leaves fans satisfied, while opening the door for future games in the franchise (I really hope so anyway).
Right now, I feel as though Naughty Dog already deserve the Game of the Year award for Uncharted 4, even with some big titles like Battlefield 1 and No Man's Sky still to be released! I can't find a flaw with the game whatsoever, and usually I always have a small complaint or find an issue with most games.
It's quite fitting actually, that Uncharted 4 turned out to be such a masterpiece for Naughty Dog. In the series, Nathan Drake has a family saying, "Sic Parvis Magna", meaning "Greatness from small beginnings". After starting by making games such as Crash Bandicoot, years before the gaming industry hugely took off, Naughty Dog have really ascended to greatness; with stellar titles such as the Last of Us and Uncharted 4 pushing the bar ever higher for other developers.
I feel like the future is bright for the gaming industry, and Naughty Dog deserve a lot of praise for creating a game which bravely goes where no game has gone before; Uncharted 4 is the triumphant swan-song of Nathan Drake, and a fitting farewell for one of gaming's greatest heroes.
P.S. Uncharted 4 also has one of the greatest easter eggs EVER. Just play the first few levels of the game, you'll know it when you see it, *cough* Ooga Booga *cough*
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