With every installation of the Uncharted games, the development team at Naughty Dog aimed to make it a must-have game for the current PlayStation console. Sure, its exclusivity to the console helped in that regard, but the series gained such a large following because of its storytelling and characters.
Five years after the release of Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception, Naughty Dog is attempting the feat once again with Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. For what possibly could be the last time, you follow Nathan Drake on the search for lost treasure, and just like its predecessors, Uncharted 4 presents an exciting and interesting tale along with a combination of action and adventure to provide a worthy ending to Nathan Drake’s story.
Once again, Drake is on the search for treasure. Specifically, he’s trying to find the immense fortune left by the legendary pirate Henry Avery. But unlike previous treasure hunts, this journey has a more personal connection to Nathan and his presumably dead brother Sam, who joins him on the hunt. However, the duo aren’t the only ones after it. A rich rival treasure hunter named Rafe Adler will stop at nothing to take Avery’s treasure for himself. However, he can’t do it alone, and so he enlists the services of Shoreline, a mercenary group led by the fierce Nadine Ross.
The race to find the lost treasure will take both groups to various places around the globe, and Naughty Dog seems to excel at making each location a thing of beauty. Whether you’re standing on a grassy cliff in the Scottish countryside or traversing the muddy landscapes of Madagascar, it becomes routine to go off the beaten path to take in your surroundings. Each area is beautifully crafted, and it feels like you’re actually there beside the Drake brothers.
But of course, it wouldn’t be an Unchartedgame without the interesting puzzles that show the way to the lost treasure. These are in no way extremely difficult for anyone, but they do force you to think about the correct solution in order to move on through the game. Once again, Nathan’s journal is a helpful source of information, and it adds some depth to each puzzle.
Various collectibles also litter the world, but some pieces serve more purpose than just giving you a small reward for exploring every nook and cranny. For example, there are various journal entries scavenged from the dead. Each page adds more information to the overall lore surrounding the treasure hunt.
Run, Fight, Climb, Drive, Repeat
True to the series' name, Uncharted 4 takes you off the beaten path in order to reach various places. More often than not, you’re usually scaling a cliff or jumping from ledge to ledge, and each time, you’re toying with death. This isn’t new to the franchise at all, but the developers did add a new tool—the grappling hook. This enables Drake to traverse large gaps with ease and grants him the ability to rappel down walls. It doesn’t seem like a major addition at first, but throughout the game, you use it to execute some death-defying stunts that would stop your heart.
However, it’s not just about exploration. There are numerous occasions when you encounter Shoreline mercenaries, and you have to take them out before moving onward. In Uncharted 4, there seems to be more focus on a stealthy approach to these encounters. You can now mark each enemy you see to have a better idea of their location in the area. There are numerous patches of tall grass where you can hide and spring a stealth attack on an enemy.
Each foe also has a detection meter that shows up if they see you sneaking around. If you’re a fan of stealth combat, you’ll be delighted with these additions, as they allow you to take out large groups of enemies without firing a single shot. The method takes patience and planning, but the satisfaction of using stealth on these enemies makes it worth the extra name.
Even with these new mechanics, you can still approach the enemy head-on--but be ready for an intense fight. These mercenaries carry an assortment of weapons, from the traditional AK-47 assault rifle to a grenade launcher. As you’re always outnumbered in these scenarios, you’ll have to find various forms of cover to shield yourself from enemy fire. However, they will attempt to flush you out by flanking your position or throwing a grenade in your general area. Some pieces of cover, like a wooden crate, are destructible after a few shots, so you’ll have to continuously move around the area to stay alive.
There’s some room for melee combat, as well. You can land the usual punches while countering attempts by an enemy to trap you in a headlock, or you can jump on a soldier from above and knock them out cold. In short, each fight is intense and hectic, and if you keep a cool head and move from cover to cover, you’ll make it out alive.
Another addition was the ability to drive vehicles such as trucks and boats. These added scale to the world, as you traverse miles of ocean waves, muddy hills or city streets. The use of vehicles also made for some intense action sequences. It's one thing to shoot at an armored truck that has a gun turret on its roof, but it's more exciting to evade it on populated streets and narrow alleys as it attempts to shoot you down.
Fight With Friends
After you finish the main story, you can try out the game’s multiplayer feature, which includes four modes. This includes Team Deathmatch and the tougher Ranked Team Deathmatch, Plunder (Uncharted 4’s take on Capture the Flag) and Command (base capture gameplay). With each kill or completed objective, you gain cash that you can us to purchase power-ups or boosters. These include summoning a Sidekick, a computer-controlled character that can aid you in the fight; a booster that hastens the replenishment time for your grenades; or the activation of a Mystical weapon that allows you to use supernatural powers against the enemy.
Each match victory also grants you Relic points, which you can use to purchase extra items or cosmetic enhancements for each character. Relic points are also gained when you complete various Challenges in each match. There are also Uncharted points, which are used solely to buy large packs of cosmetic items. These Uncharted points are gained by using real-world currency, but Naughty Dog designed the multiplayer experience so that you can gain all of these items without having to spend a single dollar.
For those who are new to the multiplayer experience, the developers created a series of Trials to get you acquainted with various mechanics in order to succeed in online play. These matches pit you and your computer-controlled allies against another team controlled by the system. By completing these trials, you get a sense of what to expect in gameplay, and you get some additional Relic points for the effort. It's this extra effort that makes multiplayer inviting to new players instead of making it an intimidating gauntlet, and for that Naughty Dog deserves some praise.
Even with four modes, online gameplay is packed with intensity. Each of the eight maps are somewhat large and complex. There is more than one way to reach a certain location, and with the addition of the grappling hook in combat, you can find ways to get the jump on an enemy. Teamwork is an integral part of success in each match. Without it, your team will easily crumble against a united front.
A prime example of this was the Plunder match, where you have to take a heavy idol to your base to score a point. With both teams racing to get to the idol, my teammates and I were able to secure it, take out multiple foes, and escort the player carrying the heavy artifact back to our base. As the match continued, both sides used this tactic successfully while also finding ways to flank opponents and use various power-ups to their advantage. This resulted in a long stalemate where the idol was continuously dropped, picked up by the opposing team, dropped again and picked up by our team only for its carrier to die from an enemy’s shot.
Just like the combat in the campaign, the multiplayer action is intense. In single-player, it’s just you against a computer-controlled army, but in multiplayer, you’ll need to work with other real-world players in order to succeed in these chaotic matches.
Riding Off Into The Sunset
In the many trailers and teases for the game, Uncharted 4 was billed as Nathan Drake’s final adventure. As such, he would have to deal with several serious issues such as his loyalty, the need to find the treasure, and the importance of family above everything else. It seemed, then, that this final installment in the Uncharted series would have a more grim tone. Granted, that was the case in a few scenes, but in terms of the big picture, it felt like just another Unchartedstory. Drake’s humor (as well as some funny lines from his counterparts) was ever-present, as was the edge-of-your-seat moments of action and peril. There was mystery, intrigue and romance, all of which was typical of the Uncharted experience, and I was glad that it stayed that way instead of taking a dark turn.
If there were flaws, it was in some of the story elements. As a whole, the entire story felt stretched out, as if the developers were trying to milk every ounce of gameplay possible before moving on to the next chapter. Often, it seemed like a major event was about to happen, but it was just another chapter that dragged on before the memorable moments of the game occurred. There were also a few moments when I had to pick Drake's next line. However, these were rare occasions and it didn't have any long-term effect on the story, rendering it useless.
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End may seem like just another installation in the series, but there are details that make it unique, and a fitting end to Nathan Drake’s final chapter. Throughout four major installments, the series ventured into some of the most exotic places in the world. As Drake, you saw lost cities and piles of treasure. You also fought various evil military groups, rival treasure hunters and at times Mother Nature herself. The series' journey is full of these moments and Uncharted 4 gives you a little bit more of these experiences to enjoy before closing the book on one of gaming’s most memorable characters.