Sony Interactive Entertainment
May 10th, 2016
Uncharted 4 – A Thief’s End, expected to be one of the top selling games this year, released on May 10th this year.
One of the reasons why I was eager for Uncharted: A Thief’s End was the creative shift in the form of Neil Druckmann, the Creative Director behind the success of ‘The Last Of Us’. The name itself, A Thief’s End, was ominous enough to announce a turbulent storyline, as we all know from how Druckmann narrated the prologue of ‘The Last Of Us’. Uncharted: A Thief’s End, is ‘Unscathed’; meaning it rode on the bolder waves way too cautiously, ultimately wrapping up the franchise in one of the nicest ways possible, in this era of hardship and bloodshed. It sure stayed true to the heroic stature of the franchise, however crushing my complex-human relationship led ‘The Last Of Us’ expectations in the end. This wasn’t the greatest Uncharted experience in my life, but it sure had its magic and moments sprinkled here and there. Being a huge Uncharted fan myself, I wanted to be blown away by the complexity as much as by its next generation theatrics and flawless mechanics, after all we are looking at Naughty Dog – the greatest storytellers of our age. They just can’t let the end of a franchise be decided in a main boss QTE sequence. Let’s go rogue with the review then.
Uncharted: A Thief’s End starts several years after the episode of Rub’ al Khali, and as fate would’ve had it, the daring Nathan Drake and zealous Elena Fisher are married. And Nathan is having a tough time trying to beat her high score in a game of Crash Bandicoot and is well settled as a husband who has a day shift at the dockyard. But as the Drake legacy goes, suddenly his simple life is ruffled up by the return of his elder brother, Sam, whom he thought had lost while breaking out of a prison, long ago in Panama. Throughout the journey, you explore the real Drake that has been hiding behind the so-called simple life, with a bunch of friends returning to the front, like Victor Sullivan aka Sully. Baddies include Nadine, a one-of-a-kind badass woman, who prioritises morals and ethic, and a completely forgettable antagonist, aka Rafe.
For the first time in an Uncharted game I felt that the directors didn’t feel the need to close the loops with the older Uncharted finesse, that kind of blew your mind away. Things like the fact that some ancient pilgrims would wear the Yeti costume to guard Shambhala. A better example would be, in ‘The Last Of Us’, the first scene and the last episode feels almost identical, as Joel carries his loved one in his arms. Uncharted: A Thief’s End missed out on all of these detailing. Stuff like focusing on the ultimate goal why Sam ditched Nathan earlier in his life, pretending dead, while raiding temples with Rafe, needs to be explained. In details, in game, not in DLCs. The mini-plot points Druckmann and Straley decided to focus on were weak, and made several parts of my gameplay drab and unimportant. The length of some unimportant nodes were so stretched, for example the end sequence, that it almost made Uncharted look like it was hard selling a concept. Uncharted, for all you know, is a legend.
While this was definitely a downslide, what I loved from the new Uncharted game is the fact that it awakened and explored not one but two kinds of relationships – Brothers Drake and Elena and Drake’s extraordinary marital life. Troy Baker is an exceptional voice actor, having made me cry already with the scene from TLOU about ‘treading on thin ice’, who combines with Nolan Drake, sorry North, to give a power packed performance. The way the story takes one back and forth, focusing on developing the bond between the brothers, is worth the money you’ve spent with the game. While some incidents, like the fact that Nate was never a Drake, is already known from your previous experience, A Thief’s End takes the story into an uncharted chapter. Elena’s rage ultimately leads her into Nate’s side, as she hangs by the jeep and shoots at thugs, the way every marital life is meant to be. The two stories were so engrossing that I let go of Sully in this edition without missing him much.
Uncharted defined the franchise and genre with gameplay improvements from time to time, and this edition was no different. Adding to the Drake pack is an all new rope swing that allowed Nate to cut through impossible distances with the click of L1. Naughty Dog announced a new defiant Drake move, the drop assassinate, pretty much what we’ve already learnt in the Assassin’s Creed series. This time, with a combination of the rope swing, it looks even more intense. Want to know what else returns from the Assassin’s Creed directory? Most of the line of sight stealth mechanics. The enemies have an alert meter in the new Uncharted, that fills up as you tread noisily. Hiding underneath or over them, or taking shelter amidst tall bushes decreases the alert. And you can simply sneak behind an enemy and down him without the others getting alerted. Although this is a proven stealth mechanics from the industry, it made me play Uncharted in a new way. As I chose not to engage with the enemy until the very end.
Not to mention, the cover shooter mechanics have been absolutely flawless in this game. With so much of choreography inscribed, not a single contemplated set piece went amiss. Although I faced traversal glitches, especially while Drake wanted to jump from one edge to the other (in Chapter: Marooned). Overall, my gameplay mastery has been better than the one who played during the game’s announcement at E3. Another thing that returns from a popular franchise is the rock climbing scalpel, borrowed from Uncharted’s ferocious rivals ‘Tomb Raider’. The explosion visuals and mechanics were absolutely gorgeous, as the smoke of a hand grenade or bullets leaving my gun contradicted the otherwise serene Madagascar ruins.
The puzzles of Uncharted make the game so pleasurable, as you simply can’t Gears of War through your playtime. In ‘A Thief’s End’, puzzles and collectibles came plenty. From easy puzzles, the game made you crack the tougher codes. Like the Founder’s Puzzle. Sometimes, even traversing became a puzzle, as I glided from one broken ceiling to another building standing above the cloud line, looking down 10,000 feet from the sky. Some of the sequences were breathtaking, as I would simply clear the area, gaze at the beauty and then click a snapshot ready to flaunt on my social platforms. While the car based puzzles were great in the early stages, a repetition of the same made it a tad boring towards the end.
What Uncharted really nails, like the older ones, is the intricate detailing it delivers when it comes to replicating an environment. The pirate bay at Madagascar actually felt like a buccaneer’s dream come true. The highlands of Scotland almost made me visit a place I never thought would be able to hit in this life. Each time you’d look away from the gun’s scope, Naughty Dog will deliver with some insane visual and robust real life detailing. I had tons of fun exploring beaches and islands, while steering a speedboat around a turquoise coral line.
The combat system, apart from your mild urge to go stealthy with Nate, don’t really blow you away. The same old goons from the previous Uncharted, with the same old guns return, with some shotgun or RPG dude popping into your seamless run every now and then. To a certain effect, even the natural tendency of all combat sequences wasn’t necessarily to test you to experiment, apart from with your rope or stealth moves. As early as in Uncharted 2, I could hang from lamp-posts and blow up gas cans to add some magic to my life. I didn’t expect a Just Cause out of Uncharted, but I definitely wanted to see how they can seamless test the players who are always on the run for smart moves, instead of emptying the gun barrel and moving on to the next one.
My biggest disappointment in A Thief’s End comes with the way the epic Uncharted feelings are meted out in this edition. With only one memorable sequence, Nate’s pursuit to find Sam, and a little bit of the forgotten pirate kingdom, Uncharted: A Thief’s End doesn’t make it to my top list of non-stop, adrenaline rushing, Uncharted action. Sure that one clocktower episode got everyone crazy, but somewhere I feel I’ve seen this somewhere some time back. I mean we’ve all been to the Syrian Fort to count the constellation and the lost expedition of El Dorado. This, and the QTE based final fight with Rafe that puts everything that A Thief’s End does, till the end, into a feeling that they rushed the end.
One of the most jaw dropping bits about Uncharted: A Thief’s End is how they managed to push the visual power of the console this far. From the plush high lands of Scotland to the Mediterranean island of Italy and the final sequences at Madagascar, that combines the hues from the first Uncharted, Uncharted: A Thief’s End is the most gorgeous product to have ever braced the Playstation 4. Uncharted had vast playing grounds where you can ride your car away to glory, and to fill up the ride is some insanely detailed horizon animation. At times, Uncharted gets too fast paced, and the visual context restores the soul of the game, with more or less stable framerate.
One of the most rewarding aspects of the new Uncharted is the return of the fast paced, mythic Multiplayer mode. An in-game currency system rewards players who play as a group and stay alive, as you unlock better chances at winning, like with a grenade, RPG or a relic. Uncharted multiplayer also tests players with an excellent sandbox and level designing, that is built for the fast paced, acrobatic action that defines the franchise. While modes like TDM, Command and Plunder (Capture the Idol) aren’t a bend from the rules, the speed of the multiplayer mode freshens up the catalogue. The servers are a little messy as of now, but as soon as traffic clears up, we will have more diverse experience out of the online mode.
Games the Shop held a midnight launch for Uncharted 4. Below are some pics from the event.
+ Environment Detailing
+ Flawless Mo-Cap, Character Modelling and Acting
+ The two relations of Drake
+ Seamless Scene to Action Flow
+ Online Mode
- Missing out on the Epic Uncharted Sequences
- Too many car puzzles
- Predated Enemy Wave Style and same old combat style
- Awfully Boring Ending