Nathan Drake’s final adventure is a riveting, edge-of-your-seat thrilling action experience that had my heart in my throat with each over-the-top, zany and perfectly choreographed sequence. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End takes all of the things we have loved about the previous games in the series and ramped it up, all with gorgeous graphics that honestly had my jaw dropping with every new location I visited during my quest around the world. Naughty Dog have, quite simply, outdone themselves, and the swansong for Nate and his pals is one that you can’t miss.
There are two stories at play here, one of which is your usual race-to-the treasure, and the other a more personal tale about Nate and his brother, the man he has become and the man that he used to be, along with how his values have changed despite the glimmer in his eye whenever the word ‘Adventure’ is even whispered. The writing is on point; in fact, I think that this might be most well written and witty that Uncharted has ever been, and that’s saying something. While always funny, it’s the quieter and softer moments that really hit home with me, especially between Nate and Elena. The delivery from the entire cast is perfect and the character models are the best I’ve seen, assisting in adding even more layers of emotion to the well-written script.
Production values are just through the roof, across the board. Uncharted 4 has the most stunning visuals I’ve ever seen in a video game. The environments are vast and stretch as far as the eye can see, combined with subtle animations that bring it all together. This is one of the first times I found myself regularly taking advantage of the photo mode provided, allowing me to really dissect the graphical quality on my own terms, and I was regularly surprised and delighted by the level of detail in everything on screen.
If you’ve played these games before, you’ll know what to expect. Climbing, running and jumping, a bit of stealth, shooting enemies and the occasional puzzle to solve are essentially all on show here, but an addition to the core feeling of Uncharted 4 is the grappling hook, which automatically becomes a part of your arsenal from the beginning. Simply being able to hook onto higher objects and swing from platform to platform makes it feel not like a gimmick but completely essential, and adds a real verticality to everything that you do. Levels where you must tactically take out foes are cleverly designed like an action movie playground, with plenty of opportunity for pulling them off ledges, swinging out of their sight and bringing a serious pummeling from above as you propel down on them fist first.
The scenes where you’re exploring and climbing also feel more natural this time around, yet somehow you always end up on the right path despite having options in front of you. One particular area has you driving a 4 by 4 for a large section, and it’s crafted in such a way that you instinctively feel like you know where to go, even if you have massive amounts of open terrain in front of you. While you’re still funneling through a set path, it made me feel like I had a lot more control in this particular campaign, and I appreciated the freedom in what is otherwise a relatively linear experience.
The fast paced levels, such as when you are climbing a building as it is collapsing or trying to escape from a giant armored car as it chases you down, put your reflexes to the test without ever feeling frustrating. While Uncharted 4 definitely has its imitators when it comes to these tightly choreographed sections where one false move results in an untimely death, it shows that it’s definitely still the king. These are the kinds of levels that have come to help define the series as a big silly action movie that you get to take part in as the main character, and the ones here are big, bold, exciting and just down-right fun to play.
“They’re so effective and nice to have around that I found myself actually missing their company…”
You’ll often be playing with an AI companion throughout the campaign, and smartly they follow your lead incredibly well. They don’t alert enemies to your whereabouts and genuinely follow your lead, moving out of the way if you need to climb past them and assisting you with enemy take downs and fire fights without ever frustrating you or feeling like a roadblock. They really help you, but at no point make the game feel ‘too easy’ either, which is a very delicate balance that is handled better here than in any other circumstance I can think of. They’re so effective and nice to have around just for the friendly banter that I found myself actually missing their company in sections I had to do solo.
Even the multiplayer in Uncharted 4 is entertaining, featuring a range of maps and different game modes with a supernatural twist. As you earn money from collecting treasure and downing opponents, you’ll be able to purchase temporary perks like a totem that shoots dark spirits at people, brief teleportation or perhaps calling support from an AI companion to gun down other players for you. This switches up what is normally a familiar cover-based shooter multiplayer setup, and there are plenty of opportunities to use the grappling hook here as well which makes things even crazier and harder to predict as opponents come at you from all angles.
The Bottom Line
As the last chapter to Nate’s story, everything holds more weight this time around. While still a charming risk-taker, our hero has grown up and the struggle he feels embarking on this final journey is one that creates a sense of closure for himself, Elena and Sully, and closes the book on a popular action adventure franchise that is unrivaled in quality and polish. There is an absolute pleasure in the nostalgia provided for those who fondly remember Nate’s past adventures, but even on its own, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is a lesson in creative, clever and engaging game design. Now is a the perfect time to experience the most well rounded and exciting action adventure game ever created.