Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End Review

Over the course of the series’ first three games, Naughty Dog continually mastered the elements. Where Drake’s Fortune boasts a lush canvas of foliage, Among Thieves and Drake’s Deception went on to tackle more arctic and desert conditions, respectively. Uncharted 4 could easily be described as a culmination of this evolving attention to detail. For the sake of spoilers we won’t go into specifics – this entire review is spoiler free – but the series’ latest outing has players explore a large variety of locales that each sport an assemblage of smart weather and environment effects.

The one that stands out most here, however, is Naughty Dog’s mastery of water. Although we’ve dipped and dived in previous adventures, Uncharted 4 is somewhat of a subterranean showcase. From downpours to waterfalls, there’s a strangely wonderful degree of wetness to behold. It isn’t contained to just oceans and rivers, either. Damp surfaces are given an authentic sheen when put under a light, as are characters. Taking a closer look at Nate, his hair will sag along with his clothes and you can almost pick out the droplets of moisture on his face.

Naughty Dog clearly doesn’t want its players to miss out on these incredible details. Although “photo mode” has become somewhat of a trend in modern gaming, no game embraces it quite like Uncharted 4. All it takes is a split second to bring up a variety of options from depth of field to frames and filters, aiding players in snapping that perfect screenshot. Whether watching a cutscene for the dozenth time or caught in a firefight, this tool will bring endless joy to fans, especially those with an eye for aesthetics.

And, here’s the thing, you’ll actually want to capture those moments. From start to finish, A Thief’s End bombards you with its visual excellence, so much so that you can’t help pausing the action in order to hammer away at the Share button. Like past entries in the series, Uncharted 4 delivers on its promise to deliver an experience that not only looks like a summer blockbuster but plays like one too.

With that said, Naughty Dog has taken a different approach to this finale. Although there is plenty explosive, over-the-top mayhem, Uncharted 4 has longer stretches of downtime in which players are left to explore and absorb their surroundings. It’s a change in pace that needs adapting to and one that was no doubt inspired by the Naughty Dog’s recent work on The Last of Us.

Previous instalments, especially the last, conditioned players into keeping a finger on the trigger. Here, however, an entire chapter can come and go without a single shot being fired. Going back to to the series’ roots, there’s a refreshing emphasis on exploration, enhanced by several traversal techniques. While many are fairly subtle, it’s hard to ignore Nate’s shiny new grappling hook.

“Going back to to the series’ roots, there’s a refreshing emphasis on exploration”

Mapped to a single button, the grappling hook allows our favourite thief to channel his inner Spider-Man, latching onto grapple points and swinging through chasms in a daring display of athleticism. What’s great about the grappling hook is how intuitive and satisfying it feels, meshing perfectly with the series’ other platforming mechanics. Together, they enable more dynamic and thrilling ways to explore Uncharted 4’s monstrous environments.

Although some parts will nudge you down a linear path, a lot of your time can be spent roaming the game’s much broader playgrounds at your own leisure. There’s often multiple ways of getting to where you want to go, and it tears away the stabilisers in a way that will leave some players wobbling as they come out of the blocks. For a series renowned for piling on set piece after set piece, it can feel strange to be left to wander the occasional empty space with no puzzles to solve or enemies to shoot.

Those instances still occur frequently though and, much like Nate’s navigational exploits, are also bolstered by a slew of new features. Again, some stand out more than others, with Uncharted 4’s stealth system being a particular highlight.

In truth, every game in the series has featured stealth in some capacity. Drake’s first outing saw him sneaking up on the occasional foe, picking off one or two before initiating a gunfight. It’s something Naughty Dog has continued to experiment with for the past several years and is now one of the core pillars holding this franchise up as it ascends to new heights.

By tagging enemies and making use of cover, many of Uncharted 4’s encounters can be cleared without so much as a gunshot. In fact, if you want to go full-on Solid Snake, you can sometimes avoid combat altogether. Chances are you probably won’t, or at least not during your first playthrough, and breaking line of sight to your enemies lets you shift in and out of stealth and combat quite fluidly.

Whether hosing down thugs with an AK or bouncing their heads off stone walls, there’s a beautiful seamlessness in the way these encounter play out. Squatting behind cover may have been valid strategy in past instalments but here it will only get you so far. By scattering enemies across all flanks and retooling their AI, Uncharted 4’s battles are intentionally hairy. Instead of being mindlessly chaotic, they force players to improve, cycling between weapons while using Drake’s added mobility to their advantage. Again, it’s something fans may need to adjust to though turns each encounter into its own fabulous set piece.

Multiplayer

Uncharted’s multiplayer component hasn’t always received the recognition it deserves. By transplanting the series’ solid gunplay and dynamic movement into an online environment, it’s made for a great multiplayer cover shooter, with fun modes and a bevy of customisation. It now absorbs a lot of Uncharted 4’s new idea into its foundations, but despite this wave of new features, many taking inspiration from The Last of Us, cinematic battles remain the beating heart of the online experience.

We’ll continue to drill down as the multiplayer gradually evolves, but what you should know is that it feels as though it will carry a surprising amount of staying power. The initial spread of eight maps and four modes may not sound like much on paper, but will provide hours upon hours of dynamic online play. For those left wanting more, Naughty Dog has already confirmed that any future maps and modes will be included for free. In fact, the only add-ons you may want to spend money on are purely cosmetic additions to the wealth of options already in the game. In summary, the team is taking a smart approach to its multiplayer strategy and one that ultimately benefits the fans.

As touched on before, these intense moments are sandwiched between bouts of exploration. Although you’ll spend plenty of time on foot, one of the game’s crowning achievements is its implementation of vehicles and, no, we’re not just talking about the amazing convoy sections. From time to time, Uncharted 4 will put you in full control of a jeep or speedboat. When it does, you’ll often have a huge area to explore, often peppered with the same kinds of branching paths and hidden corners as you’ll find on foot. At times, it can almost feel as though you’re in an open-world game, but you’ll not see any mini-maps or quest markers.

Of course, this wonderfully polished patchwork of systems is there to help drive the player from one story beat to the next. Needless to say, given all the pre-release hype, fans have been pining to discover how Naughty Dog closes the book on one of PlayStation’s best loved mascots.

“Uncharted 4 tells a much more personal story and one that isn’t solely focused on Nathan Drake”

Again, we want to keep this review as spoiler free as possible, so won’t go into any of the specifics – if you need a narrative trail of breadcrumbs to lead you in, there are plenty of trailers for that. What we will say is that Uncharted 4 tells a much more personal story and one that isn’t solely focused on Nathan Drake. This is yet another space in which there is an overlap with The Last of Us. Instead of watching Nate stumble from one jaw-dropping set piece to the next, the emphasis has been placed on galvanising relationships between characters.

Uncharted 4 boasts a handful of additions to the series’ cast, with each character brought to life by a world-class mix of voice and full performance capture. The PlayStation 4’s technological prowess allows for some truly uncanny facial animations. Again, there’s a level of detail here many top developers could only dream of reproducing.

Think you have A Thief’s End all sussed out? Think again. In this thrilling finale, Naughty Dog leads players down an unpredictable gauntlet of emotions. What’s particularly satisfying is how well the team cater to existing fans, tucking away throwbacks and references where it can, each one a testament to how much they care about this franchise.

What’s Good:

  • Huge, insanely detailed environments.
  • A darker, more personal storyline.
  • Flawless character performances.
  • Climactic multiplayer with a long future ahead.
  • Familiar, yet crammed with new features.

What’s Bad:

  • Some changes will prove too drastic for a minority of puritans.

Uncharted 4 is more than masterful, bearing the hallmarks of a true system seller. What struck me most as an ardent fans of the series is how much it breaks away from the original blueprint yet manages to amaze on every level. Where many studios step safely from one sequel and into the next, Naughty Dog has taken a gigantic leap, proving yet again they’re the best in the business.

Score: 10/10

28 Comments

  1. Thanks for the spoiler free review. My hype level has just gone up to about 27. What I’ve played of MP Beta seems there is also going to be done good fun to be had there as well as the single player. I can’t believe Videogamer have only given this an 8/10 but from what I’ve read previously it does sound like much better than they have stated. I was day 1 buying it before so it wouldn’t change my mind.

  2. Can’t wait for this. Love the spoiler free review. Hopefully no one spoils before release.

  3. Two and a half years in and ‘next gen’ is just about to start.

  4. Not read the review, just jumped to the numbers, as I don’t want to know too much just yet. Great to hear it lives up to the expectations, or even goes beyond them. Very cool, looking forward to this, have been a fan since the first one come out.

    • The review is as spoiler-free as we could get it so don’t be scared to take a peak!

      • Ok, thanks, I dared to read it now after a day out, and it sounds very promising indeed. Full sections or even levels without any gunfight? Very good..! I just hope I won’t be put off by all the changes, as I got very fond of these games I always platinumed in the past.

  5. Outstanding. Day one purchase. Really looking forward to all aspects of this, the multilayer looks great, good distraction from destiny!

  6. Nice review, very good job keeping the plot under wraps! Can’t wait to get my dirty hands on Nate again, it’s been such a cracking series I’ll be sorry to see it end, but it’s great to hear it’ll go out with a bang.

  7. Looks promising.

    Anybody know when the digital version will be available to download in advance off the store before you can play it? Tempted to buy it digital, but don’t want to reach the midnight mark when it’s released and end up waiting about 48 hrs for it to download.

  8. Great review, thanks for keeping it as spoiler free as possible. I’ve avoided several trailers for this, so I want to go in as unknowlegable as possible, similar to my experience with 1 and 2.

    I’m a slow player, I study every levels nook and crannies, admiring details and design. So it sounds like these changes will suit my playstyle, although it seems I may have hoped for more puzzles(?).

    • Same here with the ponderous playstyle, might also need a new hdd just for the photomode! ;)

  9. Great spoiler-free review, can’t wait to start playing it!
    Also, just had a quick peek at Metacritic, and guess who is at the top of the critics list :)

  10. So glad they’re going out in style and on top of their game.

    The last thing any Uncharted fan wants is Uncharted 15: Drake Gets A Shaving Cut.

    Thanks for the review.

Comments are now closed for this post.

Lost Password

Please enter your username or email address. You will receive a link to create a new password via email.

Sign Up