Finally, the wait is over, it’s time to pick up your holsters and join Nathan Drake in what Naughty Dog has said will be his final adventure as the series draws to a close. So the question now is, after all the hype does Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End really meet expectations?
If you’ve not yet played the game fear not, as I will keep this review spoiler free so you may read on, safe in the knowledge that nothing will be ruined for you. I will, however, be covering a few of the new features. So if you really want to go T-total and avoid everything about the game maybe don’t read those parts!
I’m going to start off by saying this game looks phenomenal. Naughty Dog promised a masterpiece and they sure did deliver. Every detail has been perfectly crafted, from blades of grass to the veins on the character’s arms as they haul themselves up cliff faces. The character modelling actually caught me off guard, the level of detail that has been placed in our now ageing characters made me double take a few times, especially since recently replaying the Uncharted Remastered collection.
Landscapes are vast, carefully crafted and encourage you to wander around aimlessly just to explore every nook of it (mainly for treasures). There’s even a few animals that will scuttle away as you draw closer. I must say, I was pretty impressed to see a flock of birds take off from the ground in formation, and swoop away only to have a little huddle of lemurs scatter as I climbed over a ledge.
Perfection hasn’t been achieved though, as the water features aren’t really what I expected. Maybe I built my expectations up too much as I’d hoped driving a car through a puddle would spray water in a bit more of a mist as opposed to what I can only describe as a water balloon exploding. But I guess you can’t have everything, after all I guess the physics weren’t really designed for someone to sit in a car and wheel spin with the sole intention of seeing how the water sprayed.
Sound / Audio
Typically, audio isn’t something I would concern myself with, as I am of the firm belief that as long as characters express emotion, don’t mumble and gunfire doesn’t make party horn noises then that’ll do. Uncharted 4 however, grabbed my attention, especially as a headphone user, simply because of the amount of noise and detail they’ve placed into the environment. Small things like walking past a plant and hearing flies buzz around at different distances surprised me.
It is such a small detail but I was so fascinated that Naughty Dog had taken the time to add it in. The flurry of animal noises, character audio and even things such as walking around just draw you perfectly into the atmosphere and engage you in the surroundings. I found myself listening for enemies as opposed to just looking around simply because, even on the multiplayer mode, the sound of someone jumping or running behind you is so clear. Who needs radars right?
Interface and Gameplay
The interface hasn’t changed much from its typical minimalistic style. The selected gun, ammo and explosive count display in the bottom left, switching weapons displays in the centre of the screen for quick reference and the health system is judged with the bog standard blood spatter damage vs monochrome tone. The new grappling hook is not used to the point where the game beats you over the head with it and with there being various ways to get from point A to point B it allows you to traverse through areas how you wish but not without getting yourself lost and confused a few times in the process.
Uncharted’s linear level design has been far too kind to us in the past. Taking us firmly by the hand and escorting us to each section like an over protective parent. So a shakeup is always nice, although I say this while grumbling at the game as I pass the same rock formation for the third time or contemplate going left, right or straight up.
Ammo is found from dropped enemies as per usual, except now ammo and gun pickups are illuminated by a light as opposed to the shimmering effect of the previous games. While this makes it very easy to see where all the goodies are, I must say I am not a huge fan. Shining a spotlight on ammo or gun drops implies that this was a problem in previous games when it clearly was not. The only thing it adds now is confusion when searching for treasures. Many times I have climbed a rock face in the hopes of a collectable only to find a Flintlock pistol instead. The difference between the two was much better in previous games, and with treasures now nothing more than the flashing light instead of their physical counterpart it just makes it all a little too complex. Call me old fashioned but I prefer seeing a statue behind a crate, or a necklace on a ledge that flashed occasionally to tell you it can be picked up. Now it is just a light blinking at you almost mockingly from its hiding spot…yeesh don’t even get me started on the placement of the collectibles!
The game has added many options to make the experience more versatile for all player types and abilities such as snap to enemy aiming and toggling whether a press or holding the button aims down the sights. I try not to mess too much with the settings, apart from sensitivity typically, but these are nice features to have and, I would imagine, perfect for you speed runners or even people who are not very acquainted to the shooter genre.
The addition of controllable vehicles is a feature I was sceptical of, simply because I cannot recall Naughty Dog creating a racing game since Crash Team Racing for the Playstation 1 in the late 90’s. So far I have only been in control of two vehicles, one rather briefly and the other in a larger more ‘free roam’ area. Steering is a little floaty in places and braking isn’t as sharp as it should be, but all in all I am pretty impressed. This is coming from someone who spent ages driving off edges to catch air, attempting to flip the vehicle and deliberately colliding with objects just to see what would happen. Again it’s the little features while you cruise about, Nate changing the gear stick, checking his mirrors and even applying the handbrake when the vehicle is stationary.
Gameplay has a very heft story focus when compared to the early instalments in the series. A lot of character development is crammed into the early parts of the game (I’m only 11 chapters in at the time of writing this!) in the form of dialogue, flash backs and even photos. Depending on your view of dialogue and character development, this will either be a nice addition or just a nuisance as characters spend a lot of time talking to each other.
Being a bit of a sap, I quite enjoy seeing the characters we have adventured with over the last couple of years interact in a different way, giving further insight into their personalities. Now and again optional conversations appear now in the form of a RPG style speech bubble above the characters’ head and after engaging in these you are prevented from climbing, running and jumping. I enjoy character development, but please let me continue climbing this rock face and looking for treasures while you waffle on about places you’ve been to Sully!
I am actually going to stop my review here. I dare not delve into the story, less I get carried away and reveal a little too much but what I will leave you with is a few things to bear in mind if you are picking up Uncharted 4 as a returning player, a Naughty Dog fan or a newbie to the franchise;
- Explore as much as you can, larger levels mean treasures and secrets could be anywhere!
- Photomode is a must have feature to capture all the action, and believe me you will end up lining up the perfect shots. (Good for getting the perfect mobile background).
- If playing in a loud room, consider headphones or enabling subtitles (there really is a lot of dialogue!)
And to finish off, just take the time to immerse yourself in the environments, the story and learn to expect the unexpected! There are plenty of surprises lying in wait that will hopefully cater to all types of people.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have more treasures to find and places to explore!