Sunday 5 June 2016

Uncharted 4: A Thief's End

What do you expect from Uncharted 4? If you purchase the final instalment of the PlayStation exclusive with the idea that it’s going to revolutionise the series, you might be slightly disappointed, but it’s a solid addition that improves on nearly every aspect of the game.

It might not reinvent the wheel, but that’s not a crime with a game that plays as well as this. The graphics and locations are ridiculously detailed and rich, while the single-player portion is more of a gourmet meal compared to the morsels that are usually on offer. (I finished the story in 16 hours, and the game has a reasonable amount of replay value, with unlockable extras after completion along with multiplayer). It’s true that some of the extended climbing scenes can get a little tiresome after a few hours of exploring the world through the eyes of Nathan Drake, but it’s one of the few games that has a perfectly realised universe, and the story is a fitting finale to the series.

The story concerns trying to track down lost pirate treasure, while being hunted by the usual assortment of villains and mercenaries that are driven by less noble motivations than our heroes. It gives Nate more depth, as he struggles to deal with leaving his life as a treasure hunter thief behind. The overall theme of greed (and the inevitable fall from grace that tends to accompany it) is interesting, and more resonant than the usual financial motivations that tend to fuel stories like these.

The polish and love poured into the game is evident, and it translates into an experience that keeps you gripped while you play. Everything has been fine-tuned, and it comes with familiar set pieces and a few extras that weren’t possible on the PlayStation 3. The shooting and combat mechanics have been further refined and improved for extra fluidity (with a decent range of new weapons on offer) but it’s the scale of the game that’s most noticeable while you scamper about on the rooftops and mountains that take up a decent chunk of the playtime.

A number of areas aren’t closed off, leaving you free to pick the optimal route through the patrolling Shoreline troops. (You can also avoid combat at times by using the new stealth mechanics, which stops Drake from murdering quite so many people along the way). The driving sections are new and they’re fairly well done, while small touches like the way the gas canister moves in the back seat, or the way you have to loop the winch add extra levels of detail that draw you in further while you play.

Elaborate puzzles also make a return, but they’re incredibly simple and they usually take a while to complete, while there’s also an overreliance on finding boxes to make a new path which can sometimes be a chore. These are small complaints in the grand scheme of things, and it’s a high-octane experience that left me feeling drained after some of the adrenaline fuelled set-pieces.

Multiplayer is similar to previous offerings, and it’s a fun distraction, (but unlikely to keep you hooked in the long term.) It’s clear where the focus lies. Long lost family members are always a questionable story arc to tack on to an established name like Uncharted, (especially after no previous mention of him existing) but it was great to catch up with a few familiar faces along the way, while the enemies have well realised motivations. There’s treasure, quips, Easter eggs and shout outs, nearly every mechanic has been improved, and it all comes to a satisfying conclusion by the time the credits start rolling.  If you’re a fan of the series, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t say goodbye.

Charted for the last time. 4/5.


James Milin-Ashmore

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