Uncharted has always a slight above average story, and A Thief’s End is no exception. It gives you a look at the current life of our protagonist, Nathan Drake, but also has some flashback sequences that are quite appealing. Not only do you see Nathan’s past, like in the previous games, but you take a slight trip on the side of the “co-star”. There is an epilogue I did not expect among the 22 chapters. Also, when witnessing an especially emotional cutscene, you almost feel you’re part of what is happening, creating an immersive feeling. The last chapter has an amazing combat sequence that is nothing like Uncharted has tried before, and is a complete A+ for me. I will not go to much into detail, because I really do not want to ruin this game for anyone who hasn’t seen the story. I will say there are a bit of dumb jokes, some interesting easter eggs, including a Last of Us reference and a throwback to a Naughty Dog game that is infamous. As well as the eggs, they included more then just the treasure to find, adding journal entries, journal notes, and additional conversations, some of which give speech options.
The cutscenes are, for the most part, entirely seamless. Coming out of certain scenes, it is so seamless, that sometimes you are unaware it has ended. This can be a little tricky at times, because you can be in the middle of a disintegrating building while in the cutscene, and you come out having to jump or are sliding. Some scenes did not have as much flow as others, but were still enjoyable to watch and be a part of. All character rendering is immaculate, and goes to show the level of effort the developers put into each and every scene.
Large playable areas have an amazing view, with rich brilliant colors, and what looks like a never ending landscape. Trees, foliage, water, sand, and the rest of the environment, are crisp, clean, and bright. The amount of detail put into the surroundings, makes it a definite pleasure to explore, and the amount of space provided for exploration is exponential when in comparison to the other Uncharted’s. They have also included little details which make the game that much better graphically—wet footprints on a beach that transcends to dry after a certain distance, or the way the lighting shifts while walking between a lit area and one with shadow. It all equals an amazing change in the way the environment feels.
Character graphics have also greatly improved. When being compared to its predecessors, Uncharted 4’s characters are amazingly detailed. Eyes do not look lifeless, lips move accordingly with the dialogue, and all around character movement is quite natural. I even noticed sweat on faces in the cutscenes, during or after they were doing strenuous activity. One negative aspect I did notice is the characters, at times, seem to float above the ground they are walking on. It’s not overwhelming, and doesn’t take any joy out of the game.
Mechanically, Uncharted 4 is a step up from the previous titles. It houses some new mechanics that gave me quite a bit of enjoyment to use. They kept combat mechanics relatively the same, but made slight changes.
Combat still has the cover to cover system, breakable objects to hide behind, and rolling to avoid fire. A grenade indicator that is not so useful, with weapons that feel exactly the same. Stealth attacking is probably going to be used the most, seeing there is a decent amount of places to hide, and walls to climb and hang from. Tall grass, and water make for great hiding places while waiting for a enemy to stroll by. Stealth killing while in the grass slightly drags the body inside the foliage in an attempt to hide it. Being stealth was made slightly easier with a couple newly introduced combat mechanics.
In all other Uncharted’s, you had to guess as to where the enemies were. You couldn’t be sure where they were all positioned, so this could easily get you killed (especially playing on Crushing), and sometimes resulted in being stuck in the same combat zone for a little bit. You can now spot your enemies, giving them a small target above their heads. This is extremely helpful when it comes to the harder modes, because of the extra enemies. One complaint I do have, is the targets above them do not give any specific indication as to what type of enemy they are.
Enemies themselves are a tad smarter than before, being more aware of your presence. When they see you, an icon appears above them, showing the way they are seeing you. White meaning they sense you, yellow for if they think they saw someone (in which case they will stare for awhile, hoping you move into view), and red-orange for when they fully spot you. This is a great way to try and avoid being completely seen, giving you a chance to get out of view.
Vehicles were always for trying to make a speedy escape. You can now traverse large areas with them, making exploring easier. With the ability to use a vehicle, they also added a feature to it that is interesting. A winch attached to the front of your Jeep. It is subtlety used, but puts a spin on the regular cruise around. Also, when using the winch, it will not let you attach it to any object unless you walk around that object, then attach the end of the winch to the line. I thought it was clever, considering it is usually just a one button push to attach items, or whatever it may be.
Climbing is a huge part of this game, so I was extremely satisfied with the way they improved the movement while climbing. It used to be a struggle to get Nathan to recognize an area he could climb on, or across to. In Uncharted 4, he instantly recognizes any spot he can climb on or over to, and will stretch his arm in that direction (as long as he can jump there) with little adjustments to your stick. They also added in a climbing pick of sorts, though it is not entirely relevant to many areas of climbing, it is still interesting to use. I would have liked to see a bit more stress on Nathan, especially when he is making a leap that is obviously difficult, just to seem like its a challenge. Climbing has an ease to it though, getting you from A to B, but in an empowering way that gives pleasure to climbing a massive structure. Also, the AI allow you to climb around them, basically being piggyback for a few seconds to get past, so it isn’t hard to go back during a long climb.
When it comes to all over gameplay, it feels ten-fold better than any of the others in the series. Character movements are smooth, getting stuck on your AI partners is not a concern, and climbing that does not feel so clunky. Your AI friends do some work of their own when it comes to combat, because they will sneak right along side you, and stealth an enemy here or there. The AI’s can also spot enemies and on occasion will give an indication as to what type of enemy, while showing them on screen. Buddy takedowns are new, they happen only when you or your AI buddy are in hand-to-hand with an enemy, and you assist in the takedown.
Uncharted 4 also has puzzles that are more in depth than the Uncharted’s before it. There are multiple types, some with a twist, needing to finish several tasks to complete. A few puzzles have a couple ways to solve them, and your journal is mighty handy in helping figure stuff out. The journal itself is used frequently during the game, and has some interesting extra information. You can make journal entries and collect notes, giving you some sketches from Nathan, and that extra info.
The Bottom Line
lt has well rounded story (a story that includes pirates lore), with a lot of action, and some pretty amazing scenery. If you like to explore for items, this game has the space to look through, with more items to search for. Its’ combat can be tricky, but enjoyable. The harder modes are a challenge, so if you like heavy combat and smarter enemies, you will appreciate it. If you are a trophy hunter, like myself, it has a decent amount of difficult trophies, and plenty of hidden ones. I would recommend playing this game, especially to fans of the series who are hesitant on the purchase.
On a side note, I have not played multiplayer, but I will be hitting it hard in the next few days, and be back to give a review on what NaughtyDog has given us this go around. Until then.