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.