In 2007, the gaming world was rocked by Naughty Dog’s newest IP Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, a third-person action/adventure shooter. The game focused on a modern treasure hunter Nathan Drake- think if Indiana Jones, James Bond, and Dirk Pitt were all meshed together- as he sought the legendary El Dorado. The games rich characters and masterful storytelling led it to becoming a huge success for the new franchise. About nine years later and we’re here at the end of Nathan Drake’s saga. While it’s sad to see him go, you can rest easily knowing that his series went out with a bang. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is a brilliant conclusion to the story of Nathan Drake and his friends and loved ones. The Uncharted series have always played out like a cinematic, summer blockbuster or a Clive Cussler novel and the new game plays no differently. While there are plenty of exciting action sequences , you do get a sense that Nathan Drake has matured a lot since the last time we saw him and I’ll explain why they becomes important later on in this review. Warning, there will be potential SPOILERS.
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is the final chapter in the Nathan Drake saga and the first time we meet his older brother, Sam. Nathan and Elena have retired from their days of treasure hunting and adventure and have settled in a cozy home where they play video games together, and take turns doing the dishes. Instead of seeking out exciting new adventures or treasures to steal, Nathan works salvage jobs. There’s a great section earlier in the game where you’re up in Drake’s attic inspecting some old trinkets he had acquired over the years. Many of them are from past games as well. Oh, and fans of the series? Get your tissues out for this game because it will definitely pull on the heartstrings. The game switches between different time periods from the future, to Drake’s past with his brother Sam and back to the present. It works a lot better than the way I’m describing it, trust me. Back to the Drake’s, Nathan’s world is turned upside down when his presumed to be dead brother, Sam, returns to visit him. Reluctantly, Nathan is sucked back into the world that he’s tried so hard to get out of (cue your best Al Pacino-Godfather impressions here).
As I mentioned earlier, the world of Nathan Drake has matured, Nate himself as matured and we find that things aren’t as easy for them anymore. They’ve been out of the game for awhile but luckily they won’t be alone. Along the way, Nathan and Sam meet up with fan-favorite Victor Sullivan and we get our first look at our antagonists. While the antagonists are solid, they aren’t very memorable. Moreso than Deception’s Helen Mirren character but less so than Zoran from Among Thieves. But I will say it’s nice to actually be able to remember the mercenary group’s name for a change. Anyways, throughout the adventure we’re joined by Elena Fisher as well, and I will say that it feels fantastic having the old gang back together.
Naughty Dog has some of the best writers in the industry right now and you can clearly see that in this game. While you can marvel at some of the adrenaline-fueled action sequences, it’s the quieter, character moments that really make this game shine as it has for its predecessors. These characters have fears, flaws, ambitions and learning what they would sacrifice to save their loved ones is a treasured experience. Naughty Dog’s fantastic writing has given us characters that we love, characters that we fear losing or seeing hurt. Nolan North returns as Nathan Drake joined by Emily Rose (Elena Fisher) and Richard McGonagle (Victor Sullivan) and series newcomer Troy Baker (Sam Drake).
The game takes us to some exotic locations but not quite as many as you might be expecting. While some of the earlier installments of the series took you from one location to another and another over and over, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End only features a few locations, in fact the last third of the game takes place entirely on one island. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing for the game as a whole, but it does make the last third of the game feel a bit long and dare I say, repetitive after awhile. However, from a visual standpoint this game is one of the most beautiful games made yet. At times, when climbing a rock or building, the camera will pan out to showcase some of the brilliant set pieces of the world. And they are absolutely stunning.
The game mechanics have remained relatively intact from the previous games though they are more refined. Naughty Dog has also given us a few new tools for this adventure which come in the shape of a grappling hook and pick. There are plenty of exciting moments in the game where you’ll be forced to use your grappling hook. A favorite of mine would have to be when you’re sliding down a gravel slope and then forced to use it. Climbing has been refined in this game as well and allows you to seamlessly traverse the rock faces with a simple rotation of the thumb stick instead of constantly clicking “X.” The new pick or “piton” is acquired later in the game and helps you access out-of-reach rocks or edges. Believe me, I’ve found it useful as I’ve found myself accidentally slipping from rock faces and that little tool saved my life.
One of the newer play options that Naughty Dog has introduced in this game is the stealth gameplay. One of my complaints about the series as a whole was that your enemies would always know exactly where you were at all times but in this game, that’s not always the case. They’ve added in patches of tall grass where you and your companion can hide and stalk your targets. Drake is now able to mark his targets to pinpoint their locations to help strategize his approach. Enemies can switch between “unaware, suspicious, and alerted” states during the stealth play. While Naughty Dog doesn’t exactly reinvent the wheel with the stealth play here, it’s no less satisfying when you’re able to silently pick off numerous targets without alerting them. This new gameplay option is also helped by the large level design as well, allowing the player to figure out new ways to approach their targets instead of funneling them through one or two different routes.
One of my concerns with the game, however, is the feeling of a “been there, done that” vibe that I got one too many times. While there are many exciting sequences in this game such as the final showdown or the street chase in Madagascar, or the boat chase in the beginning; the majority of the thrills come from breaking bridges or rocks giving away under your fingers. While some of these can be exciting once in awhile, it becomes a bit too predicable after awhile. The Uncharted series is known for its crazy action sequences and while there were a few in this game, it felt like there could have been more to make this game pop. However, not everything needs to be high-octane action scenes, even the quieter moments like rummaging through your trinkets in the attic were satisfying. But something to break up the monotonous climbing, falling, run into a group of enemies, and repeat, would have been welcomed.
Multiplayer returns in this game and there are a few different modes to play (5v5 and 4v4). I will admit that I haven’t checked out a lot of the different modes yet as I’m not a huge multiplayer fan. However, what I did play was fun. There are some fun options in the game such as purchasing “Mystical” items such as the Statue of El Dorado or the Cintamani Stone to use in combat. Again, I mostly play the Uncharted series for the single-player campaigns but multiplayer fans will find themselves very entertained with the different modes offered.
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End provides a very satisfying and emotional ending to such an outstanding series. While it’s not quite a flawless masterpiece as many might have hoped, it provides us with the closure we needed for these characters that we have adored for nearly ten years. A quick note, Naughty Dog is listening to fans about potential story DLC so if there’s something you’d love to see, make sure you tell them! It’s sad to say goodbye to Nathan, Sully, and Elena you can take comfort in the fact that Naughty Dog has delivered a brilliant and beautiful finale for our favorite treasure hunters. A finale that will leave fans of this series with a tear in their eye. It’s been fun Nathan, but it’s now time to put the shoulder-holster away and remember what a brilliant ride its been.
Overall Score: 9/10