Review of Uncharted 4: A fitting thief’s end? (Spoiler Free)
The long anticipated final chapter of Nathan Drake’s legacy has finally arrived; called back into action with journal in one hand, pistol in the other, can our hero live up to the hype that has built around his last adventure?
The graphics are beyond stunning, especially running on a console locked at 30 fps, there were points when I wondered if things were filmed live action. Many moments where the extraordinary environments and set pieces just made me stop and pan around the camera to fully appreciate it. I can’t think of a game that even comes close to the level of detail in character movement and design. This coupled with fantastic voice acting and complex relationships really brings the familiar and new characters to life, you feel as if you are stepping into a fully living breathing world. The real issues with Uncharted 4 begin and end up with its lacklustre gameplay.
Many reviewers have said fans are being unduly harsh criticising the platforming in this release. That it was pretty much the same in the last three titles and nostalgia and hype have set our expectations too high. However, as I only played the last three in preparation for this (and because I got the remastered Nathan Drake collection free with my PS4), going in with low expectations and leaving a devotee to the characters and gameplay, I can tell you the platforming is far more tedious and far less inventive in this title. Sure the mechanics have been fixed, they were a little clunky in earlier releases for obvious reasons, but they have been replaced by simply clicking a contextual triangle or ‘x’ when it pops up. The jumping which felt thrilling and necessary in Uncharted 2 especially, has become more filler, massive mountains between you and your goal just because Nathan Drake is a climber and it extends gameplay isn’t fun. It just isn’t. There is no skill involved whatsoever and unfortunately the same is true of the puzzles, this was the first Uncharted game I didn’t have to try at, I didn’t look up an answer to the usually breath taking, elaborate and mind bending puzzles. I just walked up and either another character told me the solution or it lit up with a big triangle above it.
This takes the main fun of being Nathan Drake away, he’s essentially an obsessive history nerd and one of the best bits of Uncharted was geeking out over the history of these explorers. The rush of excitement was trying to outthink great men like Sir Francis Drake centuries later to find your treasure. Getting to know them through found journal entries and research, what motivated them to create such elaborate hunts or to hide their treasures gave substance and believability to Nathan’s quests. In Uncharted 4 the historical figure Avery is largely silent, when you do get a glimpse of exploration into his world you feel rushed along to the next unnecessary jumping puzzle. While our hero and friends’ story is oddly paced, leaving large sections of the game that just felt surplus to requirement. There also appeared to be a distinct lack of gunplay, there are a few fights but unless you play on higher difficulty settings these are over quickly and a little too easily. Then there is the removal of the traditionally supernatural or surreal final chapter of Uncharted titles. Some liked the more realistic approach but for me it felt odd after three games to take one of its key tropes and fling it out of the window completely.
In the end I think this game suffered from developers with the best of intentions, trying to cram in as much of what they thought fans liked while also offering them a deeper portrayal of the characters. There was too much focus on creating a human drama with adequate closure in what is meant to be an adventure game. It’s still a very solid game, you can’t detract from the amazing acting, graphics and the fact the story is still better than most AAA releases. But, in filmic terms this was a little more National Treasure than Indiana Jones, which for such a polished and well-made game is a real shame.