All stories have an end. But legends live on forever. Nathan Drake has finally reached the twilight of his incredible run in the Uncharted series. And what way to go out. The Uncharted series has always delivered in every aspect it aims to shoot for, and each new game has introduced new gameplay that is a joy to embrace. With Uncharted 4: A Thief’s end intended to be the final outing the stakes couldn’t be higher. But as always, Naughty Dog has delivered in heaps and bounds. A Thief’s End is an incredible game to play and the perfect way to go out on top. It perfectly blends high popcorn style action to behold – in midst of gameplay no less – with dramatic story elements and a very noteworthy moral as well. There’s a lot of ground that the game traverses and all of it is wrapped up deliciously as the narrative moves along.
All the previous adventures would’ve been for noting had Nathan’s character not undergone development, and it has been so far along that Nate now lives a normal life, or at least a semblance of it. A full time job – with paperwork, much to his ire – dinners with Elena, and a plastic gun to remind him of his long gone adventures. But for the person who discovered the likes of El Dorado, Shambhala, and Iram of the Pillars, pushing papers into drawers doesn’t really spell out as exciting. Yet Nate keeps on, finding solace in a few underwater dives that come along in form of salvage trips, for the sake of Elena. However, his world is pulled upside down with the arrival of his brother Sam, a character who had not even been implied up until now in the series.
But there should be no apprehension from fans for the appearance of Sam, as he is perhaps more Drake than Nate is. Complete with his brother’s penchant for sarcastic quips, one liners and thirst for adventure, Sam is a delightful character, the only pity being his character needs to be limited to this one game. It’s a shame former characters Chloe and Charlie don’t make an appearance but Sully is always welcome and remains true to form this round as well, Elena is missing from a big chunk but considering her role is pivotal to Nate’s change of character she needed to take a step back for a while. Elena does resurface later for one of the very high points of the game.
Story telling has been Uncharted’s strongest suits and A Thief’s End puts a stamp on that. What’s even more impressive is how seamless the gameplay goes with the narrative. You never really know when a cutscene ends and gameplay begins. Tensions are palpable in scenes of confrontations where even after end you’ll debate which person was the right one, even considering the villains’ side of the story. The main focus this time round concerns with Sam and Nate locating the lost city of Libertalia, a haven for pirates of centuries’ old. Through this framing device we explore the relationship of the brothers, there is a very reasonable explanation for Sam’s previous non existence in the games and the player will definitely feel for both of the brothers. A lovely bond is presented between the brothers, perfect chemistry to boot.
The villains this time round consist of a personal connection in the form of Rafe Adler, who was the brothers’ original partner in crime, and his descent into madness due to his obsession with finding Libertalia. Rafe is a nice change of pace as compared to the previous, more mysterious villain, his backstory is connected with the protagonists and there is a fine line between feeling certain sympathy for him but understanding his twisted psyche. The other villain is adine, a mercenary hired by Rafe. She is less impressive as she is built as an unstoppable force which is hardly believable. She posses little to no charm and does not have a satisfying conclusion attached, all in all there is nothing memorable about her other than being an antagonist you would prefer to see dead.
Uncharted 4 is bigger than ever before, this being its first outing on an eighth generation console there were many liberties that could be taken. Such as driving, now you no longer have to rely on the jumping from once car to another sequences to find yourself in driving missions. The player has the car in their control in certain missions and can drive anywhere accessible in the frontier. To make the experience last longer and more enjoyable, there will always be many hidden locations as well as treasure concealed where you can take the jeep up and explore. The landscapes are mind bogglingly immense. There’s so much to see that you’re bound to be at a loss to figure out where to start. It doesn’t stop there, now with Nate’s very handy rope at your disposal – very influenced by the Tomb Raider games – you have to scale walls, mountains, pretty much anything worth climbing, as well as swing across them and even use it in combat. There’s so much imagination put into it, the seamlessness with which Nate dispatches it that there’s never any break in gameplay, all these are necessary if you are to find all the treasures.
Platforming has been given a boost. Again influenced by Tomb Raider, there are many sequences where Nate slides down trenches or marshes and you have to be quick on your fingers not to miss a very important jump or else plummet to your doom. But the game also tweaks this in its favour by making you think more imaginatively and employ these sliding sequences to escape from confusing level designs. The scaling sequences are also higher in tension, more than once will a platform break once you’ve landed on it. However, these never get tiresome and inject a dose of adrenaline instead. A minor issue is the length of each level. There are 22 in total, which could have been separated into more, due to this the missions might seem longer than needed in case you need to stop for the time being and play later.
Combat is much improved over the lacklustre system in Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception. It, like the storytelling, is also seamless. There’s nothing convoluted about it other than a bit of wiggling out in case you get caught in an arm lock. Gun handling is better off too, but you would rather prefer to dabble with the stealth elements that are a new feature. The environment is now your ally and tall grass or smartly positioned cover can be used to sneak up on your enemies, many times these men overcrowd a scenario, thus the stealth element should wisely be used. Stealth isn’t completely polished, however, being rather inconsistent. Unless you manage to completely escape the sights of your enemies somewhere far off you’re not likely to fall back into stealth once you’ve been exposed. It is the one feature that is not seamless.
Borrowing from the equally amazing gameplay of The Last of Us, Uncharted 4 aims to hit home emotionally as well. There are numerous notes scattered around Libertalia and other locations where the doomed voyagers’ stories can be read, these paint a vivid picture of the greed that surrounded the treasure and forms part of a subplot of the mystery behind the disappearance of the city. A few levels are dedicated to casually walking around and explore the more human elements, focusing on the backstory of Nathan and Sam as well as their thinking processes. Some memorabilia are left out from the previous games that Nathan muses upon.
Puzzles are expansive but simpler. An improvement from the previous instalment where they felt more of a chore, these puzzles aren’t the best in the series, however, but they get the job done. AI involvement is improved and you’re not left completely in the dark.
There’s no need to point out just how amazing the graphics are, you can see them for yourself. The characters are deliciously well detailed, one can hardly ever make out if their playing the game or watching a cutscene. Nate, Elena, and Sully don’t resemble much of how they used to look in the previous games. That’s how much of a leap graphics have taken. The motion captures perfectly display the emotions felt by the characters, each expression conveys what they feel. It’s a truly remarkable achievement how well the graphics are in tandem throughout the game.
Environments are eye popping, which is referenced many times in the game itself, usually when you’ll be thinking that for yourself. The player is likely to abuse the share feature around these points. Libertalia is a lush haven of ruins, the aging of the place is apparent as evidenced by the vegetation and the extreme chirping of birds and crickets. It is a wonder to experience especially when earphones are donned. Underwater missions compress the sound, giving a semblance of being in the sea, appropriately making you feel rather without oxygen supply, although these sequences aren’t the most fun part.
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is a complete game, delivering on everything you can hope for. A few minor flaws are present such as mission length, but these hardly ones to mull over. It is a deserving send off to a legendary series, offering all you can hope for and, most importantly, closure. Its story might be at an end, but its legacy is ensured to live on for years to come.