Uncharted 4, Charted!

Uncharted 4 has been the highest anticipated PlayStation title since the release of the PS4. After many delays and changes to the creative team at Naughty Dog which caused the project to be started from scratch with 8 months of work being scrapped, the game finally released on May 10th and now we can see if it was worth the wait.

Special Edition of A Thief’s End

First thing to note is that you should definitely play the previous games before starting A Thief’s End. There are many nods to preceding events which is a lovely touch that really shows care and attention to detail that veteran fans will really appreciate. The other reason to play is to appreciate how far this game has come over the years. Although I only recently played the games for the first time, I have enjoyed every moment that you get to relive with Nathan throughout A Thief’s End. This series is also one of the flagship titles for Sony’s Playstation consoles and are reason enough to buy the console if you haven’t already. The image below will provide a little reason why….

Graphics comparison – courtesy of Mr Anthony Clark

But in all seriousness, you should probably consider purchasing a PS4 and getting the Nathan Drake Collection along with the latest and sadly, it seems, the last Uncharted title. Speaking of Nathan, it’s time to set the scene a little. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is set a couple of years after the events of Uncharted 3. Nathan has a job, a home, his life with Elena with little evidence of his past adventures other than what is tucked away in boxes. Then Nathan’s older brother Sam, who he thought was dead turns up to remind him of their quest to find the treasure of Pirate Captain Henry Avery. Nathan agrees to join the hunt for the treasure and the rest, as they say, you’ll have to find out for yourself.
Let me start by saying that this game really wants you to be immersed from the very beginning. There are a lot of cut scenes that seamlessly move into gameplay to set the scenes of past and present instances which I didn’t mind at all while others may feel there are too many. Either way, you can’t please everyone and some gamers don’t know when to just enjoy the ride. There’s a lot of emotion from the start and if you love Nathan then you’ll probably spend most cut scenes staring at his lovely face just hoping that everything will work out in the end. It really has that Last Of Us feel but not in a way that detracts from it clearly being an Uncharted game instead of a carbon copy which was always going to be the danger for this title. The story is great and fits well within the series modus operandi. From start to end, it is very difficult to put down and part of me wishes I had played it first and then streamed the game afterwards but I wanted to share the experience with others. I didn’t want to rush through the game but at the same time I wanted to constantly play it because it had me hooked and I thoroughly enjoyed the gameplay style this time around.

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The game play is still your comedic cover and shoot, third person action adventure puzzler. This time around there are more wide open spaces to explore, which still keep you along a slightly linear path without restricting your fun and a couple of chapters bring back vehicles. One thing I love about the Uncharted series is the comedy aspect. There are one liners and subtle funny moments that really stick with you throughout the entire series and A Thief’s end carries that on. My favorite moment was when Nathan was told to turn left, so I turned right to see what happened and the other character simply said ‘Your other left’…. I found this hilarious and completely natural! The conversational aspect of certain scenes allows you to break away from the talking to do something else but as soon as you resume the gameplay it picks up from where it left off with a simple ‘As I was saying…’ or ‘Where was I?’ conversational style that I don’t recall in many other games. It really puts a big middle finger up to the stop/start nature of narrative that we have become accustomed to where entire portions of talking are cut off if you reach the next checkpoint too quickly. There is a lot of climbing but this time there are many paths to take which makes it feel like you’re not always being guided to where you need to go straight away and there are a couple of new features that are very Tomb Raider-esque when it comes to getting around by way of a rope and a climbing hook. Another new feature is marking enemies so that you know where they are if you’re planning your assault and there is more of an option for a stealthy approach which has developed since Uncharted 3. As I love to be stealthy, I tried and usually failed as there was an enemy I missed or I poorly timed a grab from a ledge which resulted in all hell breaking loose. But you have the option of full blown combat or sneaking around depending on how your preferred style.

Your AI companions provide some support during combat as they can shoot and sneak the same as you. I was taken a-back when I went to stealth kill an enemy and Elena popped out of the long grass to take the guy out! In a similar way to Last Of Us’ Ellie, they run around and hide in plain sight yet somehow manage to get away with it, yet the second you come out of cover you will be spotted. An awareness meter has been introduced for enemies so you can see when they have noticed you allowing a small window of opportunity to hide rather than suddenly everyone knows you have arrived and opens fire. This is quite handy and certainly plays on the stealthy aspect of the game. In harder modes, I assume that this function is not implemented otherwise it would make it a little too easy. Hand to hand combat is the only thing I had a little issue with as there wasn’t much of a counter attack option unless you were prompted to escape a struggle. I found my fist fights a little difficult as I couldn’t dodge the punches by any means other than trying to roll out of the way but there is also the small chance that I may have missed the tutorial prompt and just never realised! The combat has stepped it up a notch though as there are more options for the ‘death from above’ too and there is something satisfying in rope swinging towards an enemy and taking them down from above but I still enjoy sneaking around in bushes and breaking some necks!

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Something that has struck me through the Uncharted games is that they always had the best graphics available at the time of development. Each game is impressive in its own right and Uncharted 3 was the pinnacle of stunning. Then The Last Of Us arrived and blew expectations out of the water so I knew that Uncharted 4 would not disappoint. It is beautiful. The attention to detail is phenomenal and in a similar way to Rise of the Tomb Raider, the surroundings make you want to explore and spend time enjoying the vista. Even Nathan’s face is so gorgeous that you wish he was not made up of pixels so you could share at those lovely eyes for hours…. But I digress. It is very easy to forget you are playing a game. As mentioned earlier, game play and cut scenes intertwine beautifully and  suddenly you’re 3 chapters in. I strongly suggest taking time out to enjoy the views and utilise the photo mode to capture some of your favourite scenes as I have for this review. Naughty Dog have gone a step further in proving how awesome they are at these games. They have certainly mastered physics in this latest installment and watching the waves move when something drops into the water or seeing rocks slide down inclines as they should is highly impressive. They have also tried to show off nature in its best video game form by introducing animals that seem real within the environment but I couldn’t believe it when I saw a turtle scuttle out of the water and head for a small alcove! It’s just stunning. Everything has a purpose and it has somehow managed to go one step further than Last Of Us. Even Sam’s reactions to torchlight shining in his eyes is not forced and seems completely natural. It’s truly wonderful and should definitely be applauded.

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The puzzle element is back and it is as if Naughty Dog realised that more puzzles were needed. Similarly to Tomb Raider, puzzles are key in treasure hunting and while gun fights and the like are great fun, we want puzzles. I didn’t find them frustrating or repetitive and there were challenging enough that you know what to do but they don’t make it too easy. Collectible Treasures are back and dotted around for you to discover along with notes for you to jot down in your journal. There are many nooks and crannies to explore where hidden treasures reside so it is worth taking your time to look around if you want those all important trophies. Nathan’s journal is a big part of the storytelling this time around and is utilised mostly for the puzzles but also giving clues about what happened with all the Pirates so use it and read the notes you come across.

Multiplayer is back for Uncharted 4. If you saw my beta impressions, you’ll have noticed that I did enjoy it even though I hadn’t participated previously. There are reasons to play the multiplayer from unlocking vanity items and outfits to just getting your favourite goodie or baddie or just spending time doing the Trials for prosperity, it is good fun. The more you play, the more you unlock and although there are no levels or ranks to climb, it does make it more of a perk once you’ve finished the game and the Nathan shaped void gets too much. I am going to give the Trials a go though as they are single player and will help develop the all important skills you’ll need to outwit your opponents in the lobbies. There are daily challenges to keep you going back for relics to unlock more item and if you’re willing to part with your cash, there are in game purchases to speed up the process. Playing also unlocks gear and weapons so you can really customise your loadout but secretly, we’re only in it for the ‘Make It Rain’ taunt and the ridiculous outfits your can make the characters wear! The game modes of Team Deathmatch, Command (capture the zones) and Plunder (get the treasure back to your base) are good fun worth giving a go, so I would suggest having a go even if it isn’t what you got the game for.
Overall, I love this game. From start to finish I was hooked and it is the masterpiece that was definitely worth the wait. If you are a fan of the series, you won’t be disappointed and if you’re new to the franchise (as I recently was) you know there will be an epic finale to work towards. I have purchased the additional content that will be released in the coming months because I need more reasons to play this game again and I will most certainly be having another go very soon. Check out my Twitch highlights to see the game play if you are willing to sit through many hours of me drooling over Nathan’s face and taking on the quest for Henry Avery’s treasure and below is a snippet of some of the multiplayer to entice you to join in even if it’s not your usual cup of tea!

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