Explosive set-pieces and a more human-driven storyline combine in Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End to bring Nathan Drake’s story to an end in a truly memorable way.
Drake Goes Forth
Throughout the Uncharted series, developer Naughty Dog has led us across the world in search of fame and fortune. We’ve discovered El Dorado, the Cintamani Stone, and entered Iram of the Pillars. In Uncharted 4, however, we find protagonist Nathan Drake leading a much more peaceful life with journalist Elena Fisher.
Our loveable rogue’s life is turned upside down with the arrival of Sam - his older brother. Presumed dead for 15 years, but very much alive, Sam has fallen in with an extremely powerful criminal boss and needs help paying a debt. This leads the brothers on an adrenaline-fuelled adventure to find legendary pirate Henry Avery’s treasure - something they have sought since their early days as treasure hunters.
As with previous titles, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End revolves around combat, climbing, and puzzle-solving. Climbing has always been fluid, and Uncharted 4 excels at directing you to the correct ledge or doorway with clever use of lighting. The addition of a rope gives an extra dimension to proceedings, as does another tool later on in the game. Puzzle-solving is enjoyable and has the perfect amount of challenge. Unfortunately, combat suffers as it always has in the Uncharted series, but it is much more obvious on the PlayStation 4. The aim assist removes any need for skill as it aggressively snaps to targets even if they are behind you. But playing without it will leave you struggling to hit anything at all. The cover system is also a relic from the PlayStation 3 days, all too often Drake would move to the wrong obstacle during a firefight making himself an easy target.
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End embraces a much more open approach with its level design than its predecessors. There are small sandbox areas where you climb towers, search for treasure or clues, and scout enemy camps. Normally these sections can slow the pace of a story, but not here. Things are kept moving with humorous dialogue and small puzzles & obstacles to overcome.
The Uncharted series has always excelled in well-orchestrated action sequences. And Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End has the best in the series. From daring escapes through crumbling buildings to a legendary car chase through a busy Madagascan marketplace. These sequences give a sense of agency and complete chaos. Yet they also offer guidance to maintain the rush of a car chase without the constant dying.
The graphics are gorgeous both in-game and during cutscenes as well. Every setting contains an incredible level of detail, jungles are vibrant and alive, even desert landscapes are beautifully realised. The character models set a new benchmark for games in the way emotions are portrayed through subtle facial expressions.
The More The Merrier?
Uncharted 4’s multiplayer, however, ditches grounded storytelling in favour of all-out chaos. Nathan Drake clones swing from grappling hooks while villains from past adventures beat one another into a pulp. The usual checklist of multiplayer modes are here from deathmatch to control all played out in arenas painted with a coat of Uncharted. There is a good sense of verticality to some of the maps which bring with them a paranoia that death from above is just moments away. “Mysticals” add a unique take to proceedings. These are artefacts that grant you different skills, from reviving teammates, to teleportation, to summoning AI sidekicks. There’s also a progression system should you wish to keep playing past the requisite amount for a trophy. Speaking of which...
A Trophy Best Left Buried
I ended Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End with a disappointing 18% of trophies. Similar to Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us, this is a horrible list to acquire the platinum trophy. It requires completing the game on all difficulty settings, finding all artefacts, notes, and journal entries (a total of 155). You’ll also be tasked with defeating large numbers of enemies in different ways, as well as using all weapons, and killing 100 enemies without dying. There are also hidden trophies for completing special objectives in most of the chapters. And then there are multiplayer trophies to consider. This is really is a list for the hardcore hunter.
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is a thrilling adventure through exotic locations, with spectacular action sequences and, save for a single misplaced flashback, a wonderfully paced story. I have a few issues with early decisions Nathan makes, which ignore his character development and feel thrown in to add drama later down the line.
I also struggled to simply accept that Sam, Nathan’s brother, isn’t mentioned in any other game and that our protagonist would never speak of him. There is the inclusion of a sentence that attempts to address this but, for me, it wasn’t enough.
Regardless of these minor issues I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. It’s an outstanding game. Uncharted 4 has a well-crafted story that, unlike previous titles, steers away from introducing supernatural elements in the third act. Instead, we have a far more relatable story about family, self-examination and about making sacrifices for the ones you care about. Nathan Drake’s story is brought to a close in a magnificent, yet deeply personal fashion. If only Indiana Jones could’ve had such a glorious fourth outing.
Editors note: This blog was originally published on August 24th, 2021. Updated on February 15th, 2022 to improve the information available.