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Uncharted 4: A Thief's End
Uncharted 4: A Thief's End

PlayStation 4
Genre: Adventure
Developer: Naughty Dog Official Site: http://unchartedthegame.com/#
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertain... Classification: M15+
Release Date:
May 2016
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End Review
Review By @ 03:38pm 24/05/16
I remember when Star Wars: Attack of the Clones released. One of my friends – a bigger Star Wars nerd than me even – hailed it as a breaking point in cinema. He thought it was the absolute pinnacle of storytelling, and saw the movie a handful of times in its first month of release. I disagreed, but he wouldn’t have any of it. That moment when Obi-Wan hugs Dexter Jettster, he argued, bridged the gap between live action and CG. He told me he cried and cheered all at once.

Of course, he was wrong.

He freely admitted as much months later too. When the rose-tinted glasses were removed he saw the movie for what it was – a slightly better experience than The Phantom Menace, broken in more ways than one, and utterly self-indulgent on George Lucas’ part. Time, when obsession is involved, is your friend, and in the case of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, it’s why I’ve waited until now to publish my review, in hopes those rose-tinted glasses have been removed and the game can be championed for what it actually is, and what it certainly isn’t (read: the second coming of Christ, for one).

Uncharted: A Thief’s End The Never Ending Escape is, in all honesty, an initial grind. It’s gorgeous to behold, and boldly chooses narrative over call-to-action in the early stages – a factor that never really lets up for a while. You spend most of the first act escaping: from an orphanage, from jail, from your job, from your wife and the seemingly mundane life you’ve both created for yourselves. And the gameplay loop surrounding this is climb, hide, shoot, escape with – barely – minor shifts in approach. And the big new addition of a grappling hook is a missed opportunity that stands as a metaphor for how the whole game treats you, in that you can only ever use it when it’s required, as dictated by Naughty Dog. This might actually be the most on-rails experience in the series thus far.

The Uncharted mafia is going to lynch me for the above, but it’s true. Fortunately, what does save the product is its gorgeous visuals and stellar performances from the likes of Nolan North and Troy Baker, as well as the rest of the cast. If heavy-handed story is your videogaming bag, then this is right up there. It’s not an evolutionary tale told in the best of interactive forms, but it takes calculated risks and assumes anyone playing this has been chartered with Uncharted from the beginning. It cleverly masks the on-rails experience with large, seemingly open vistas and playspaces, but you rarely take a course the developer doesn’t want you to take. If this were an open-world game, with this level of visual fidelity, it would be hailed as a masterpiece. But it’s not. It’s an almost passive adventure story where Naughty Dog become a little more than self-indulgent, just like old George.

Now, this is not to be construed as an entirely bad thing. The Uncharted games have always been like this. And like the previous games, the largest weakness in Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is the action and gunplay. Enemies sponge bullets, barely reacting while Nate is usually dead within two or three hits, max. Your evade button (read: rolling out of the way) is also the same button for going into sticky cover, which obviously creates some pretty hair-tearing issues while you’re in the thick of it. The aforementioned grappling hook is a means for escape, or creating space while in combat, but once you’re spotted the enemy unfairly has vantage on you – often from no matter where they are. You can break line-of-sight, but it takes a lot of movement in order to do so, and as you’re usually being bombarded with a hail of bullets, you tend to find yourself looking at the greyed-out death screen rather than taking a breather and working out your next course of action.

Stealth is also new to the series, where Naughty Dog has lifted the high grass and plants concept from Assassin’s Creed where Nathan and co can hide and strike out at unsuspecting goons. Provided no one else sees you breaking the neck of your South African mercenary enemies, you’re okay. In fact, it becomes humourous – they’ll talk to one another about the area being clear, then you’ll kill one of them while the other remains oblivious. He never asks where his buddy he was speaking to minutes ago has gone, and even if you create an interest for him to check out he won’t enter the tall grass or plants you’re hiding in. It’s the safest place in the game. Level by level. And it’s how I combated most of the issues mentioned earlier – I essentially spent roughly 90% of the game just waiting and striking from stealth positions. In fact, I managed the entire section Naughty Dog released initially as part of their beta – on the game’s final island – entirely from tall grass, never seen, and didn’t even get a Trophy.

Further to the above, the overall AI is actually really bad, and it’s a huge sore point for the game. And contextually there are sections you and your brother work through, that your rivals haven’t worked out, but somehow have soldiers placed there already anyway. It’s never really explained, but having soldiers standing in a lost city waiting for you feels off. It also gets harder to digest that both Nate and his brother – who has spent most of his life in jail – alongside Elena and Sully are more combat savvy than paid mercenaries with huge arsenals. By the end of the game, you’ve killed more than a hundred people, but the jokes and good humour never let up and your life goes on. The balance between being an adventurer and cold hard killer and thief isn’t even blurred, it’s largely scoffed at by the developer which makes any form of discovery you have somewhat empty in the grand scheme of things. At the game’s close, there’s an Epilogue I won’t spoil, but it puts all of that death and destruction of the series into player-perspective without the game ever really acknowledging just how bad it really is. Yeah, it’s a videogame, but the lengths Naughty Dog go to early on to make this a poignant life-story makes that point even more valid, because they barely make a videogame here.

Which leaves us with story. It’s a good story, and the archaeology/history side of it is right up there with Indiana Jones. There’s even an Indy joke thrown in for good measure while you’re in Scotland (“bad dates”), but there’s maybe too much story (and no supernatural weird shit, either). The trend throughout this review is that the game is repetitive, and you’re developer-lead throughout the adventure. In many ways, this is the same as a Call of Duty experience with far better visuals (I can feel the hate coming towards me as I write this, but it’s true). In short, there’s very little player-agency because you’re doing what the developer wants you to do. The new Tomb Raider games at least give you large, explorable hubs that branch to different chapters and narrative sections, but survival and discovery are on the part of the player – here, it’s all on Naughty Dog.

I’ve used this analogy while discussing my experience with the game with my peers, but what you’re getting here is Fry sitting in his chair at the movies, watching Calculon do his paperwork before he’s told a fight scene has broken out at the special effects warehouse (or a lasergun battle). Fry’s chair asks him if he wants Calculon to finish his "tedious paperwork", or go to the fight scene in his hover Ferrari. He chooses the fight scene, but the chair lies to him, and makes him watch the tedious paperwork. Ironically, the next shot of Fry watching this is him smiling and enjoying it.

If I can sum up my experience and thoughts on the game at all, it’s with the above metaphor. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is an enjoyable romp, but it’s essentially an interactive movie with very little player-choice over what any of that interaction is. It’s almost like Naughty Dog are throwing in their credentials to just become the next Pixar. It’s an astonishingly gorgeous game, but it doesn’t really let you game enough for it to be anything other than a tightly-controlled story experience. Oh, but it does have multiplayer, which is arguably the meatiest gameplay component of the game, and should extend the life of the product beyond the single-player campaign. But really, is multiplayer what you come to Uncharted games for?

What we liked
  • It's gorgeous
  • Great performances from all the cast involved
  • Multiplayer is still fun and engaging
  • Grand set-pieces steal the show
What we didn't like
  • An overtly on-rails experience
  • Combat is still broken
  • Very, very long cut-scenes pull you out of the 'game'
  • The lack of genuine player-agency destroys the exploration fantasy of the game, which should be its point
We gave it:
Latest Comments
Steve Farrelly
Posted 05:22pm 24/5/16
Sorry, fixed link now everyone :)
Steve Farrelly
Posted 01:15pm 25/5/16
Heh :)

Posted 04:39pm 25/5/16
Disagree with this review. I finished it the other day. One of the best single players ive played besides The Witcher 3
Posted 04:42pm 25/5/16
Everyone can like or dislike whatever they like. Eg. You have given 8s and 9s to games which you couldn't even pay me to download again.

U4 is one of the only video games I have enjoyed in ages. I am a big Naughty Dog fan since uncharted 2 though. Last of Us is probably my favourite single player game ever.

last edited by ctd at 16:42:52 25/May/16
Posted 05:46pm 25/5/16
frothin to play this.
Posted 06:38pm 25/5/16
Really enjoyed Uncharted 1 to 3.

About a quarter of a way through this and absolutely loving it. One of the best single player experiences I've had of recent times.

I get that the gameplay and style isn't new or revolutionary, and that it's basically the same game 4x over. But it really doesn't need to be any different, it totally works, is more than fun and is an incredible narrative experience.

I don't agree with lamenting it being an 'on rails experience', especially as a guy who doesn't really enjoy MMO's and completely open world games. Different game types are different, you likely wouldn't be able to achieve such a great story experience without it being relatively on rails, just look at the open world games like Division and Fallout. The story or narrative is absent or sucks balls, whilst the open world gameplay is fun. Likewise the story and experience in Uncharted is awesome, however there's no open world, but you don't really miss it imo. Arguably the most successful hybrid of that could be GTA 5, but there's not many others.

I live for games like Uncharted 4, Metro 2033, Deus Ex, The Last of Us, Dishonored, Soma - awesome single player games with great stories that are actual experiences.
Posted 06:16pm 25/5/16
i'm at chapter 20 or so and so far i would probably rate it a high 8. i'm really enjoying it but it's not quite up there with uncharted 2.

Posted 08:52pm 25/5/16
I finished it the other day, my partner was watching me play the entire time and we both enjoyed it. It is very much an Uncharted game, it does what it does well, and what it's never done well - well - it only marginally improved upon.

There's still room in my gaming library for 'on the rails' single player experiences, and this is one of the better ones in recent memory.
Posted 09:20pm 25/5/16
I really liked it, played through it in only a few days. Amazing to look at, especially for a console game, and the usual amazing writing. But... yeah, it's Uncharted. It's the exact same game we've seen 3 (well, 4 if you count Golden Abyss) times before. Climb, hide, shoot, etc. I'm not really going to give it any points for the gameplay, because it's pretty standard. But, the overall package is fantastic.
Steve Farrelly
Posted 03:08pm 26/5/16
Largely this is my point. It's repetitive to a fault, and follows the same tried and tested formula. We weren't asking for it to be a complete revolution of the series, but given some of the main changes made with The Last of Us, I would have hoped the team had learnt enough to up the design ante here.

My opinion is also just really compounded by the pretty forgettable combat. I was just hoping for more beyond being able to hid in grass.

Presentation and story-wise though, it's pretty awesome. Just should have been better.
Posted 05:12pm 04/6/16
Gee, that thread on N4G really escalated quickly. People really seem to take personal offence when you criticise a game, fanboyism at its worst right there.

While I havent played the game, I did play the other three on PS3, I can sort of agree that you can become a bit jaded. The bullet sponge enemies get it for me, that works when there is variety in the weapons and combat, like in Borderlands (although Borderlands has its own issues), but in Uncharted there isnt that variety.

They are still fun games though and definitely worth buying.

Always great to hear your perspective Steve.
Posted 04:13pm 05/6/16
I finished this the other day and am in no way disappointed that I spend $70 on a game that only really took 2 days to finish.

Towards the end I was starting to a get little sick of finding grounds of bad guys ahead of me all the time.

The other thing that slightly annoyed me is right at the end your wife meets you outside the cave that collapses, but for you to get to the cave in the first place you had to scale a mountain. Why not just go through the back entrance to the cave in the first place and save yourself the hassle....
Posted 04:59pm 05/6/16
The other thing that slightly annoyed me is right at the end your wife meets you outside the cave that collapses, but for you to get to the cave in the first place you had to scale a mountain. Why not just go through the back entrance to the cave in the first place and save yourself the hassle....

pretty sure sam said it was a shortcut going that way because the cave entrance was on the other side of the mountain.

Posted 06:45pm 04/9/16
Retarded review is....well...retarded.
Posted 08:25am 05/9/16
It's a review, the difference in Steve's objective subjective opinion he writes about the game is probably due to the fact that he's not being paid a large sum from a publisher as an attempt to promote the game in a way that makes it appear that he's writing a fishing review that may be what you might enjoy and want to read because it supports a marketing spiel thats supposed to drive lots of sales of the game as opposed to a review that looks at it for what it is.

Obviously Strve knows what makes a good experience, and this review doesn't make me froth and want to rush out and buy a $500 console and a $100 game because I kind of expect the console publishers to do this kind of thing after they've made up such a marketing bubble around an initial IP in a franchise.

The console exclusives are what the developers and publishers create and can later draw influence from to base their decisions about making games like this and to this standard.

Steve says it like it is, he may have some overly negative paragraphs that he can carry on for a bit long before getting back to the point of what he writes these reviews for, but he gets back there eventually and the dialogue carries through to give you a somewhat well rounded or maybe sometimes just a rectangular look at the game.

To call his review retarded is so ignorant and all you're showing is how quick to defend a game that may not add up to what an experienced gamers expectations of a game like this are
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