I've been a huge fan of Uncharted ever since its debut. Therefore, like millions of other fans, I couldn't wait to play through this final chapter. Now that I've finished it, I must say that I'm quite impressed even if it doesn't stray far from the familiar formula.
Nathan Drake has retired from relic hunting and settled down to a simpler life working for a salvaging company and living with his wife, Elena. In comes Sam, Nathan's brother, who convinces him to go on one last outing in order to save Sam's life. Apparently, he escaped from jail during a prison break assisted by drug lord Hector Alcazar, who then commanded Sam to find the treasure of renowned pirate Henry Avery in order to pay him back for busting him out. Nathan reluctantly agrees to help Sam on his endeavor thus setting the scene for another Uncharted sequel that takes our adventurer all over the map to locations such as an Italian mansion, the Scottish highlands and the pirate coves of King's Bay in Madagascar.
The pacing of the story is the best yet out of any Uncharted game and actually kept me interested throughout. Putting Nathan in a loving relationship added some much needed depth to his character and Elena's presence fits nicely into the story. Sam's character seems to come out of nowhere seeing as he wasn't mentioned in the previous games, but he quickly becomes an integral part of the story; possibly even offering an exciting plot twist. Sully is back, too, and the villains are nothing to sneeze at. I especially enjoyed the strong female role of Nadine who easily overshadowed her male counterpart, Rafe.
The graphics in Uncharted 4 are simply stunning. Every single item onscreen is crafted with amazing detail and spot-on animations. The variety of locations provide a mixed palette of colours from the earthy tones of the mansion and purple and reds of the Scottish highlands; to bright blues, yellows and greens in the tropical islands. The camera does a great job at showing off the visuals as you'll find it shifts to just the right viewpoint when you're hanging off ledges so that you can gaze off into the vast world around you. To put it simply, Uncharted 4 is hands down the best looking game that I've ever played.
The audio matches the same high level of quality with its soundtrack and general ambiance. There was one moment when a storm was slowly approaching during about a half hour of gameplay and the subtle effects of waves starting to build and wind picking up really made me feel like I was actually experiencing it. The acting is top notch and has been translated into the game world perfectly. Everything from facial expressions to posture and subtle movements will make you forget that you're not watching real actors.
Uncharted 4 doesn't stray far from the gameplay we've come to expect of the series, but it does offer some new interesting elements. You'll spend most of your time traversing hills and cliffs then taking a break to join a shootout. Once your enemies are bored with you, you'll go back to more climbing. As with all Uncharted games, I find that the climbing and shooting segments can be too long to the point where I sometimes get bored or frustrated and want to turn the game off. Nathan's rented jeep plays a slightly larger role than vehicles in other games due its winch that is basically a wire that can be hooked up to various items to either tug on collapsible structures or pull the jeep up an impassable hill. It isn't used that often but any new gameplay mechanic is welcome at this point. Speaking of the jeep, there's a part where you'll be driving it through white water rapids which is quite a hoot.
Another new element is something that reminded me of early Tomb Raider games where you'll be sliding down a long slope and have to jump at the right moment to get to the other side or use your grappling hook to swing off a tree branch at the bottom. This adds some excitement between the lengthy segments. Puzzles play a role, too, but not as much of one as I would have liked. I think this is where Naughty Dog should have invested more effort so the gameplay could be kept fresh throughout the entire journey. Instead, it felt like an afterthought that was added sporadically near the beginning and middle of the adventure then forgotten towards the end.
Although I played Uncharted 4 for the single player experience, I spent some time with the online modes, too. Overall, it appears to have about the same gameplay as its predecessors. That is, except for the new ability to hire an AI character for your team that can either focus on heavy fire, healing, sniper support or hunting your closest opponent. All of the typical multiplayer modes are available including Deathmatch, Command (control an area) and Plunder (find a relic). The environments are similar to the ones in the story and the maps echo the multiplayer of other Uncharted games (except for parts where you can swing using your new grappling hook).
Naughty Dog sure pulled out all the stops for this exciting conclusion to the Uncharted franchise. Having said that, it still doesn't quite hit a homerun like Nathan's estranged sister Lara did in Rise of the Tomb Raider that I reviewed earlier this year.
- + A few interesting gameplay mechanics are introduced such as the grappling hook
- + Impressively realistic graphics
- + Story stays captivating throughout
- - As usual, most gameplay segments last way too long to stay interesting
- - Online doesn't bring much new to the table
- - Could use more puzzles to break things up