Year of Release:2016
This is the fourth and final game in the Uncharted series, a set of adventure and exploration games that are Sony’s answer to Tomb Raider, all climbing, puzzles and ancient temples. The previous three were PS3 exclusive titles, but they have been recently remastered for PS4 and released as an omnibus collection. You should probably tackle them before playing this instalment. You’ll have a better feel for the story, and they’re great games anyway, especially the second.
The earlier games established Nathan Drake as a matinee adventure hero in the Indiana Jones mould, and introduced his supporting cast. There’s Victor “Sully” Sullivan, his genial cigar chomping, wisecracking mentor, and Elena Fisher, a reporter who becomes his love interest over the three games. As 4 opens, Drake has given up his life of adventure to settle down with Elena. He’s put risk behind him for a life of happy safety. He knows it’s the right thing to do, but there’s definitely still a part of him that regrets it. And then his long lost, presumed dead, brother Sam shows up, with a tale of pirate treasure and an urgent need to find it to pay off a South American drug lord and avert some fatal unpleasantness….
This game is about heroes growing up, and the call of maturity. It’s about what you do when the adventure’s finished and you need to put food on the table. It’s about the pull of blood ties, and trying to decide where your loyalties lie. It’s also about spraying ludicrous amounts of bullets around and slaughtering hundreds of henchmen, which feels a little at odds with the smooth wisecracking of the narrative sections (to be fair, the game recognises this with a trophy called Ludonarrative Dissonance). It’s about exploration, and the dreams of every little kid who loved Raiders Of The Lost Ark or Tales Of The Golden Monkey.
There are some flaws with the game. The Sam character is just not very likeable. Frankly, he’s bit of a dick, and I never bought into Nathan’s compulsion to throw everything away to follow him. It’s also a shame that Elena is largely sidelined until the final act. The biggest gripe though, is the simplicity of the gameplay. There is barely a problem that can’t be overcome by standing next to an item and pushing the triangle button. There are a couple of bigger dramatic set pieces (the bell tower!) but the majority of puzzles are very simple and flat. I guess they’ve been sacrificed to the development of the combat, which is much sharper than in previous titles, but they end up feeling like speed bumps that slow you down without providing any challenge. I also miss the supernatural elements of the previous games. A search for pirate treasure through the tropics is pretty cool, and I would rather be doing that than going to work tomorrow, but when previous games have led you through the Himalayas to Shangri-La, or to a buried city of djinn in the Arabian sands, it seems a bit prosaic. First world problems…
Moans aside, there are plenty of positives. The visuals are stunning. The settings, from tropical islands to jungles to cold Scottish highlands to crowded Madagascan markets to wide open African savannah are gorgeously drawn and executed, while the character animation is stunning. These people breathe, have heft, weight, and little tics that make them some of the most realistic depictions of humans I’ve ever seen in a video game. It’s backed up with a sharp script and some quality voice acting. When people were talking about games converging with films a few years back this is what they had in mind. There are genuinely thrilling sequences, and some reflective character driven parts that, remarkably for a video game, are involving and affecting.
I enjoyed Uncharted 4 a lot, but it falls short of the Greatest Game Ever hype that’s been thrown at it. I didn’t like the setting as much as I did some of the previous Uncharted games, and the emotional involvement with the characters, while much stronger than 90% of other games, falls short of Naughty Dog’s previous masterpiece The Last Of Us. It’s still well worth playing, and you’ll have fun with it, but it just misses out on brilliance. Seven and a half out of ten.
Might suit people who like:
Tomb Raider, Indiana Jones, The Last Of Us
Time Thief Rating:The lost weekend