Uncharted 4 A Thief’s End is a phenomenal video game. Sean Timm shared that opinion in our review, giving the game a near perfect score of 9/10. Now that it’s been out for a while, I want to go into even more detail on the various aspect that make it the incredible game that it is. Here’s everything that’s great about Uncharted 4.

Full spoilers ahead. You’ve been warned.

The combat

Uncharted 4

Despite the strength of Uncharted 4’s narrative (more on that later), it’s the combat that really makes Uncharted 4 stand out from its peers and predecessors. Let’s go back to 2007. The combat in Uncharted 1: take cover, shoot a few guns, throw a couple of grenades and punch a guy in the face. Fast forward two years and Uncharted 2’s combat features cover, shooting guns, throwing grenades, and punching in the face. In Uncharted 3 the combat involves taking cover, shooting a few guns, throwing a couple of grenades and… slapping a guy with a wet fish?

But now  consider the combat in Uncharted 4. Take cover, shoot a few guns, throw a couple of grenades, JUMP ACROSS THIS GAP TO PERFORM AN INSANE AERIAL TAKEDOWN, SWING OVER HERE, SHOTGUN SOMEONE, SWIM OVER THERE, HIDE IN THE GRASS, KICK SOMEONE ELSE OFF A LEDGE, and then punch a guy in the face, or… just sneak through an entire area without shooting anyone.

Needless to say, the combat is Uncharted 4’s standout feature. The pacing and adrenaline of it all on moderate difficulty is spot on, ensuring that you are in just enough danger to be kept on your toes but not enough to become frustrating. Meanwhile, your partner can give you a hand in combat (á la Batman: Arkham Knight). Some have suggested that Uncharted 4’s combat is merely serviceable, but if you get the right balance of the action/stealth play styles it can be a throughly exciting factor of the game.

The presentation

Uncharted 4

Not a lot to add for this one; you just need to see it for yourself. It should go without saying that the game looks great. The expansive vistas and epic backdrops speak for themselves but it’s the small details that really stand out. For instance, shine a light in your partner’s eyes and you’ll catch them squinting. You might also have noticed that if you hop out of the jeep during a conversation the chatter will resume in a natural fashion once you get back in. Most developers wouldn’t bother with such tiny details but you truly appreciate them when they’re there.

The storytelling

And then there’s the big one. As the conclusive chapter of a wonderful franchise, Uncharted 4 is the product of Naughty Dog at the peak of its storytelling prowess. The game feels more grown up and mature in its tone, perhaps as a result of The Last of Us’ influence. Of course, this is still the playful Indiana Jones-esque adventure we’ve all come to know and love, just with a more important focus on loved ones, and the consequences that greed and obsession can have on them.

Uncharted 4

Uncharted 4’s story is at once engrossing and surprising. From start to finish you don’t want to put the controller down as the emotional rollercoaster keeps you intrigued in what might eventually come of all of this. The story’s quality is aided by the impeccable script and animation regarding the familiar characters. These are actors delivering excellent performances, handing-out one-liners and quips that feel believable in each given circumstance. What’s more, the facial animation is just undeniably breathtaking. Consider the scene late in the game in which Nathan and Elena are talking around the table of dead pirates.

The two of them promised one another that the life of adventure was behind them. But when they get caught up in it all over again (albeit courtesy of more desperate reasoning), it’s impossible to ignore Nathan becoming passionate and excited about discovering clues and locating the treasure. As he waxes lyrical about the dead pirates that grace the table before them, the camera focuses on Elena. This is one of many moments in the game where the incredible facial capture comes into its own.

Elena feels somewhat let down at the fact that Nathan clearly finds it difficult to shrug off the adventurous life the duo shared years ago, but at the same time sympathises with him because she feels partly the same way too. What’s overwhelming is that all of these emotions are conjured through very subtle movements on Elena’s face. And that goes for the countless unspoken, emotional scenes throughout the game.

Uncharted 4 Elena

She doesn’t have to say anything, the performance is so strong and well-realized that we can interpret the meaning rather than simply being told. It’s at times like these when Uncharted 4 makes you realise the power of the PlayStation 4 – such achievements could not be replicated on last-gen save for maybe L.A. Noire. Meanwhile, most studios don’t have the ingenuity to pull it off regardless.

All in all, the characters, and the relationships between them, are totally convincing. The story itself is more than enjoyable, ending in a way that is a dream come true for fans. Cassie, and Nate and Elena’s lives in epilogue doesn’t leave too much up to the imagination. It’s refreshing for a video game developer to be so certain that their stellar franchise is going to end and to faithfully direct an entire project towards that, all with no loose ends or unanswered questions. The happy ending, despite being pretty cliche, acts as a fitting farewell for one of gaming’s most prestigious icons.

Even before the epilogue, the story culminates in the heart-shattering moment when Nathan turns down the treasure because he has come to terms with how much of an impact it has on his loved ones. At the same time, Sam’s only drive is for the treasure. It’s a nice contrast between Nathan’s previous personality and the person he has become. The story as a whole shares typical Uncharted tropes and Naughty Dog deserves merit for being so consistent with their character’s personalities and their stories’ conventions over the years.

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