Nathan Drake has seen enough adventure for 100 lifetimes. After discovering El Dorado, exploring the ruins of Shambhala and more, he finally steps away from the life of treasure hunter/adventurer in order to settle down with his wife, Elena. His peaceful life is interrupted when his brother, whom he thought had died some 15 years before, shows up with the opportunity to claim a momentous treasure that they’ve been chasing since they were kids. Once again, Drake embarks on a world-wide quest for priceless treasure in order to save his brother and seek his fortune.
Uncharted 4 doesn’t really break any new ground when it comes to the gameplay: if it’s not broke, why fix it? Featuring thrilling run-and-gun sequences, hand-to-hand combat and of course, extensive platforming, the game has everything we’ve come to expect from Uncharted titles. There were a couple sore-spots for me, however. First, the hand to hand combat system fell a bit flat. I wanted to feel more control in these encounters, rather than just alternating between square and triangle. Second, and this has been mentioned elsewhere as well, the cover system seemed a bit imbalanced. I would attempt to get in cover and the system either didn’t like where my character was, or hesitated before ducking…it’s just enough of an inconvenience to put a slight damper on the overall gameplay. Very slight.
The platforming and exploration is even more thrilling than in previous installments. One thing that isn’t often appreciated enough is how well the Uncharted franchise has incorporated these 3D platforming elements so well. When you spend a large portion of the game hanging from precarious ledges and gripping ropes, there are lots of ways that controls and camera work could go wrong and ruin the experience. While there are certainly some brief hiccups in the game, the majority of these frustrations are ultimately a result of player error. Also – it doesn’t matter how many times it happens, you will always catch your breath when you jump to a pipe and it breaks away from the wall.
Overall, the gameplay in Uncharted 4 is exceedingly fun and intuitive. Not a lot has changed, but the systems all seem sharpened and more responsive. While the combat and exploration is certainly a huge part of the Uncharted franchise as a whole, what really appeals to people is the way that Naughty Dog tells a story.
I’m going to be frank here: nobody does cinematic storytelling like Naughty Dog. The Last of Us is undoubtedly one of the best games made in the last 5 years for this very reason, and Uncharted 4 continues that trend.
The story of Uncharted 4 really resonated with me. No, I’m not a world-traveling treasure hunter who constantly runs afoul of drug kingpins and thieves, but I can be restless. I can be uncertain of where I am or where I’m going in my life, and hope for some greater adventure. Nathan Drake’s internal battle between the desire for a quiet and peaceful life and his constant yearnings for adventure echoes the struggle felt by so many who are attempting to balance their day-to-day jobs with their passion. It’s a story of a man seeking redemption and fulfillment. When will enough be enough?
Being a Naughty Dog game, I went into the game fully expecting gorgeous graphics. As the release date grew closer I began to get a bit nervous: maybe I set the bar too high? As soon as the game got started I realized that if anything, my expectations set the bar a bit low. Everything in this game looks amazing: the lush and varied environments, the weapons and firefights, the character models, the water. Even as Nate examines treasures he finds, you can see the detail in his hand and fingers. The capabilities of Naughty Dog’s in-house development engine allows it to stand out among its contemporaries in a big way.
I would argue that graphics are an important element to any video game, but with Uncharted 4, having high-quality graphics ties directly into its cinematic storytelling style. This is a game that relies on drawing players into their world by appealing to the familiar – utilizing well-structured cinematic scenes to build their world, flesh out characters and help establish a connection between the player and the character. It would be very difficult to have players care about a Nathan Drake that didn’t look convincing. Naughty Dog understands this, and gives us the opportunity to see Drake in ways that make him more authentic: we see his pained face after a rough brawl, we experience his moments of self-doubt when a trail suddenly goes cold, we revel in his wonder and excitement when things all come together. These visual details directly impact how the story is conveyed, and the fact that Uncharted 4 is so committed to all these details results in a fantastic overall experience.
A good film needs great actors, and a cinematic experience like Uncharted 4 is no different. Nolan North (Nathan Drake) and Emily Rose (Elena Fisher) have fantastic chemistry together. At the end of an early scene featuring the two of them I turned to my wife (who was avidly watching) and noted how natural that scene was. Troy Baker (Samuel Drake) and Richard McGonagle (Victor Sullivan, or “Sully) round out the major cast and also do some tremendous work as they each vie for Nate’s attention. Elena wants him to be happy, but not at the expense of his safety. Sully was happy to see Nate get out of that dangerous world, and is not afraid to let Samuel know that he doesn’t approve of him getting Nate involved. Samuel is fighting for his life against a ruthless enemy, left with little choice but to find the treasure or face a fate worse than death at the hands of a drug kingpin.
Again, it’s the attention to the little things that sets Uncharted 4 apart. There are brief moments during the game when you can interact with your partner, and these nuggets of dialogue often carry a lot of weight. Layer this skilled voice acting with a musical score that would put many blockbuster films to shame and you begin to appreciate the experience that Naughty Dog has painstakingly created over the last 5 years.
Uncharted 4 is a tremendous game. With a vast and vibrant world that draws its players in, superb graphics that are in a league of their own, and fast-paced and well-structured gameplay, the penultimate Uncharted adventure leaves very little to be desired. Pick it up today, and seek your fortune!
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