This review is based on the single player portion of the game.
The final chapter of Nathan Drake’s story is an incredible ride. From an thrilling boat chase prologue, to prison escapes from a Panamanian jail or climbing a clocktower in Madagascar, the set pieces here are all incredible and one up the previous entries in the game. The story starts has Nathan Drake, who was hitherto living a drab domestic life with now wife Elena Fisher, set out on a new adventure looking for the lost treasure of infamous pirate Henry Avery, with his previously believed to be dead brother, Sam.
The storytelling here is Naughty Dog at their finest. There are no supernatural aspects at play here, the story is more focused on the relationships between the characters, mainly that of Nathan and Sam, as well as Nathan and Elena. While I won’t go too much into the details of the story as I don’t want to spoil the experience, but I will say here that the story hits a high emotional register through what is essentially a swashbuckling treasure hunt story, that also works through memory of previous entries in the series and a score that is as rousing as ever that never feels saccharine or cheesy. It’s well written and heart felt and provides a definitive and satisfactory conclusion to Nathan Drake and Elena Fisher’s story.
Before I talk about the mechanics of the game, I’d also like to sing the high praises of this game’s visuals. They are simply incredible, from Nathan Drake’s house, to the streets and marketplace in Madagascar, to the St. Dismas cathedral area and an auction at an Italian mansion every area impresses and are breathtaking. On show here is some of the finest visual artistry I have seen in a game. In fact, I’d say it is one of the best looking games currently available not only on the PS4, but anywhere. However, it does only run at 30fps with rare drops, but it is still highly responsive.A motion blur slider also exists, which allows you to control the intensity, which is nice for people who feel sick from it There’s also many unlockable render modes that you can obtain post game, which can add some novel visual experiences for repeat playthroughs. Other details also impress, such as the authentic,albeit stereotypical South African accents of the mercenary enemies that speak in believable mannerisms and lingo.
One setpiece highlights just how incredible this game is. You’re in a jeep in Madagascar with your old pal Sully and you’re being chased by an APC firing at you and you go downhill through winding city streets, which all possess an amazing amount of detail. Then you jump off and use your rope attached to the crane of a convoy and pull yourself up and holding on, you slide in the mud meanwhile being fired at. You can shoot while sliding around or pull yourself up to in the truck and hop between vehicles. When back in the jeep, enemies will try and jump on your vehicle and you can shake them off by slamming through a shack. There are other aspects of this sequence that I am omitting but suffice it it to say that it is stunning.
Back in 2007, it was all about the conspicuously placed chest high walls. In 2016, it’s all about the conspicuously placed tall grass or bushes. A Thief’s End makes a number of welcome improvements to the Uncharted formula. For one, whilst sneaking around and thinning out lots of enemies through melee attacks was often possible in previous entries into the series, it could often be vague and difficult to tell how close to detection you are. This fixes that by placing a detection meter that fills up and changes colour above enemies heads when you’re in their line of sight. Climbing sections also have multiple paths, which is good for speedrunners and those who like trying to find the most effective path up.
The biggest new feature is the appropriately swashbuckling rope, which is use effectively in platforming, adding a layer of skill to the admittedly simplistic platforming elements of the series, which is greatly appreciated. They’re also often put in some of the well designed and varied combat sections allowing you to get between different areas quick whilst firing on your enemies or is even helpful in stealth. In one section late in the game, I was almost detected by a guard, but I swung around to the right of the cliff and hung off the edge, avoiding detection, only to climb up and take him out unawares after him turning around. It was highly satisfying. This rope mechanic on top of an already strong and mobile third person cover based shooter foundation makes this the peak of combat for the series.
I will close my review with saying this: Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is Naughty Dog at their best and they have created a game that is thoroughly enjoyable to play from start to finish and is a definite must play for all PS4 owners.