Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End (2016) PS4 Review

prologue uc4.jpg

Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune Remastered review

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves Remastered Review

Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception Remastered Review

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.

uc4 church.jpg

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.

9.5/10

 

 

Advertisements

Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception Remastered (2015) PS4 Review

plane crash.jpg

Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune Remastered Review
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves Remastered Review

The third entry into the Uncharted series starts off in a way that is somewhat more subdued compared to the previous entry. Nathan Drake does not start dangling off a train carriage on the precipice of a plateau in the Himalayas, but rather in a rather typical London pub, doing a trade of Sir Francis Drake’s ring for cash. Of course, it quickly goes awry, with Drake and Sully embroiled in a bar brawl, tutorialising the changes to the melee combat, which this time controls a little more like Batman: Arkham Asylum but still maintain the same general feel of Uncharted.

This is also a globe trotting adventure that takes through flashback’s to Drake’s childhood as a street urchin in Cartagena, Colombia which explains how him and Sully became friends, to a decayed and overgrown French Chateau which seems like a preview for The Last of Us. Then you’re whisked away to Syria and then Yemen, with full of exciting chases, platforming and setpieces along the way, such as escaping the  whale-like skeleton of a decrepit ship, to shooting and stealthing your way through a cruise line that capsizes necessitating a thrilling escape. Another has you, with the help of on again off again girlfriend Elena Fisher, trying to catch a cargo plane and jumping on to it reminded me of the last act of Toy Story 2. Every set piece sequence, some of which might feel like repetitions of those in Uncharted 2 are still nevertheless exciting.

The general forward motion of the plot is very similar to it’s predecessors to the point of being quite predictable, down to the exact moment the supernatural element comes into plays. Nevertheless, despite being repetitious, the filled out back stories of our core cast,the vocal performances of all characters and the little touches each character has, such as Cutter’s claustrophobia and the implied engagement between Drake and Elena make for a good humoured, yet still strong emotional core to a rather predictable plot that is a joy to experience.

In terms of mechanics, the cover shooting and platforming is much the same as it’s predecessors, except much better refined with more weapons, whose sound effects pack a surprisingly heft punch. The roll here is also much less weighty and thus faster, enabling much more mobility in combat. You can also throw grenades back now with a timed bar that work much like the active reloads in Gears of War.

Naughty Dog, with the remastering efforts again done by Bluepoint Games really show off their technical chops here, with volumetric lighting being used frequently, wonderfully detailed character models and animations and exquisite texture work and realistic art direction and brilliant visual design make this quite the artistic and technical achievement visually. Considering this was originally released on the PS3 about 5 years or so ago, it is all the more impressive. And now at consistent 1080p60fps, the detail is truly incredible, down to the finest grain of sand. The soundtrack of course, is as bombastic and rousing as ever.

8.5/10

Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune Remastered (2015) PS4 Review

During the last generation of consoles, I never played through the original Uncharted, which came out in 2007. Well, I played a bit of it but I never finished it. With the remastered edition, new life has been breathed into this first entry into the series and now the game is much improved.

But first, let’s start with the game itself. Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune is a pulpy, almost swashbuckling adventure that draws heavy inspiration from the Indiana Jones series and Tomb Raider. The game takes place in a lush Central American jungle and Nathan Drake (Nolan North), who is the kind of guy that is a bit of a douche but is lovable anyway is looking for treasure (obviously) on an expedition for a television series hosted and filmed by Elena Fisher. The two have a great chemistry and so does Drake and the older Sully. As a whole, the story isn’t complicated, but it doesn’t need to be and is a great introduction to these characters whilst still offering a very entertainingly told story, which is helped tremendously by an excellent score that from the main menu alone is sure to have you feeling excited.

As for the mechanics of the game, the game combines platforming, which is quite easy to do and intuitive on a fundamental level, however at time the controls and the timing can feel a bit imprecise, leading to many deaths that were otherwise avoidable. As for the combat, it is quite dated, this being the early stages of conspicuously placed chest high walls. Kill Switch had come out a few years before and Gears of War had come out in 2006. The combat here doesn’t flow terribly well, mostly because of Drake sticking to the cover and disengaging him from cover is clunky and slow and can get you shot with the lack of a crouch button, which lead to a feeling of weird difficulty spikes. Sometimes the cover doesn’t work well at all. This is most pronounced in the final boss fight where I was trying to roll from one cover to another and it didn’t attach me to the desired cover location, which often lead to frustration as the boss could one shot kill me. This was on normal difficulty.  The game slows down quite a bit because of this and does feel a bit whack a mole at times. However, the AI is intelligent enough and will sometimes try and flank you or flush you out with grenades. The actual shooting itself here is very responsive, the guns typically have a nice recoil and each weapon type feels different so they’re fun to shoot. You can also use your pistol whilst hanging from a ledge which is occasionally handy.

Now as for the remastering effort, which was done by Bluepoint Games. Bluepoint have done an incredible job here. Where some remasters are content simply to upscale the resolution, Bluepoint have gone through the game with a fine comb and improved almost every asset in the game from better world geometry, to much higher resolution textures and improved character models that bring the game’s visual quality up to a level comparable with it’s successors. The game also runs at native 1080p at 60fps so not only does the game look great, it performs great too. You can also tweak the motion blur options between off, object and object+camera, which is nice for those of us who aren’t terribly fond of camera motion blur in games. Digital Foundry have a good visual analysis here.

In conclusion then, this game, whilst it’s age does show in the design and mechanics as our cover shooters with conspicuously placed chest high walls have been much refined since Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune  comes out, it still remains a fun adventure that had me smiling regularly with it’s charming characters, visuals and rousing score, but also had me occasionally frustrated too. This is without a doubt the best way to experience the game if you’ve ever thought about replaying it or are playing for the first time.

7.5/10