Man at His Best

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End Review

As the game developer, Naughty Dog, offers up its cash cow on the altar to avoid the fate of a being a flogged horse, how does its latest Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End fare?

BY WAYNE CHEONG | Jun 22, 2016 | Technology

Can a game company kill off its cash cow? It’s been a long, crazy ride but, it would seem that, game developer Naughty Dog is putting the kibosh on the latest instalment of Nathan Drake’s—our scrappy, nigh invulnerable treasure hunter—adventures. In this latest outing of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, our protagonist, Nathan Drake, enters into a new sort of adventure: married life. This new role doesn’t come with the edge-of-your-seat thrills of his past but it’s a next step of his character (the only excitement we get to see on his homestead with this wife, Elena, is a game of Crash Bandicoot). Of course, the mundane married life comes to an impasse when Nate is pulled back into the embrace of adventure when his brother, Sam, returns from the dead. His arrival kicks off (or resumes) their quest in discovering the fabled booty of the pirate king, Henry Avery.

As usual, the game plays out like a movie with some of the longer sequences requiring players to be deft at key moments of Nate trying to escape a collapsing clock tower or outrunning a murder vehicle. The adventure takes you in picturesque places around the world. From the Scottish highlands to the ochre Madagascan landscape, if you weren’t trying to flee danger or avoid mishaps on the sides of decades-old buildings, you’ll want to sit back and take in the cinematography.

Enemies are cleverer now, more responsive. The AI gives you a challenge as you have to keep evolving your tactic in a firefight. Naughty Dog also throws in a sandbox feature but this open world format is still bordered in by the linear playing of the game. Players get to drive a land rover and given the vehicle’s versatility on the shittiest of terrains (ie steep, muddied ground) we’re surprised jeep companies out there aren’t using this as their key advertising point. The newest addition to the game is the multiplayer: a no-holds brawl with characters from past games duking it out with an assortment of weapons and artifacts. It’s a surprisingly fun departure from the main story-driven game.

Story-wise, we get a more nuanced Nate. Not only do we witness his history and understand why he is the man he is, the facial animation system is astounding. The words that the characters speak is buoyed by the slight subtext on their faces: the upturn corner of Elena’s lips; the look of betrayal washing over Nate’s face; the way Sam brings his cigarette in for a puff, the graphical leap is the best we’ve ever seen. The voice acting is no slouch either. Troy Baker as Sam really connects well with Drake (played by Nolan North) with banter that doesn’t border on the cliché or grating.

There were some areas that weighed the story down, like the epilogue, a “wafer thin mint” after a gluttonous affair. We doubt that a franchise as successful as Uncharted would remain respectfully buried six-feet under bouquets of acclaimed reviews but for now, Uncharted 4 is a bittersweet fitting to bookend the series.

Uncharted 4 is only available for PS4.