Among the most respected studios Naughty Dog is the king. Sure, we all have our favorites, but it’s hard to remember anyone else being able to continuously create masterpiece after masterpiece. They’ve created two of the most known Sony franchises, perfected the art of facial animation, invented the “gaming blockbuster” genre and proved that it’s possible make a game as impressive and seemingly real as a movie.
And now they are back; their mission – as difficult as ever. Not long after the inception on Uncharted it’s time to say goodbye. Why? We don’t actually know. Probably, it’s something about artistic integrity. Unlike James Bond, Nathan Drake doesn’t have limitless stories and he doesn’t regenerate. He had some amazing adventures, but sometime you just gotta stop.
The events of Uncharted 4: A Thief's End take place after Uncharted 3, but there are episodes which tell a story of young Drake and his brother. Yes, he has a brother now, which is as surprising for him as it is for us – he thought his brother was long gone. But no, he’s alive, he’s back and he wants Drake – who finally settled with Elena – to return to adventuring with him. Otherwise Sam – the name of the brother – would have to die again.
Simple premise, but it’s what they do with it is spectacular. Uncharted 4: A Thief's End really differs from the previous games. It’s much quieter and much less bombastic. We’ve all grown to like Drake and his shenanigans, but this Drake is different. Sure, he still misses his old life, but he would never trade it for what he has with Elena. Or would he? When his brother shows, he pulls from Nate something he’d almost forgot he had. Obsession. There is love and there is ambition, lust for treasure. Lust, which leads to tragedy.
Never before have Uncharted looked so good. The facial animations are spot on, the world is bright and believable. Scenes with dialogs totally absorb us. Nolan North once again proved that he is a master. Writing is spot on.
The plot of Uncharted 4: A Thief's End consists of traditional tropes and something entirely new. Gone are cheesy antagonists and immortal guardians – instead we see a cast of believable bad guys with motives. All of them suffer from the same illness – obsession. For once, Drake is the sane one – he only wants to save his brother and be done with it. But at the same time he battles with his inner demons which can destroy everything he’s built, including his marriage.
For me, there were no better stories in the series. Learning about the pirates was entertaining – so entertaining, that I’ve found a book about them and read it. Now, many things which Uncharted 4 tells you are not true, but everything’s based on real myths.
The gameplay is traditional enough with massive shootouts, puzzles and climbing. Something is completely new – for example, the ability to choose an answer in dialogs. It doesn’t make it a Mass Effect game but brings welcome freedom. The world is also as open as ever with vast open spaces begging to be explored. And, of course, the treasure. This time we’re after a pirate treasure on a hidden mythical colony of Libertalia.
Shooting is better than ever: it’s nuanced, sharp and fun. Stealth is also great. The game’s not very challenging and there are not as many fights as one would expect. There are no grandiose episodes like before: everything is more balanced. What’s interesting is that it’s the gameplay that’s the most controversial, if you can call it that, aspect of the game. Everyone loved Drake and Elena and their chemistry on screen, but some just don’t dig the kind of a game Uncharted 4 is.
When we talk about the gameplay, it’s important to remember the multiplayer, which is also better than ever. Sure, we don’t think of Uncharted as a multiplayer game, but it doesn’t mean it’s right. In fact, the studio worked really hard to make their game as addictive as possible. After all, it was them who developed the fantastic multiplayer for The Last of Us, believe it or not. The content here is abundant: different maps, characters and modes, which are updated from time to time. And most important – all DLCs are free. The game is still actively supported by the developers, with new modes on the way.
But does this all make Uncharted 4 a good sequel? After all, it is the final game in the series. How to close the book and not offend anyone? How to say goodbye to Drake and not spoil our image of him? These are the main questions. We knew the game would turn out fine, but is it worthy of being the final one?
The answer is yes. Any other studio could have simply copied the basic formula and added modern graphics. Most people wouldn’t mind, actually. It is the safe approach. But that’s not who Naughty Dog are. They are brave. They knew that Uncharted is not about treasure and mass murder – it is about people, real people. It’s about videogames being able to tell a story as good or even better than movies.
Uncharted 4: A Thief's End is definitely worth buying. It may be the definitive game on PS4, which already has amazing exclusives. It’s games like that that keep Sony ahead in the race, not the hardware. It’s been almost a year, but the game keeps getting awards. Technically, its great: it looks astonishing; the facial animation is simply the best there is, the world looks outstanding. New mechanics are solid: driving is fun. The writing is the best in the series. There are a lot of characters there – both new and old. All of them have the right amount of time to develop.
We are at the end of the great franchise. We know Drake is not coming back, but maybe Uncharted will. This year we’ll also see The Lost Legacy – the huge DLC with an open world. And who knows what the future holds.