Gawping at the scenery

Uncharted4

HIGH The Lemur event.

LOW The platforming is pretty, but uninvolving. Actually, it’s pretty uninvolving.

WTF Drake somehow survived infancy without being blown up or hurled out a window?


Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End begins some time after the climactic events of the previous game, Drake’s Deception. As time has passed, protagonist Nathan Drake has packed in the crazy adventures of his youth—getting shot in the stomach, murdering bad guys by the dozen and surviving entire buildings toppling down around him—and swapped it all for the safe comforts of a somewhat sedentary existence with series mainstay Elena Fisher.

Just when it seems that he’s about ready to put roots down for good and leave all that life-threatening nonsense behind him, Nathan’s older brother Samuel (presumed dead) unexpectedly returns, antsy for the completion of a grand, unfinished adventure from their past. This time they’re after Pirate Captain Avery’s treasure in order to pay off Samuel’s somewhat involuntary debts, and their very lives hang in the balance!

Things are pretty familiar from here on out. Nathan is still so proficient at accidentally destroying things around him he could probably trigger a nuclear holocaust trying to operate a television set. The man’s a menace to everything within a hundred mile radius, and it’s no wonder he’s ended up with almost nothing to show for all his previous exploits—the entire world routinely explodes around him any time he makes any sort of half-decent discovery.

The game presents some incredible character performances, but the plot is weak and never manages to infect players with the same enthusiasm that the Drakes have for treasure hunting. Many of the twists are little more than excuses to have Nathan’s entourage change location to somewhere visually jaw-dropping whilst never shaking the narrative up in an interesting way. And frankly, the ‘Avery’s treasure is still out of reach’ shtick gets old fast, no matter how exciting each new clue is meant to be.

The villains in A Thief’s End are nowhere near as intimidating as series highlight, Zoran Lazarevic from Uncharted 2. This time, one’s an elitist prick with a chip on his shoulder because Nathan continually upstages him as a treasure hunter. The other’s an owner of a PMC filled with employees so ridiculously braindead that they spend most of their time blowing up priceless historical discoveries in a bid to get to the treasure faster. Though I can’t go into detail due to spoilers, quite a few ostensibly-climactic moments end up little more than damp squibs that squander interesting setups. 

While Uncharted is known for its attempts to splice action-oriented gameplay and cinematic storytelling into a single cohesive whole, said gameplay is pretty pedestrian when taken on its own merits. Traversal is probably the weakest element—despite some truly amazing visuals on display, moving around often involves little more than some brisk walking while casually chatting with an AI partner before hopping onto some ledges for incredibly simple platforming.

How simple? If Drake’s hand is outstretched when pointing in a direction, he’ll latch onto something safely when pressing the jump button. If the hand isn’t out, he’ll plummet to his death. It’s almost a totally binary system, generally unsatisfying and overused given that these massive traversal sections only serve to pad out the time between major setpieces. No matter how many times a ledge crumbles away in his grip, or how often a building explodes as he’s scaling it, it never becomes involving in a mechanical sense.

The puzzles are such a minor part of the experience now that they’re barely worth mentioning—the only time I got even momentarily stuck was once near the start due to one Roman numeral doing the work of two. The combat fares a little better, but still has a ton of gripes to contend with.

To be fair, Naughty Dog has at least tried to make these encounters more engaging. There are more stealth options than ever before, courtesy of huge bushes or tall patches of grass suspiciously plonked down near potential battlegrounds, but when it comes down to blowing enemies away with assault rifles and the like, Uncharted’s combat remains as substandard as it’s always been.

None of the weapons (except the occasional minigun or grenade launcher) are satisfying to use. Enemies soak up non-headshot damage like sponges and their weird stagger animations make them look as if they’re being hit by bouncy bullets. The worst part is how awkwardly Nathan controls—his aiming is floaty, the melee is some of the worst found in action games, and since the dodge is shared with the cover button, it’s far too easy to snag pieces of the environment while trying to roll away from a grenade blast.

Even with these issues, the normal difficulty level is mindlessly simple to the point where I often zoned out during combat. I almost wish I’d slapped on the ‘hard aim’ option during my playthrough—this improves the combat tenfold by simply locking dead-center onto enemies and allowing players to eliminate foes with a simple pull of the trigger. It’s effective, and the targeting continues to follow them as they stumble and flail around. It takes the hassle out of combat, but it also reduces it (like so much of Uncharted 4) to eye candy. Wooden cover gets blown apart as players cower behind it, and entire structures atomize as Nathan passes through. It routinely looks stunning, but feels hollow.

As for the multiplayer, it comes close to being an enjoyable diversion. Bullet impacts feel more solid and satisfying when enemies aren’t wriggling around like drunkards after getting shot, and there’s a good variety of maps, customization features, and combat abilities to keep things interesting. The problem here is that movement still doesn’t feel as snappy as it needs to, and I encountered frequent lag issues—things like bullets killing players after they obviously made it to cover, or a disconnection icon popping up to interrupt the proceedings even when playing on what was supposedly a near-perfect connection. It’s okay, but not enough to keep me coming back.

If Uncharted 4 played even half as good as it looked, it would be a masterpiece… but it doesn’t. In fact, for all its splendor and all the obvious care taken towards making it look and sound as good as humanly possible, it makes one cardinal sin that’s impossible to forgive—it’s downright boring to play. There are moments when it’s easy to get swept up the visual opulence and bombast, but then the moments pass, and it’s straight back to snarky comments and auto-climbing up mountainsides.

But hey—it sure does look nice, doesn’t it? Rating: 5 out of 10.

 

Disclosures: This game is developed by Naughty Dog and published by Sony Computer Entertainment. It is currently available on Playstation 4. This copy of the game was obtained via retail store and reviewed on the PS4. Approximately 15 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed5 hours of play were spent in multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated Teen and contains blood, language, use of alcohol and tobacco and violence. It’s all pretty cartoony stuff throughout, so most young adults would be fine with the rampant gunfights. It’s certainly less bloody than, say, Raiders of the Lost Ark was, though the sensory overload of many sequences might be too much for some younger gamers.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing: No real issues here. There are plenty of subtitles and visual cues to help play the game, and while some combat encounters may be made a bit harder with enemies more easily able to flank the Drakes due to lack of aural clues, it shouldn’t be too difficult on the standard difficulty.

Remappable Controls: This game offers a wide variety of  preset controller options to choose from.

Colorblind Modes: There are colorblind modes available in the options. I’d like to mention something quickly here too—Naughty Dog have clearly gone out of their way to make this game as accessible to a wide audience as humanly possible, including gamers with visual and audio impairments. As unimpressed as I was by Nathan’s latest adventure, they certainly deserve applause for being so incredibly considerate towards their userbase.

Darren Forman

Darren Forman

Spawned in the wilds of Scotland like some random MMORPG enemy whose sole purpose is to be hunted down and slaughtered for loot, young Darren spent the first fifty years of life eating bark and bears alike in a desperate bid to survive the elements.

The chance discovery of a muddy, burnt out copy of '50 Shades of Grey' in a hunting pit gave him an appreciation for complex plots, characters and overarching narrative, and the unexpected gift of a Spectrum 48k allowed him to indulge in these newfound sensibilities with intelligent, highbrow games such as 'flee from the badly animated spinning turquoise dolphins' or 'avoid the deadly glowing bricks of doom'.

The fusion of both these interests finally culminated with Darren teaching himself how to write by basically guessing at what words might look like when jotted down on paper as opposed to being howled inarticulately at the skies.

Now others occasionally get to read his scribblings. Lucky them.
Darren Forman

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Rangerman1208
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Rangerman1208

While it’s okay for someone to criticize a game, still, giving it a 5-6? That’s like giving Halo 5 a perfect 10. While Uncharted 4 still isn’t better than Uncharted 2, I still liked it more than Uncharted and Uncharted 3. And as for Naughty Dog’s TLoU, the things that I liked from TLoU better were its few rpg elements and the story, but I prefer Uncharted’s fast paced gameplay. While I don’t think this review is worse than the Washington Post’s review, still you went a bit too harsh with the game. Then again, I live in a world… Read more »

hokido
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hokido

2,4,3,1

Rangerman1208
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Rangerman1208

This. While Uncharted 4 isn’t better than Uncharted 2, it is atleast better than 3 and 1.

A lot of hate for the game mostly comes from people that either to didn’t like it as much as Uncharted 2 (which is acceptable) or are just newcomers that have never played any of the Uncharted games (I mean, come on, Rafe isn’t that bad. If you ask me, the villain in Uncharted 1 is by far the weakest). That, and possibly Nintendo, Xbox and/or Pc fanboys that just love to bash popular games on the PlayStation.

honkyjesus
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honkyjesus

Troy Baker – How dare you?!!?!

bluefox755
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This game is obviously not your cup of tea. You’re not reviewing it for yourself though, you’re reviewing it on it’s own merits. For instance, I’m not a big fan of Zelda or Halo, frankly, they bore me to tears. But I can acknowledge their merits and understand why they are great games. I’m not sure you understand how the review process is supposed to work. Perhaps that’s why you are 1 of 3 reviews out of 106 that is under 80. It’s not because everyone loved the game, and you didn’t. It’s because like it or not, everyone acknowledges… Read more »

chornum
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chornum

Im not sure you understand how the review process is supposed to work.

Solarys
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Solarys

This is not a game, this is an entertaining interactive movie. Nothing more. Or for lazy so-called gamers. There are so much websites spaces bought by distributors, so they can influence your critical mind. Consequence : you want to see the product better as it realistically is…

jared
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jared

this is definitely a game man you always have full control of drake, this is not no heavy rain or until dawn

Bob Dole
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Bob Dole

Best review I’ve seen of Uncharted 4. This game f-ing sucks.

The Doctor
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This guy, did a much better job than the guy at Washington Press. I still love this game, but at least you respected it. Good job.

rsanges
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rsanges

“Even with these issues, the normal difficulty level is mindlessly simple to the point where I often zoned out during combat. I almost wish I’d slapped on the ‘hard aim’ option during my playthrough—this improves the combat tenfold by simply locking dead-center onto enemies and allowing players to eliminate foes with a simple pull of the trigger. It’s effective, and the targeting continues to follow them as they stumble and flail around.” This, and the complaints of non-existing difficulty before, dosen’t make sense if your solution would be slapping Hard Aim. How does this improve the combat? It is there… Read more »

Solomon
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in my opinion, this, as a 3A title, has to be criticized more serisously and when it comes to these “level” of games then yes, u got 2 b serious as a revewer. BUT. As a gamer WHO is playing from the age of ATARI 2600 i got to admit that U4 does NOT deserve less than 8/10. And you know why??? because in this generation, Uncharted is, until now, the only truly “next-gen game”. I played Batman Arkham Knight (just good), GTAV (way overrated but still very good), Metal Gear V TPP(worst Metal Gear BUT still a good game),… Read more »

Li-Ion
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Li-Ion

That’s how opinions can differ 😉 I played Uncharted 4 until Madagascar, but then I was just too bored to continue and feel I wasted money on it, perhaps I should have traded it in straight away. If you like the “climbing” and traversal gameplay and the serviceable gunplay: great. I didn’t. Maybe it’s because I go climbing myself on actual rocks and find the way how Nathan zips around rather silly. And those climbing sections I don’t enjoy all that much just go on waaaaay too long. Uncharted 4 has really odd pacing in my opinion, reminded me a… Read more »

Tord
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I agree this game is a 10/10 and. For me the witcher is 10/10 . And i prefer uncharted 4 and the witcher 3 over the last of us. The last of us has so many faults, is not the masterpiece of masterpieces people claim it is, is max a 9/10. Simply story, easy, no really replay abillites, ellie break immersion, doesnt feel like horror, doesnt feel like survival unless you play on grounded. Predicatlbe story , full of tropes etc..

Ryan McCarthy
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Ryan McCarthy

I really enjoyed Uncharted 2 at the time but playing through Uncharted 4 pretty much confirmed that I’m pretty much over the series at this point. The stuff with Elena was probably the most engaging stuff in U4 but even then, you spend such long stretches of time without her that it’s a bit too little, too late by the time it gets to that stuff.

I didn’t find anything involving Rafe and Sam to be particularly interesting for the most part and while Nadine Ross had potential, I thought it was pretty much wasted by the end.

Tord
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i loved near everything with u4. And the parts with elena is definetly the best parts. I dont see anywhere in this review the score. So how metacritic guess this is 50 i dont know…

petyr
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petyr

I thought Lasarevic was to corny to be anywhere near intimidating, and the baddies in Uncharted 4 are great. Honestly, I really enjoyed it and just didn’t want it to end.

Skot
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Skot

Bravo.

Everyone’s telling me, “Well, the other Uncharteds were just okay, but this one is super good this time I swear,” but your review makes it sound like it’s exactly all the others in terms of gameplay. Hated the combat, bored by the point-A-to-B traversal.

tom
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tom

I feel pretty much the same.

Most of what you do in this game is the boring climbing. Game should really be called, Uncharted 4: Nothing left Unclimbed.

For all the talky-ness of Nate’s brother Sam – Who is a major introduction – Naughty dog never did anything with him to make me care about him at all.

And the main villain is the wussiest rich douch-bag, that doesn’t come across as intimidating let alone threatening. Weak.

Rangerman1208
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Rangerman1208

The I guess this isn’t the game for you. Most of Uncharted games are always like that, and people still love those games. And as for the villain? You probably never even seen the villain in the first Uncharted game. For me, he was the actual weakest villain in the Uncharted series.