Aza’s Review – Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

Nathan Drake gets his swan song in the fourth installment of Naughty Dog’s hugely successful Uncharted series. Sumptuous visuals, gorgeously integrated cinematic storytelling and an expansive game play make Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End a crowning achievement!

Ostensibly a sardonic and wryly humourous male version of the Tomb Raider series, Uncharted certainly put game developers Naughty Dog on the map. From Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves and Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception, we’ve rollicking along with haphazard treasure hunter (and part time brutal spree killer) Nathan Drake and his sidekick Sully, girlfriend Elena and a host of supporting players who may or may not be a part of the team.  The world of Uncharted is a globe trotting affair which is exquisitely realised within the games (they are gorgeous to look at) when combined with its action elements, character driven story lines and puzzle solving staples it provides the player with a wholly intoxicating interactive experience.

Then along comes Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

Set some 3 years after the events of Drake’s Deception, we reconnect with Nathan as he’s on a small boat with an ally fending off treacherous seas and nefarious bad guys hell bent on killing them. The brief prologue, a standard scene setter of things to come, then jumps back to two key story elements. The introduction of his brother, Sam, whilst Nathan was in an orphanage and modern day Nathan who, now married to Elena, works as a recovery diver for a scrapyard having hung up his stirrups on his adventuring days. When Sam miraculously turns up needing Nathan’s help, the pieces are set in motion for the big ‘one last job’ that Nathan reluctantly agrees to.

Be it in a Panamanian prison, a Madagascan island, a Scottish graveyard or an American orphanage, Naughty Dog takes all the evolving assets that made The Last Of Us the best console game ever created and enhances them to spectacular effect here. Every set piece is stunning, character animation precise and intricate detail observed. In a word the whole package is opulent. This is a titanic effort of a game, a sumptuous, wholly gratifying experience in which its creators want to give the sprawling send off the Nathan Drake character deserves. And they do it.

Gameplay is the same as previous entries with enhanced features such as rapelling, rope swinging and winches. Sliding down surfaces (rockslides, shale, ice) makes for an exhilarating rush when they appear and the fan favourite of being in a collapsing structure which you are falling through whilst being shot at is featured as well. The added bonus of longer driving sequences, parkour and expansive exploration opportunities make the replay factor exceptionally high. Puzzles are fun and slightly challenging in which, if you get stuck, the game itself will help you solve them. Despacthable bad guys are everywhere and you can decimate them pretty much anyway you want with guns or hand to hand combat.

Plotwise, the narrative arc of A Thief’s End aims at bringing Drake to an emotionally fulfilled resolution. There are revelations along the familial backstory that add for a nice touch and, whilst it doesn’t quite reach the emotional engagement that The Last of Us did, there are a couple of key lump-in-throat moments when you come to realise that this is the final hurrah for these characters. Some of the devices you’ll see coming miles off, others come as a nice surprise.

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is a stunning achievement and will easily be in everyone’s top 5 of the year. It’s full of good humour, plenty of character development and magnificent set pieces to keep you dazzled as you trek on this grand adventure. If this is Nathan Drake’s final outing then bon voyage, my fair friend, you’ve sailed off in style…