Developer: Naughty Dog
There is not much we need to say about Naughty Dog a a name gamers have come to know very well since the days of the first Playstation. It all started with Crash Bandicoot, now a game and character that is almost just as recognizable as Mario and Sonic. Then there is Jak and Daxter, a duo most gamers have come to know and love from the days of the Playstation 2. Lastly, during the Playstation 3 era, they introduced us to Nathan Drake and the rest of the crew with Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, a series which has also seen great success.
While The Last of Us was a hit late into the Playstation 3’s life cycle in 2013, it has been around four years since we last saw a new Uncharted adventure, and that is even including Golden Abyss on the Vita which came out only a month after Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception. With the latest installment on the horizon, fans were given a shot to refresh their memories while an opportunity arose for folks who had yet to experience the franchise could do so with the Nathan Drake Collection that includes all three games that made it to PS3.
Are you all caught up now? Good, because we are about to explore what’s inside this fourth and (supposedly) final installment titled A Thief’s End.
Violence: The combat in these games have always been centered around shooting and gunfights. When shooting enemies you can see red coming from their bodies, but it is not as extreme like some other games are known for.
Language: Characters in the series have always used curse words like sh**, d*mn, a**, and d**k but I do not recall ever hearing the F-word. Many games overuse swearing, but Uncharted implements it in such a way that it closely resembles real life and how one might act in these situations.
Drug/Tobacco Use: Throughout the game you will notice the character Sam is occasionally smoking cigarettes, while Sully has been known to and is seen smoking cigars as well. There is one scene where Sam and Nathan share a few beers while on a boat ride. There is also a scene that is set during an auction; drinks that are most likely alcoholic beverages are being served throughout the party.
Possible Disturbing Images: There are many moments in the game where the player will encounter skeletons of dead pirates and treasure hunters. Late in the game the player will also encounter mummified bodies.
Spiritual Content: The first half of the game makes many biblical and Catholic references. The journey starts out with clues that revolve around a cross with Saint Dismas on it, who was the thief that Jesus had spoken to during his crucifixion.
Positive Content: One of the huge themes in this game is definitely greed. Multiple parties are fighting to find a specific treasure. Despite having different motives, some characters begin to question their choices and decide whether or not their pursuits are worth the costs.
Naughty Dog has truly outdone themselves with Uncharted 4, first of all in the area of graphics. I always felt like the previous games had a slight cartoon-like look to their characters, but that is out the window here—Uncharted 4 is easily the best looking game out right now not just because of the landscapes, but also the rendering of the characters. Their facial details and the way they move and interact with others had me reminding myself that this is in fact a video game.
I really noticed that everything simply flows better this time around while climbing and traveling through the levels. In the past, climbing always felt very stiff and linear, but now it feels more natural. These sequences also could get tiresome in the previous games, but now we have a few new gameplay mechanics that break up some of that. The grappling hook is especially a ton of fun as it is used in a number ways such as swinging, climbing, and pulling objects. (Of course they couldn’t just give Nate a whip no matter how much they might have wanted to….) This thing saves Nate’s life in a number of epic ways, so I wonder why it took Nathan four games to remember to bring it along while Lara Croft has brought one on every adventure since Tomb Raider Legend.
A really vast improvement I enjoyed is the combat. Most encounters are centered around the enhanced stealth mechanics. They are still light, but you now have tall grass to hide in and can tag enemies. If you are skilled enough, you can handle a whole encounter without getting spotted. I found myself getting caught due to my own errors, but by the end of the game I would take out over half of the enemies before slipping up, which would leave me three or four to shoot it out with. I also felt that this keeps things from getting as frustrating than the previous games. In totality, I did not find this game nearly as difficult as the others when it comes to the shootouts. The sound of the guns and the way they handle make them feel more realistic as well. My favorite weapons to use are still the high-powered pistol and sniper rifle.
Out of the entire series, A Thief’s End is the longest of them all; the average time it takes to finish the game is sixteen hours. Some have criticized that it might be a few hours too long and recommend that you do not try and blow right through it. I took that advice and ultimately do not feel the same way, it is a long game considering the genre, but I found the length to be just right. The combat encounters are spread farther apart between which is a good thing with a lot of traversal mixed in with about two or three jeep sequences which I really enjoyed.
Throughout your sixteen hour journey, the collectibles are no longer limited to just treasure. Along with that comes journal entries, notes or letters, and hidden dialogue conversations. Nathan’s journal feels more advanced in this way; when you find any notes or letters he will store it on a specific page—it is no longer simply reserved for puzzle clues. Some of the hidden dialogue provides a good laugh, and most of them interact with whoever your companion is on the given mission. For example, at one point in the game when you get in the water, Nate yells “Marco” which references back to the second game. You can earn a trophy when doing this.
When you have finally finished the game, there are plenty of extras to unlock just like in the previous entries. You can unlock character models, weapons, game modifiers, and game renders. Two of my favorite game renders are cel shaded and 8-bit, and they are pretty self explanatory in what they do. The cel chaded look turns things into more comic style rather than a cartoon look, similar to the way Borderlands does their art style. The 8-bit render is almost funny in a way that it looks a lot like when Gameboy Advance games tried to render 3-D environments, and there is even the proper sound to go with it. If players want to challenge themselves and get more out of the game, there is a mirror mode. I bet turning that on along with cranking up the difficulty to “crushing” will test your skill and patience.
When playing the Nathan Drake Collection, I was slightly bummed that they didn’t include any multiplayer components from the second or third game. Well, it turns out multiplayer is back in A Thief’s End, yet I feel like it wasn’t necessary to even include it. I loved the multiplayer in the previous iterations, and it can be just as fun here as well. Still, I feel that at this day and age an Uncharted game is not a place you should go looking for competitive multiplayer. They do shake things up in a silly and fun way with the idol abilities and the support units, but if I want to play some online multiplayer, this just isn’t the first game I would run to.
Naughty Dog has easily made improvements on every category, but the one key factor that ties all of it together is the story, At this point, Nathan is already out of the treasure hunting game and has been for some time. All of that changes when he reunites with his brother Sam, who Nate believed to be dead after a job that had gone very wrong. Even if this is the longest game in the series, the gameplay was divided by some very well done cutscenes. While the introduction is solid, there is a very shocking plot twist that drastically changes things a little over halfway through the game, and with all of that comes with an ending that wraps things up in such a way that every minute I spent with the game became worth it. The Uncharted games were never known for their gameplay anyway; the story has always been what we play these games for in the first place.
It seems that Sony’s exclusives have been far and few between lately, but Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is something PS4 owners can be proud of. This is the game that you will want to show to your friends and relatives and say “This is why I play video games.” With the way technology is advancing video games have become a work of art and not just a form of entertainment, Uncharted 4 is exactly that. Whether this will be the last game in the series or the last time we see Nathan Drake in the starring role, I bid farewell and cannot wait to see what Naughty Dog has for us in the future.
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