Right off the bat, I want to explain why I decided to use the Japanese title art for my main banner instead of the North American/European one. Well, first of all, I do live in Japan, and this is technically the version I played, but also, I think the Japanese title better suits the game and is an all-round better title. Hell, it reminds me of an Indiana Jones title, which I find to be much more intriguing and refreshing.
The Japanese title is “アンチャーテッド 海賊王と最後の秘宝”, which is “Uncharted: The Pirate King and the Last Treasure” in English. Something about that struck me stronger and brighter than the ultra-vague and misleading “A Thief’s End” subtitle, but I guess that’s the theme of Uncharted games in English to have vague titles that don’t really have anything to do with the story.
But I digress.
Uncharted 4 is a great addition to the series that gets a lot of things right, gets some things wrong, doesn’t quite fix past things, but also tries some new stuff with superb success.
It’s hard to not first talk about the story of a Naughty Dog game, especially one that is so heavily driven by its narrative. Uncharted 4 takes place years after the events of Uncharted 3, and Nathan is in a much more normal state. He’s working a salary job, he’s married, he does the dishes, etc. It’s a much different Nathan Drake than we are used to, but based on the ending of Uncharted 3, it all flows very well into this 4th installment.
The big addition to Uncharted 4's story is Sam, Nathan’s long lost, older brother. Although he’s a central character to the story, Sam is far from the most interesting part of Uncharted 4. The greatest dynamic, I believe, it simply Nathan and his own interpersonal conflict; Is this mundane life enough? Is this the life that I really wanted? You can tell that Nathan is struggling with this and even the state of his own marriage, which plays out like neither Nathan or Elena are happy with where they are.
There’s a lot of passive aggressiveness between the two during early and later interactions, and it’s unsettling at times, because it feels like watching a marriage fall apart before your very eyes. It’s real and quite raw, and I thought it added some major layers to the story, since it added a very real-world element to a fictional adventure.
Now, speaking of the adventure, as the Japanese title imples, we are hunting for PIRATE TREASURE! One of the things I really love about the Uncharted series is their usage of real characters, potentially real places, and then writing them into the fictional Uncharted world. I love this approach, because I feel like I’m constantly learning something in the midst of following Nathan’s life, the Uncharted 4 story, and the mystery that unfolds as you discover more and more about the life of Captain Avery, “The King of Pirates”, as he was known as in history.
Uncharted 4 does a great job of combining real-world struggles in the midst of an astoundingly interesting story that revolves around a very interesting character in world history. I know it’s easy to write off pirates as “played out”, but Uncharted 4 is not a pirate game. It is a discovery/adventure game about pirates, and you will learn a great deal about the history of pirates and events from the late 1600's.
Like with prior Uncharted games, there is a split balance between solving puzzles/discovering the world around you and murdering a ton of people. This hasn’t changed at all in Uncharted 4, so expect a lot of the same; lots of climbing, lots of quick time events, bad guys always getting ahead of you and killing all of them, and lots of little trinkets that the game calls “treasure” to find.
But Uncharted 4 introduces two new puzzle/action elements that add a lot of depth to the aforementioned routines, and that is rope swinging and using the winch on your jeep.
Oh, and did I mention you get to drive at times in Uncharted 4? All of the mentioned new elements are easy to use, and they are all introduced very well and provide a lot more to the puzzles in the game. Driving is a breeze, and some of the areas that it allowed you to drive through were truly breath taking. Some times you forgot you were actually driving a car in a game, because you were too busy just admiring the world around you (Yes, I crashed a few times while doing so).
The winch, especially, was such an awesome addition, and like Stephen Totilo mentioned in The Kotaku Review, it’s an ability that is as easy as seemingly wrapping a thread around a pencil, but it’s awesome to be able to bring the winch around something and hook it to provide a pulley or anchor of sorts. It works incredibly well, and it was a lot of fun to use when the opportunity was presented.
But where things were awesome, Uncharted still hiccups when it matters most. All too often Nathan jumped away from where I wanted, had a hard time finding the ledge I wanted to grab onto, and boy o’ boy did I die a lot more times from in-game errors than from my own mistakes. Let’s just say that the controls can be quite wonky at times, but if you’ve played past Uncharted games, you know what I’m talking about. Those same issues are still present, and they are equally frustrating this time as they were the other times.
Combat is simply cover and shoot. There are a ton of different guns to play with, and there is always something to hide behind. There are a few areas where you can strictly do stealth, if you so choose. Personally, I found the stealth methods to take too much time, so I preferred to just quickly kill the swarms of pathetic hired guns to more quickly clear areas so I could look around or move on. It’s combat, and like past Uncharted games, combat is not its strongest area. It’s the same here.
With the addition of driving, rope swinging, and winching, Uncharted 4 has a lot more going on mechanically, and it feels like a better adventure game because of it.
Seriously, look at this. So much of Uncharted 4 looks like this. Vast areas full of life, color, and space to cover. Every time, Uncharted does a great job of immersing you into the worlds it wants you to discover. While playing, I felt like I was traveling to the different areas with Nathan and Sam, and I hated it when I had to turn off the game to go to bed (Damn you, work!).
This is not an area that I have much to say outside of; WOW! It’s absolutely gorgeous, and one of the best looking console games on the market.
In my personal opinion, this is Uncharted 4's strongest area. The soundtrack and voice acting were all unbelievably good, set the tone, and helped to make the environments and settings more realistic and powerful.
First off, the soundtrack. You might not even notice it upon your first play, because it is so subtle, but wow, does it do a great job of setting the tone, preparing you for danger, making you smile when you discover, and just doing its job of pulling at your emotions depending on the scenario that it is playing you to. It really is awesome, and it’ll be heavily under-appreciated because of the other more flashy areas of the game’s strengths.
The voices were all awesome, as expected from a stellar cast. Nolan North is great again as Nathan, Emily Rose was fantastic in reprising Elena, Troy Baker did a fine job as Sam, and not surprising at all, Richard McGonagle hits it out of the park as Sully. Even Warren Kole and Laura Bailey did great at giving the bad guys such energy in their performances through the game.
Uncharted 4 was at it’s strongest when people were speaking. Even when I was playing the other day, my wife kept snickering in the other room while I was playing, and I asked her, “Babe, why are you laughing?” She said, “The bantering is awesome! I can’t believe you’re not watching a cut scene right now, because the content of this dialog is so rich!” And she’s right. There’s so much heavy, insightful, and emotional dialog going on during the games puzzles and discovery sequences, and the times spent with Sam, Sully, and Elena are developed all the more during the actual play times. It makes every moment special in its own way, and it’s thanks to a superb cast that really helped bring the characters to life.
Uncharted 4's multiplayer is surprisingly fun, albeit having the same issues at the single player. Wonky controls while jumping and climbing can, in the blink of an eye, be your death.
Despite that, there’s a lot to do, and it sounds like Naughty Dog is putting a lot of effort into keeping their multiplayer alive and strong.
Action and gameplay are exactly the same as the single player, and you’ll notice the environments used for multiplayer are pulled directly from single player areas. The one major difference in regards to combat is that the multiplayer has a Gears of War-like “double-down” gameplay, meaning that you are first “Downed” and then you “Die”. While downed, your teammates can revive you, which if that happens takes away a potential point for the other team. In Team Deathmatch, points are only awarded for kills, not downs. That mean you have to be quick to down and kill your enemies if you want to win certain game types (If a teammate doesn’t revive, then the downed player will eventually die, earning a kill for the team).
Speaking of game types, there are three. Team Deathmatch, Command, and Plunder. Command is simply capturing points while killing enemies, and Plunder is like capture the flag, but with an idol. All modes are fun, but Team Deathmatch is definitely the most lively and entertaining.
During matches, you earn money by killing enemies, completing objectives, collecting treasure, and just staying alive. You use this money during the match to purchase upgrades, like better weapons, an AI partner, magical abilities, grenade upgrades, etc.
Of course, accessing the shop menu leaves you vulnerable, so you need to be wise as to when to use it and where to use it. But let it be known that buying upgrades is essential, so don’t let your money go to waste. All money earned during a single match can only be used during that match, so please spend away.
There are also many classes to choose from, as well as the ability to make your own Loadouts. Uncharted 4's multiplayer also has a seemingly “Free to Play” model where you can spend real money to buy cosmetics for your characters. However, you are still able to earn currency to buy these cosmetics without having to spend real money, but of course that takes more time (Naturally).
Uncharted 4's multiplayer is a nice addition on top of what is a great game. If you enjoy multiplayer, I definitely recommend checking this out, but if you aren’t a fan of online shooters, just stick to the single player. That’s definitely a nice thing about Uncharted is that it really does seem to try and please both the single and multiplayer crowds, and although it’s not perfect, it’s a damn fine effort.
I give Uncharted 4 a GOOD rating (On a scale of SUCK -> MEH -> DECENT -> GOOD -> EXCELLENT). It’s a great load of fun, lots to do, lots to collect, a fun multiplayer mode to play on the side, and many reasons to want to go back and revisit the story. It has its flaws, but it is still a wild ride that I highly recommend. As for the four Uncharted games, Uncharted 4 ranks #2 on my personal list (And if you don’t know what #1 is, well, you haven’t played all of the Uncharteds.).
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Lord Disco is a video game addict and has been playing since the ripe young age of 5-years-old. He is married to an awesome wife, has two fantastic kids (Named Logan Tiberius and JoJo), and currently lives and works in Tokyo, Japan. Not necessarily a writer by trade, but he enjoys sharing his opinions with the world, whether they like it or not. Check him out on Twitter @TheLordDisco.