Sweet ice cream sandwiches Naughty Dog!!! How do you keep doing this!?
Now there are many video game development teams around today but this writer believes there is none quite like Naughty Dog! Year after year after year they are working their darndest only to deliver us masterpiece after masterpiece of an almost flawless level. Jak and Daxter, The Last of Us (!!!) and of course the Crash Bandicoot trilogy being remade in glorious high definition in one mouth watering packaged being released this year, these guys have one of the most impressive army of intellectual property’s but I feel like I’m missing one out…….oh yeah! UNCHARTED! This fantastic series over the past ten years has become one of the benchmarks of the Playstation exclusives and when I find myself in a debate with an Xbox devotee I ask them ‘But have you ever played Uncharted?’. Everything about the 4 main console games I just love, the stories are intense and riveting, the presentation is beautiful, the characters you grown to love and the gameplay is compelling and when Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End was announced I was like a hellhound wanting to get my claws into it so badly. Everything ran through my head after watching the first teaser ‘What’s Nate gotten himself into this time?’ ‘What does he mean by one last time?’ What does the title a thief’s end insinuate?’ And when I finally loaded this bad boy into my PS4 let me tell ya, much like the other 3 it did not disappoint.
Much like the second instalment, Uncharted 4 begins using a medias res format (for those of you that don’t know medias res is Latin for ‘in the middle of things’ with the story beginning at a crucial point in the middle with the story going back to the beginning and catching up) with our hero Nathan Drake on a boat in the middle of a storm with his estranged brother Sam but are they alone? OH HELLZ NAW! They are of course under fire from an angry group of treasure hunters. The combination of a barrage of bullets and stormy waters, Nate is thrown overboard into the vengeful sea. We are then taken to a couple of flashbacks to Nate and Sam’s childhood and early adult years gravitating around their hunt for the massive treasure of pirate Henry Avery, supposedly worth 400 million dollars. Come the present day Nate has left his life of treasure hunting and thievery behind and has settled into a normal life with his wife Elena, but with the re-emergence of his brother who has found himself in a spot of bother (under exaggerating trust me) our protagonist straps on the hiking boots and the half tucked shirt and begins the search for the lost treasure once again.
The gameplay is all too familiar for longtime fans of the series but if it isn’t broke don’t fix it. Every second I was playing sent me into a whirlwind of different emotions and feelings with fluid motion from the use of motion capture utilised throughout the series and power of the new console from being in absolute awe when trekking through the many different terrains to sheer intensity during combat, exploration has become an entirely different experience. Something I have always loved about Uncharted was the pace of the gameplay, during platforming sections Nate is limited to a brisk jog to give us all a friendly reminder to take a look at what is around us. Things go from one extreme to another with the amazing cinematic sequences that either match or even better the collapsing building section from Uncharted 2 and the sinking ship from Uncharted 3. These sequences leave your heart racing like it’s about to burst out of your chest.
Button commands are extremely responsive and fantastically laid out yet climbing can sometimes be a chore. At times I find that Nate would only recognise that there is a ledge to grab when the analogue stick was in a certain point with no margin for ever at all but the way I see it that’s just the developers trying to achieve perfection and total immersion. A new mechanic is introduced in the 4th entry, the use of a grappling hook is utilised throughout the entire adventure in order to traverse the environment in a whole new way (there is a lot of conveniently placed branches!) Combat is as intense and immersive as ever, headhots are satisfying and the and you can really feel the impact of the melee attacks, almost like you have been punched in the face yourself, sure people make fun of the regenerating health used in Uncharted and the Last of Us but when you’ve been pumped full of bullets and the screen starts to turn grey and the heart beat starts pumping you tell me you don’t start to panic just a little and its amazing!
As you can imagine Uncharted 4 looks incredible! We all thought that bettering the first 3 would be a task but with the power of the PS4 behind it MY GOD! They have outdone themselves. The character models are new and improved with each and every character looking so detailed and life like with expressions and lip syncing nailed to an absolute tee, you sometimes forget you’re looking at a video game. Also with a new game comes new locations, the snowy fields of Scotland looking positively wonderful and it looks almost like it goes on for miles and the mountains of Madagascar looks downright breath taking. Underwater exploration is both an awesome and calming experience with the blue hue of the sea making you at peace with yourself and I at one point found myself checking out its beauty for so long that I accidentally drowned. The little details come across like they were treated with the upmost importance as well with grass so vibrant and realistic you can smell and snow looking as pure and as chilling as the real thing you can really feel the blood, sweat and tears that went into making this game that it deserves nothing but respect.
In closing if this supposed final chapter could somehow be framed and put on display in a museum of sorts you better believe I would be there everyday! Nathan Drake comes across more human than ever in this instalment with his back-story blown wide open making him more investable and his and Elena’s story is wrapped up in a neat little package, I know gamers sometimes love an open ending with a chance of a sequel but this time around it feels justified and you can’t help but feel that each character both new and old came together to make this a memorable tale of betrayal, brotherly love and pirates! It ticks every box and I must buy for any PS4 owner.