Let’s get this out of the way first.
Uncharted 4 is without doubt the best game in the series and a contender for one of the all time greats.
Yes, it’s that good.
However, things were not always looking that way with troubles at Naughty Dog during early development leading to long time writer Amy Hennig and game director Justin Richmond leaving. In stepped Neil Druckmann and Bruce Straley to take up the reins. With the Last of Us writers and directors on board, nearly eight months of work under Hennig was thrown out as they began to craft what they called a ‘different’ Uncharted experience.
Since the events of Uncharted 3, Nathan Drake has given up his quest for ancient treasures and is happily married to Elena while holding down a day job at a salvage company. A normal life then it seems. It doesn’t take long before adventure comes knocking when Drake’s presumed dead brother, Sam, reappears with information on a new adventure and a plea to help save his life. This leads both of them on a hunt for Captain Henry Avery’s long-lost pirate treasure which has been hidden away for several hundred years. The hunt takes them on a journey through jungle islands, open plains, snowy highlands and urban cities to name just a few. Will this be Nathan Drake’s final adventure?
So is Uncharted 4 anything like The Last of Us? Yes and no. A key aspect of the design of The Last of Us was making sure that action sequences paralleled both the game’s story and the character arcs – an approach that they have taken with Uncharted 4, albeit with the action set pieces on a much larger scale. The story in Uncharted 4 is a surprisingly personal and dark tale backed up with excellent writing and performance capture. The previous Uncharted games had a goofy vibe to them but this is very much a gritty take on the Uncharted universe and it is much better for it.
Uncharted 4 begins with a cold open. Somewhere later on in the game. It gives a brief glimpse of where you will be ultimately heading before you are hurled into the credit sequence. After this, the game presents two chapters which serve as the tutorial. One for climbing, stealth and cover mechanics and the other for combat. The first chapter is beautifully subdued, an interesting way to open a massive action game. This is where the you see the influence of Druckmann and Straley on the game.
While playing these opening chapters you learn that cover is very important and that many cover objects are destructible. This means you can’t remain behind them forever and this gives an even greater sense of urgency to the combat than before. Stealth also plays a major part in Uncharted 4 too. Drake can now hide in long grass and tag enemies to track their movements. Each encounter is designed to be tackled with stealth or guns blazing. The choice is yours. Also added to Drake’s moves list is the new grappling hook. This allows you to reach places you normally wouldn’t and it will save your life a few times for sure!
Unfortunately, I cannot say much about the story without spoiling it. So I won’t. It is better experienced with no spoilers going in. What you can expected though is a fantastically told and utterly captivating story that clocks in around 13 to 16 hours depending on your play style. If you hunt for all the hidden collectibles then I would say it’s a 20+ hour game. As with normal Uncharted games, there are puzzles to be solved and shootouts to be survived and it has several jaw dropping set pieces that will make you mouth ‘WOW’ as you play. As for the ending, well, it’s satisfying and it comes with a wonderful epilogue chapter that brought a big smile to my face.
Uncharted 4 looks and sounds amazing as you would expect from Naughty Dog. There are certain portions of the game that are near photorealistic and it will make you stop in your tracks just to take it all in. The animation system has had an upgrade with Drake and fellow characters all animated smoothly and lifelike. Gone is the floating feeling of the previous Uncharted games, where Drake just didn’t seem to fit correctly into his surroundings. The hand to hand combat animations have also been refined leading to a much more fluid system complete with counters and team-up moves. Shooting has been beefed up with each weapon having a fantastic punch to them. It really does feel that your are brandishing an AK-47 when you are hunkered down in the middle of a firefight.
The sounds of gunfire and explosions are scarily realistic if you have decent pair 5.1 headphones or a home theatre system but are as equally good if you don’t. The musical score to the game is not as bombastic as you would think but in no way is it intrusive and it sits in the background very well conveying the emotions of the on screen action wonderfully. There is a portion later in the game where two characters are driving to somewhere (see, no spoilers) and a lonesome piano piece glides in from nowhere. Coupled with the visuals in that part of the game and the context of what the characters are doing it turns a random driving sequence into a very poignant scene. Remember the part in Red Dead Redemption as you cross the border into Mexico and the acoustic guitar begins to play….yeah, like that.
Overall, the single player is a very rewarding experience. The decision to ground the characters in a more believable world and have them behave like adults results in a better game and more interesting story. Yes, there are one liners and funny moments but as mentioned before, this Uncharted is a dark and gritty adventure. One that shouldn’t be missed.
Multiplayer in the Uncharted games has always been fast and furious. Uncharted 4 is no different. Having played a few hours on the review servers, the multiplayer is shaping up to be a fun component of the overall package. There are 4 competitive modes at the moment: Team Deathmatch (5 v 5), Plunder (4 v 4 CTF mode), Command (5 v 5 capture mode) and Ranked Team Deathmatch. Each of the modes can be played on any of the 8 maps featured at launch. The multiplayer portion of the game runs at 60fps and is silky smooth. Movement, gunplay and traversal have all been revamped to make this the most responsive and smoothest Uncharted multiplayer yet.
There are several new mechanics at play in this installment. First up, there is an in-match store. Every action you perform earns you cash, which can be spent in match to upgrade your gear, purchase heavy weapons, mysticals or sidekicks. This adds a great element to the game: save or spend choices. Do you buy the RPG now or save up and unleash your sidekick? As a counter balance, each time you purchase something, it gets more expensive the next time.
Mysticals are a loadout item that can be classed as a ‘special’ ability. They allow you to harness supernatural elements from previous Uncharted games such as the Wrath of El Dorado. When thrown, it unleashes spirits that track down and damage nearby enemy players. Sidekicks when called in will roam the map killing off your enemy. There are 4 sidekicks at the moment: Saviour, Sniper, Hunter and Brute each with their own loadouts and abilities.
Also new is the addition of a downed state. This allows a more team focused play style as downed players can be revived. Running as a group is far the better tactic now than being the lonesome one man army. Winning matches rewards you with Relic points. These points can then be spent on chests with random loot inside them. These range from new character models, weapon skins and clothing items for your characters. There are also Uncharted points which can be bought for real world money. Before you all freak out at a play to win situation it is not. They are only vanity items and anything that can be bought with Uncharted points, can be earned through playing the game.
The multiplayer once fully up and running at launch will be really fun to play. With only 8 maps at launch it might get a little stale but Naughty Dog have said they will support the game with free DLC. This would include new maps, weapons and game modes such as co-op. You can checkout the DLC plan here: Uncharted 4 Multiplayer plan and DLC roadmap
Uncharted 4 is very much worth your time. The best Uncharted yet? Check. Game of the Year contender? Check. A masterpiece? Most definitely. How would Naughty Dog top this? The Last of Us 2? A Crash Bandicoot reboot? Who knows but they have an immense challenge ahead of them.
Uncharted 4 is available on PlayStation 4 from May 10th.
Do check out our ongoing giveaway for the Uncharted 4 PlayStation 4 And Libertalia Collector’s Edition as well!