Games of the Generation — Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

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Released in 2016, exclusively on the PlayStation 4, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is Nathan Drake and co’s swan song and one of the best titles to own on the PS4.

Read on where I’ll explain why I feel this way about Naughty Dog’s (presumably) last title in the Uncharted series and why it’s the perfect closure for one of PlayStation’s greatest and most successful series.

Whilst the game was reviewed positively for the most part back in 2016, there were a few outlets and gamers that came out stating the game wasn’t as good as they first thought. Stuff like “its the same poor gameplay” or “the shooting doesn’t feel very good” etc, etc. Whilst I respect those opinions (like assholes, everyone has one), I totally disagree with them. Uncharted 4, from a story and gameplay standpoint, is one of the greatest games to be released this generation.

Looking back at the series, Uncharted has always been a very strong first-party series for Sony and developer — Naughty Dog. Being a huge fan of the series I’d personally place my favourite in the franchise as the highly impressive Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (released way back in 2009 on the PS3). Here’s a thing, though. Whilst I absolutely adore Uncharted 2, it does have its issues — finicky weapon aiming and some weird story elements during the 2nd half of the story. And while Uncharted 4 isn’t as brave as Uncharted 2 with some of its story choices, it does feature a more grounded story full of emotional beats and intimate moments. It respects the stories that came before it whilst bringing Drake’s story to a compelling end.

But let’s be real here, Uncharted 4 went through some massive changes during its development cycle with some very important Naughty Dog members leaving during the early stages of development. Both creative director Amy Hennig and director Justin Richmond left for pastures new. This threw the whole Uncharted 4 project into doubt. Being a massive fan of the series and Hennig, for what she had done for it, I was a little worried as to how Naughty Dog would replace these large personalities within the development team. Could they really bring together a competent team to create an Uncharted 4 that the series deserved? Thankfully, yes. Naughty Dog had two extremely talented individuals to fill the void left by Hennig and Richmond — The Last of Us directors Neil Druckmann and Bruce Straley.

That’s enough of me talking about the development of the game and what happened during the early days, but one thing is for certain, having two members that helped create a dark, gritty (and terrifying) game like The Last of Us, really helped shape Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End into what we see today and that’s a great thing. Yes, Uncharted 4 has its light-hearted moments, as you’d expect with a Nathan Drake adventure, but it also has a much more gritty and grounded feeling when compared to previous games in the series.

Naughty Dog are renowned for being the best storytellers in the industry. They manage to create gripping stories filled with believable and relatable characters whilst making sure that the games are still fun to play. Uncharted 4 is no different. Uncharted 4’s story is told brilliantly, swaying back and forth with fantastically written story elements, performed by some of the best voice actors in the business each doing their thing to bring it to life. Naughty Dog managed to create a fitting end to Nathan Drake’s story despite the lull period that the development team went through. It’s a testament to the sheer talent involved in the making of the game, to produce such a strong end product.

Not only is Uncharted 4’s story extremely strong, but the gameplay has been improved massively as well. Gunfights feel more alive and tighter, new stealth elements work as expected and the set-pieces have been taken up a notch with that signature craziness that we’ve come to expect from the Uncharted series. Alongside more refined gunfights and the like, the game also has a more open feel to it. It’s not open world per se, but more a focused and linear environment with an open-world feel. This, for me, works very well for a game like Uncharted 4 as it gives us the ability to explore the world but doesn’t detract from pushing the story forward which is one of the main traits of the Uncharted series.

Alongside a great story and more refined gameplay, one of the games other standout elements is from a graphical standpoint. Uncharted 4 is still one of the best-looking titles released on any platform. 4 years on the game still looks fantastic and it’s testament to how far advanced Uncharted 4 was when it released. We’ve seen advancements of tech across lighting, facial animation, AI and just general graphical fidelity over the years, yet Uncharted still holds its own. Beautifully animated characters, stunningly realistic environments and cutscenes that blend into the gameplay without ever pulling you away from the action are the icing on the cake. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is quite simply a stunningly crafted game from start to finish.

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is the perfect send-off for Nathan Drake setting him off to sail into the sunset. This is down to a brilliantly written story that fills in the gaps from previous games with emotional beats and fantastic voice acting. It expands the universe of Nathan Drake by creating a beautiful and visually stunning world which begs for one last exploration. If you own a PlayStation 4 and haven’t played this yet, do yourself a favour and treat all your senses to one of the greatest video games that we’ve seen this generation.

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I'm a huge fan of the PES, MGS and Uncharted series', and anything else in between. If you love a good gaming discussion or want to talk about anything else, then feel free to get in touch.

@GariClark

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