As South Africa enters its 21-day lockdown in order to combat the spread of the coronavirus, it has left many civilians in the isolation of their homes. Many see this as a great opportunity to spend quality time with some family and loved ones, while others cherish diving into forms of entertainment to occupy their time and pass the weeks (when not working remotely, in that case). To cushion some of the tedium, Nexus has decided to create a daily feature in which we recommend games of varying lengths and content that could pass the time. Our thirteenth recommendation in Lockdown Gaming is free, right now, on your PlayStation 4 granted you have PS Plus. I'm talking about Naughty Dog's (other) masterpiece, Uncharted 4: A Thief's End.
Every time I find myself writing about Uncharted 4: A Thief's End, I’m met with a mix of emotions. On one hand, the game is a last bittersweet swan song to the end of a great era of video games, and it pained me to see it fade out with such extraordinary flare. Perhaps it’s the way the game concludes that leaves you wanting so much more, but in the end, you know for certain that this is the way it should end too. On the other hand, Uncharted 4 is, still, unquestionably one of the best video games of the last decade, and in my humble opinion, one of Naughty Dog's best.
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End takes a slightly newer direction than previous entries in the series in terms of narrative. Unlike the upbeat action/adventure tones of its predecessors, Uncharted 4 paints a rather bleak and foreboding picture. A few years after the events of Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception, Nathan Drake is happily married to Elena and retired from a life of treasure-hunting. Though he still yearns to get back into the sprawling globe-trotting adventures again, he quietly assumes his duties as a loving husband and toned-down treasurer. However, a spark from his past reintroduces himself as Sam Drake, Nate’s older brother who was long thought to be dead. Stuck in a bit of a bind, he asks Nate for help to find a fabled, legendary pirate treasure. Nate reluctantly (I use that term lightly) agrees to aid his older brother on the quest, and thus begins one of gaming’s greatest adventure tales.
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End drives its narrative along at a sturdy but always captivating pace, but as I mentioned before, the one huge change most evident about the tone and themes is how dark and almost unpleasantly it presents itself. It’s not the cheery, good vibes of the previous games which admittedly fueled much of the entertainment factor in the games’ campy nature, but rather a worn out, tired story as old as time itself, but with a starker contrast to adventuring.
Here, Nathan Drake has lost much of the youth and charm that made him such a confident protagonist to invest in, and rather strips these characteristic emotions bare. There’s layers to Nate, and it forces players to reconsider the consequences and inner feelings of Nate’s actions on so many levels, that the entirety of the series takes on a new life. Naughty Dog seemed to have heavily borrowed from The Last of Us in terms of narrative pull, and with the creative team behind that game helming Uncharted 4, it’s not hard to see why this story simply works as an immensely satisfying emotional pay-off.
Uncharted 4 boasts the series' most outstanding gameplay, implementing new ideas while mostly remaining true to the heart and soul of the franchise. Coupled with the amazing graphics, the gameplay is fast-paced, fluid, and leaves you on the edge of your seat in every chapter. Nate’s movement is vastly improved, with him reacting to gunfire and taking cover in a more natural way. While there’s certainly no shortage of spectacular gunfights, Uncharted 4 chooses to greatly expand on the insanely big action set pieces the series has become known for. Nate is constantly in a state of peril, even when going undercover at fancy balls in the middle of the jungle (at least there’s some practicality in that location, but it doesn’t stop it from being a love-letter to its counterparts that the series’ stealth and a good portion of its sneaking gameplay so lovingly borrows from Metal Gear Solid, for example).
The action is jaw-dropping, and goes well beyond the call of duty (see what I did there?) when introducing one every couple of chapters, especially evident in the second half of the game. However, that’s not to say the game is constantly on high adrenaline. The quieter moments of the game allow us, as the players looking in, to really grasp the simple new mechanics that make a world of difference. A new mechanic introduced is the grappling hook, which allows you to swing around like Spider-Man while navigating the environment. The gunfire elements feel less of a tacked on addition and actually add to the game’s fluid narrative, and the puzzle segments, while requiring a bit of brainpower, don’t feel overwhelmingly daunting.
In short, it’s everything we’ve come to expect from an Uncharted game, and Naughty Dog seemed to offer a bit more on the side. I’ll avoid spoilers (in case you're one of the few people who haven't played it yet), but a good majority of what I’d like to speak about concerning gameplay falls into spoiler territory. In essence, it’s the sum of a whole bunch of parts that have been slowly tweaked to utmost perfection over the years.
Visually, Uncharted 4 still holds back no punches, and neither will I in saying it’s easily one of the best looking games on PS4. Naughty Dog have done an outstanding job with the visuals of the game, emphasizing the sheer scale of the environments while nailing the characters various facial details and reactions. Continent-hopping is a given in any Uncharted experience, and the grand scale of the sprawling cities, rooftops, and jungles all play a part in making Uncharted 4 a resoundingly ambitious and viscerally mindblowing journey. Taking the pin-point attention to detail of The Last of Us while injecting the trademark Uncharted brand of insanely rich environments is what separates Naughty Dog from any other developer working today.
Writer. Enthusiast of all things geek. Legend has it he completed Final Fantasy VII without a memory card.
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