The acquisition of the Playstation 3 is a particularly fond video game memory for me. After both my fiancée and I returned home from hard days of work, we made a spur of the moment decision that hey, I bet going out and buying a PS3 would cheer us up! I had been saving for one anyway so the idea wasn’t that sudden, but going out and buying it that night was certainly never the plan. Side note - we foolishly passed up the model with PS2 backwards compatibility, but that regret wouldn’t fully settle in for a few years. Anyway, once we had the system we needed some games. The first game we purchased together? Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune.
I loved it. Then Uncharted 2 came out a couple years later and I really, reallllly loved it. Then Uncharted 3 came out and it was very good, but the formula had started to wear a little dry at that point. My main memory of the third game is that I inexplicably purchased the special edition with that giant Nathan Drake statue. It sat untouched on my shelf for years and I honestly couldn’t tell you where it is now.
I was excited at the prospect of a fourth Uncharted. It has been a while since the third game and I was ready to dive back into that world. I was hoping for the same kind of leap from Uncharted 3 that the second game was to the first and holy shit, did I ever get that.
Uncharted 4 picks up a few years after the events of 3 and shows what Nathan has been up to since he decided to give up the Indiana Jones lifestyle. He has settled into a happy routine, but obviously misses the thrill of adventuring and just straight up murdering fools by the hundreds. He gets his chance to return to this world with the sudden re-appearance of his brother Sam, not previously mentioned in any of the other games but worked in surprisingly convincingly. Sam ends up taking Nathan along with him as they seek out the lost treasure of pirate Henry Avery. Then a whole bunch of other stuff happens that I am not going to get into here.
For all the things I loved about the previous games, the stories would not be the near the top. They were perfectly enjoyable adventure fare, but not much more than that. Uncharted 4 surprises by delivering a consistently engaging story that quickly became one of the main things propelling me forward. I always liked the characters in these games, but this felt like the first time I genuinely cared for them and often feared for them. All of the relationships are completely fleshed out, with Nathan and Elena being the stand-out. It’s a true testament to the writing and characters that an early dinner scene between the two was easily one of the highlights of the whole experience.
For a character that has never once been mentioned and yet becomes the driving force behind the plot of this game, I thought Sam was a very strong character as well. His arc took some directions I wasn’t expecting and he strikes a good balance between slimy and charming. A lot of time is taken to establish the backstory of him and Nathan and it helps add a lot of weight to their relationship. Really, I don’t have to break it out individually like this. Every character, with perhaps the exception of the main villain, is fleshed out and all of them partake in some of the best banter I’ve witnessed in a video game. I don’t think I ever heard a piece of dialogue repeat, and I was especially impressed when some secondary dialogue was interrupted by scripted speech, only to then have a character say “anyway what were we talking about?” and returning right back to the secondary dialogue. It’s the small moments like that which really add up to un-paralleled presentation.
There’s been a lot of talk, pretty much since the new generation of consoles were released in 2013, that they are significantly underpowered. This has only escalated in recent weeks/months with the rumours of upgraded versions of both the PS4 and Xbox One being in development. It’s too bad Uncharted 4 wasn’t released a little sooner because it quickly would have put any of those concerns to rest. I for the life of me can’t think of a game that looks better than this. Granted my PC hasn’t been capable of running modern-ish video games in years so I’m not too familiar with what they got goin’ on over there, but I have to imagine that even factoring PC into the equation, this has to be right up there. It’s definitely the console champion. A good chunk of my time spent playing this game was simply standing perfectly still and panning the camera around in order to take in all of the details. It’s the one time I’ve spent more than a few minutes in Photo Mode as I really wanted to take some “holy shit you gotta look at this” screenshots.
Ok so in terms of looks, this game is basically unequalled. What about the gameplay itself? I mean…it’s Uncharted. You ready to climb shit? Because my man, you are gonna climb some shiiiiiiit. As much as I loved the story and characters, I was surprised by just how long the game really takes to get going. I would say it’s at least chapter 7 or 8 where the game really takes off and becomes more than simply climbing and maneuvering an environment. I was never bored as there was always enough happening with the world itself to keep me interested, but I admittedly was starting to get a little restless. Thankfully when things get going, they rarely slow down.
I’ve always liked the shooting in Uncharted, even though the enemies do tend to get a little bullet spongey, even on Normal difficulty. I can definitely remember numerous occasions where I would unload a clip into a dude’s chest, only to have him pop back up and keep right on going. It’s been long enough since I’ve played the others that I can’t say for sure if they have refined the shooting a whole lot, but I had no significant issues with it before, and I don’t now.
It helps that the shoot-outs are almost always taking place in open environments, so it’s not about staying put behind cover and shooting dudes as they pop out of hiding. I mean you could do that, but chances are high that while you’re doing that, a guy is going to run around behind you and ice you instantly. You are usually free to approach these encounters in a variety of ways. There is a large emphasis on stealth (something that actually adds some variety to those early climbing sections) as you can stalk around inside tall grass and gank people velociraptor style. You can also use the newly introduced grapple hook (which thank god Nathan has on this particular adventure because you seemingly need it every 2-3 minutes) to swing around and shoot people above, Tarzan style. Probably. I never saw Disney’s Tarzan but he occasionally fires an AK-47 while swinging from a vine right? It keeps the fights from getting stale as you are able to change up your strategies from encounter to encounter.
No franchise does spectacle quite like Uncharted and while this game felt like it had fewer huge set pieces than the previous ones, the ones it delivers are absolutely incredible. There’s a chase about midway through the game that is easily one of the most impressive sequences I’ve played through in any video game. My wife was watching me play and often assumed she was witnessing a cut-scene. She was consistently surprised when I would reiterate that I was absolutely still in full control of the character. It’s one of the few times I can recall where a sequence ended, and I immediately wanted to quit out to the menu and play through it again. It’s worth noting that this is entirely possible as you are able to load both chapters and individual encounters from the main menu, which is a very nice touch.
I would say the campaign took roughly 15 hours to complete, and that was with minimal to medium amounts of exploring as I’m saving the collectables for a second playthrough. I’ve read a few accounts that the game lingers around longer than it should, but I never felt like I was ready for things to end. The conclusion felt natural and, if this is indeed the last Uncharted game, I felt like the ending was an absolutely perfect send-off for the series.
The multiplayer…exists. I’ve only played a few matches and it’s certainly well put together and a good deal of fun, I just don’t see myself spending a significant amount of time with it. It’s what I consider almost a bonus to the single player stuff.
You got a Playstation 4? Buy Uncharted 4. If you at any point appreciated the series on any level, then you absolutely need to check this out, if only to see what this console is truly capable of. It’s a remarkable achievement and further proof that Naughty Dog are the go to people to really show what video games can be capable of.