Just a quick note before I start this review, it will contain no spoilers whatsoever and secondly I will write a second article relating the emotional aspect of the game which will contain spoilers. This review will purely focus on the game’s content which includes the story, graphics, gameplay, and sound. So now that I have that out of the way I have to admit something I am rather new to the franchise, I only recently completed the Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection on Playstation 4. So I did not “grow up” with the franchise as many gamers’s have, rather I experienced the entire franchise within a span of a few months. Not that lessons the experience at all, as I got to experience in my mind one of the best action-adventure franchises in video game history.
When I first popped in the Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection disc and started playing the first game it blew my mind with its characters intense gameplay and amazing story telling, and this was a game which is almost 10 years old now! Uncharted 2 managed to top the first game in ways unimaginable, while Uncharted 3 continued to push the franchises boundaries. And just when you think that Naughty Dog could not possibly top those three games along comes Uncharted 4. With Uncharted 4, Naughty Dog has delivered something so rare in this industry of milked franchises. You might ask what this gift is. The gift of closure for fans of this long-running franchise, and a final game that deserves its place as the crown jewel in the Uncharted franchise.
I really take my hat off to Uncharted 4’s writers, Neil Druckmann and Josh Scherr, you can clearly see they have an amazing understanding of how real people assess and react to emotional situations, especially when they have something to lose. Not spoiling too much of the story, but Uncharted 4 opens up with Nathan Drake having retired from the treasure hunting business and seemingly embraced the ordinary life with us now wife Elena. He now owns a house and said mortgage on the house, and for all intents and purposes, he is just an average Joe now doing mostly normal salvage work. But this all changes when he learns that his brother Samuel is alive and well and in need of his help using his skills as a treasure hunter.
Between the two writers and the amazing voice talents of both voice actor Troy Baker and Nolan North. It doesn’t take you long to appreciate and get attached to Samuel as Nathan’s brother. He is confident and charismatic, pretty much like his little brother. But he is also clearly in awe of Nathan’s skills and talent as a treasure hunter. Nathan has also done some growing up and maturing since Uncharted 3, he often acts as the voice of reason throughout the story. This is rather jolting in a series known for the reckless sense of adventure, but it also clearly demonstrates a level of maturity that Nathan has gained throughout is prior adventures. And that shows a level of commitment by Neil Druckmann and Josh Scherr to the character of Nathan Drake.
But even more importantly we get to see the relationship between Nathan and Elena develop. How as a married couple they battle with their past and current events. And how the current set of events that unfold puts a strain on their relationship. The most touching scene for me in the entire game was when Nathan having just discovered an important new clue, babbles excitedly about it and basically “geek outs” while Elena listens. “That’s incredible,” she says, but you know from the look of love and utter heartbreak on her face that she’s not talking about Nathan’s story he is telling her. But rather Nathan’s addiction to the thrill of the chase, and what it might mean for their own troubled relationship and marriage.
To be able to read that level of emotion from a video game characters face, rather than having them spell out their feelings through voice acting, is an extremely rare achievement in video games. Naughty Dog has always set the bar high for cinematic storytelling in video games (The Last of Us comes to mind). But the digital performances in Uncharted 4, combined with the talented actors providing the characters voices and movements set the bar for the industry standard even higher than I ever could have imagined. The same amount of perfection and polish that went into the motion capture also went into the rest of the game. I lost count the amount of times I just randomly stopped during the game to appropriate the scenery around me.
The game also sports some of the best world design I have ever seen, and I am not over exaggerating here. There’s a painstaking amount of detail that went into every part of Uncharted 4, to the point where I began to worry I wasn’t seeing every last bit of it so I ended up exploring every single nook and cranny while playing for fear of missing out on another amazing vista or view. And like everything else in Uncharted 4, Naughty Dog has vastly improved the combat system. Every combat situation in Uncharted 4 now has multiple solutions, you can either go in guns blazing or take the stealthy approach. There are now multiple paths (Thanks to the more expansive areas) from which you can engage your targets, which you can now tag which is an extremely handy feature.
And both the grappling hook and refined stealth system make it easier to out maneuver your enemies, you now have the ability to use your grappling hook in combat and sneak through tall grass. The best encounters in Uncharted 4 plays out like a chess game, with you attempting to find a route to outflank your enemies and gain the upper hand. On the harder difficulty levels you end up dying more than once, but instead of it becoming frustrating like other games it becomes more of a challenge, to see what other route or methods you can use to out-fight and outflank your enemies. Having said that there are a few minor niggles I found in the game. The shooting and aiming can be “floaty” at times but that can be fixed with a few control adjustments.
The puzzles in Uncharted 4 are far less challenging than some of the other entries in the franchise, and I had far less trouble solving them. And last but not least your companions AI can “clutch out” at times and start acting severely retarded by not shooting at enemies or just running around and getting in your way while you are trying to take cover from enemies firing on you. These hardly detract from what I can consider the best Playstation 4 title and video game I have played to date and right next to The Last of Us. And when it is all said and done, Uncharted 4 delivers the fan service franchise fans will absolutely love and enjoy. And in the process giving us one of the best send-offs we could have ever asked for Nathan Drake and his crew.