torstai 2. kesäkuuta 2016

REVIEW - Uncharted 4: A Thief's End

GENRE(S): Action-adventure, Third-person shooter
AVAILABLE ON: PlayStation 4
DEVELOPER(S): Naughty Dog
PUBLISHER(S): Sony Computer Entertainment
RELEASE DATE: May 10, 2016

Uncharted: Drake's Fortune was one of the first games I ever bought for my PlayStation 3. It had already been out for a couple of years and a sequel was already in the works, so it was quite cheap. I had heard a lot of good things about the game; today, a cheap price such as that and good buzz on the immediate grapevine would probably be enough for me to go out and buy a game. I wasn't doing too good back then financially, so I needed something else to assure me of the game's quality. I found that one final guarantee in a playable demo, which blew me away. The game blew me away even more. Even in 2013, when I replayed the game for the first time in four years, I gave it an honest-to-God 9.1. It's a genuine PlayStation classic, followed by an even better game, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. After completing this masterpiece, co-directors Neil Druckmann and Bruce Straley shifted their full attention to The Last of Us. Amy Hennig – the director of the first game – took over the development of Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception. Although the game was extremely well received in the media, some fans were disappointed with the story, and the general pace of the game, including yours truly. The Last of Us was finished a year and a half later, and Druckmann and Straley solidified their spots on the great video game walk of fame with this post-apocalyptic behemoth. In November of 2013, it was announced that Druckmann and Straley were now working on the final installment in the Uncharted series, and the world exploded. Two and a half years, and many delays later, the end is finally here. Join me in a final farewell to the greatest treasure hunter there ever was. Besides Henry Jones Jr.. (Did you hear Ford's signed on for a fifth flick? Insanity? Or genius? I swear to God, if he finds the fountain of youth and turns into Chris Pratt...)

One last time

Three years after Ubar, Nathan Drake has abandoned his old life of thrill-seeking and fortune-hunting for marriage, and a hellishly boring deep-sea scavenging job. Nate's life turns upside down as his older brother Sam, declared dead and erased from all records 15 years back, suddenly shows up and asks Nate for help in fulfilling their mutual childhood dream: finding the lost treasure of pirate captain James Avery. Seeing that his job is taking him nowhere, and that his brother's life hangs on finding this mythical loot, Nate agrees to brush up his mad adventuring skills one last time.

One last time begins here. And it's going to be a long walk.
Words can't describe my anticipation for this game. I've had the PlayStation 4 for two years, but Uncharted 4 is but the second game that ever made having that thing there truly mean something. The first was Batman: Arkham Knight. When all the delays were over and the game was nearing gold status, I replayed all of the three previous Nathan Drake adventures; it was then I realized how many years had passed since I last played them all the way to the credits. I did it so quick, too, that I was still left with a lot of spare time, so I decided to take The Last of Us for a spin as a bonus, doing absolutely everything in that game for the first time, and I was left with a mind so blown that I had such high hopes for Uncharted 4. Druckmann and Straley redefined the Naughty Dog standard with The Last of Us, just as they previously did with Uncharted 2. Uncharted 3 was a good – no, great – game, but it was clearly missing something that made the previous adventures so good. That is a fact that was driven even deeper on the second time around. Uncharted 4 seemed a bit darker than the rest of the series, at first, like it was influenced by The Last of Us a bit too much. Well, that is certainly not the case. If you loved Nathan Drake's previous adventures, including (and especially 'cause of) the humour, you will love Uncharted 4: A Thief's End. There are dark parts to it, the theme song might not be as cheery and uplifting as it was before, but it's still Uncharted to its very core.

Another page from Big Boss' playbook.
The game looks and sounds just as sweet as the franchise ever did. Drake's Fortune was already one of the finest-looking games ever made at its time, and it still looks quite good – and definitely playable – today. If Drake's Deception shone at some part, it's audiovisuals. You can just imagine how this game looks like at its best. Even at its worst it looks spectacular; no still images can do this beauty any justice. It's easily the best-looking game on the PlayStation 4 right now; probably the best-looking game ever made. Uncharted stalwarts Nolan North, Emily Rose and Richard McGonagle are joined by the almighty Troy Baker and Warren Kole, as Sam Drake and main antagonist Rafe Adler, respectively. Verbal exchanges between all characters have never sounded this good and alive, and that's a lot when we're talking about Uncharted. There are tons of in-jokes that you might find funny even if you haven't played one previous game in the franchise.

The story is extremely good, definitely the best this franchise has had to offer; previously, the stories didn't really matter all that much if you ask me. It was all about the most ridiculously epic action sequences you could think of, and the most ridiculously epic treasure at the end you could think of. Here, the treasure's not really all that essential; it's a tale of two brothers, with tons of Uncharted action on the side. It's a more immersive, and a more personal game. Nate even bluntly says he doesn't care about the treasure. He just wants to save his big bro. Also, there are absolutely no supernatural elements to Uncharted 4; I know for a fact there are people who will appreciate a ”normal” story in Nate's life for once.

Climb, shoot, jump, rinse, repeat

Some open-world exploring new to the series.
has always been a game of extremely easy access and simple gameplay – that is one tradition that still sticks. If you've played all or any of the previous games, you'll learn all there is to Uncharted 4 in ten minutes. Fifteen, tops. The ”return-to-sender” ability from Uncharted 3 is removed (to many a fan's dismay, I presume), and ”replaced” with a new rope-swinging mechanic, that allows for trickier climbing puzzles as well as more tactical and stealthier combat. Stealth is a VERY important element in Uncharted 4. Unlike in Uncharted 2 and 3 where stealth felt kind of like a stamped-on feature – just because stealth games were in such high demand – you can seriously avoid many tough gunfights by picking guys off one at a time; hanging on ledges, crawling through long grass, etc.. Especially on harder difficulty levels, nearing the end of the game, I find the option of stealth a very welcome one. Uncharted 4 goes all in with the gunfights. It is not an easy game. Most covers break after a while, the enemies like to use a lot of grenades, and without the return-to-sender ability, you have to prepare to be on a constant move if you decide to go at it all guns blazing. The enemy A.I. is amazing; luckily, so is that of your allies. They're pretty good shots, and in stealth situations, they can take single enemies down for you, if you take cover within the confines of the same screen.

After this documentation, we arrive to the threshold: is Uncharted 4 the best game in the franchise? No, it's not. As great as the story is, it plods through a few slumps, most of which are placed near the end of the game; these slumps concern both story and gameplay. There are a few dips into frustrating repetition, a few faux endings, and the absolute ending of the game really didn't work for me at all. It probably would've worked as a promotional video or something, but as a part of the game, no. Even Uncharted 3 had a better run for its last few hours; but, in turn, Uncharted 4 has nothing like that frustrating walk across the desert. At least something happens, all the time, in repeat or not. Uncharted 4 comes very close to Uncharted 2 in the race for the best game in the series, I'll give it that much.


Nathan Drake has come a long way from a sleeper hit to a megastar, and exits the fold at the absolute top of his game, with a fantastic final performance. At the same time, Naughty Dog comes full circle – in more ways than one, as you will see – and after The Last of Us and this here Thief's End, I can't wait what those rascals have got planned for the future. Uncharted 4: A Thief's End is a near masterpiece, which no PlayStation 4 owner can afford to miss.


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