Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Uncharted 4: A Thief's End (2016)

The latest and (perhaps) final entry in the Uncharted franchise pushes the bar for action-adventure games higher with its spectacular vistas, lovable characters, and its decent gameplay mechanics.

It took Naughty Dog four and half years after Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception (2011) to develop the sequel. Despite the internal conflicts and changes in direction (Amy Hennig being replaced by Neil Druckmann and Bruce Straley) during Uncharted 4's development, it is still a near perfect game.

I say near perfect because of a few major flaw. Of course, nothing is perfect; but if the flaws affect the experience, then they should be brought up. The gameplay and shooting mechanics in Uncharted series have never been at the pinnacle of gameplay design - Gears of War, Infamous, Grand Theft Auto, and other games have done it much better. But gameplay has always been decent and respectable in the Uncharted franchise. The highlights of this series were the set-pieces, environment design, and character development.

Uncharted 4 did not have as many exhilarating action set-pieces as its predecessors, but it almost doubled the gameplay hours. Previous Uncharted games could be completed in eight hours on normal difficulty, while Uncharted 4 took me 16 hours. Uncharted 4 is a magnificent game, but is too much of a good thing always good? Maybe not. I was at points frustrated with the repetitious climbing, having the ledge break under Drake's foot, hanging to another ledge, and then rinse, repeat... Particularly the last 6 hours of the game could have been condensed - these chapters happened on an island, with a terrain similar to the first Uncharted (2007) or Tomb Raider (2013).

The environments are spectacular and breath-taking. Suffice to say that Uncharted 4 could be the most beautiful game ever made.

The characters of Nathan Drake, Elena Fisher, and Victor Sullivan are the same lovable people from the previous games. Elena's personality - although unpredictable - was simply "perfect". In this fictional story full of fantasy elements, maybe believing that an Elena could exist in real world requires the biggest suspension of disbelief... Sully was also great, but it was a pity that you do not get to spend enough time with him. The companion for the majority of the game is Sam Drake - Nathan's lost brother. I neither liked, nor disliked Sam. I just found him a conduit for telling the origin story of Nathan Drake. Maybe writers failed in this regard as they obviously wanted to make Sam one of the main protagonists of the franchise.

To wrap up this review, I'd say Uncharted 4 is a must-play. People who have played the previous entries would get much more from this experience, but new comers could also connect with the characters. The game could have been shorter and leaner (with fewer ledges breaking). Undoubtedly Uncharted 4 is a better product than Uncharted 3, but I enjoyed my experience with Uncharted 3 more (due to fewer frustrating segments, and more exciting set-pieces). Overall, I'd give Uncharted 4 9.5/10.

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