Since its debut in 2007, the Uncharted series has spanned the globe, following Nathan Drake from South America to Tibet. But as the series finale, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, opens, we’re introduced to a much more familiar environment: the suburbs. Since we last left our intrepid treasure hunter, Drake has retired. He now spends his days (legally) salvaging wrecks and eating takeout with Elena, his longtime love interest.
Not what you expected? You’re not alone. This is the series that revolutionized the third-person action genre with its smooth, acrobatic gameplay and beautiful backgrounds. Could the series, like Drake, be growing old in the tooth?
Luckily, the answer is a resounding no. Uncharted 4 is the best game of the series. With its gorgeous graphics, new features and wide-open levels, you’re going to wish the series wasn’t coming to an end.
Needless to say, Drake doesn’t stay retired for long. A visit from Sam, Nathan’s older—presumed dead—brother, drags Nathan out of retirement and launches the quest for yet another long-lost treasure.
The journey takes Nathan and Sam (and old stalwart Sully) around the world, but it’s in Madagascar that the game really starts to find its stride. Once on the ground there, you take control of a jeep and start to experience the wider levels. Wrong turns abound, but you really start to feel the breadth of the landscapes during the fights. With the new rope tool, you can swing into battles, swing away from battles, even shoot while swinging. While the game remains linear, it feels anything but as you battle through it.
Another new addition is the stealth feature. Using tall grass, brush and other coverings, you can now sneak up on enemies and systematically clear an area. While this feature is a bit limited (especially when compared to other games that have been doing it for years), it provides a nice change of pace for a series that has treated fights the same way for too long.
The first Uncharted made for Playstation 4, A Thief’s End takes full advantage of the increased graphic capacity. The landscapes are straight out of travel magazines and the level of detail is awe-inspiring. This carries over to character rendering, as well, and it’s not just the faces. Characters convey emotion with subtle actions (a raised eyebrow, a sigh), really bringing them to life.
For some, the Uncharted games are defined by the cutscenes; for others, they are just filler. Uncharted 4 does an excellent job of seamlessly merging cutscenes and gameplay. Sometimes, you won’t even realize the cutscene is over. This puts you into the story in ways it never did before. Even if you fall into the latter opinion on cutscenes, you can’t help getting wrapped up in this story.
The game also boasts a multiplayer mode with a unique hook. Naughty Dog, the game's developer, announced that all future multiplayer modes and maps will be available for free. In this day and age, where additional content can make or break replay value, that’s no small promise.
If you’ve picked up the Uncharted series at any point, you know the strengths: addictive gameplay, engaging stories and awesome graphics. A Thief’s End is no exception. In fact, it’s everything the Uncharted series has ever hoped to be.