Naughty Dog has set a high bar with their games. We recently posted an article about a fan petition to remove a negative review from the Uncharted 4 Metacritic score. This illustrates the deep passion from fans for the series and developer. I took a little more time than other reviews to evaluate Uncharted 4.
Sitting at an incredibly impressive 93/100 metascore, I was curious if the components of the game would lead to such a glowing pedigree. It does. I have some issues with Uncharted 4 but they are minuscule. I loved playing this game and at it’s peak, it’s a thrill seeking modern Indiana Jones with adrenaline packed moments and a balancing emotional effort as well. As of this review, it is the best game of 2016 for me. Though there are some faults, it doesn’t deter from a hell of an adventure and one that plays out beautifully.
The biggest draw for me is how well the game is presented. Borrowing some elements from The Last of Us, we get a deeply cinematic game. I know I’m not the first to say or experience this but one evening my girlfriend watched me play it for a good 30 minutes or so. I was worried that she would be uninterested in the game, as viewing isn’t really the greatest joy when someone is playing the game right next to you. She was enthralled and thoroughly interested in what was happening because the game really is presented more like a movie. The sharp dialogue, the more minimal HUD, the vast establishing shots of an environment, hand to hand combat, all these things and more contribute to something more than a game. Uncharted 4 is a work of art that spans across diverse environments but doesn’t feel like the globe-trotting romp that the other games have been.
The departure of Amy Hennig was a sideswipe to the gaming community. She was the creative director for every Uncharted game, even the beginning development of Uncharted 4. The duties were primarily passed onto Bruce Straley and Neil Druckmann, who were responsible for The Last of Us. The shift is felt for better and for worse. In essence we have the most grounded Uncharted game yet, one with more of a focus on story and character in a serious tone.
There are some light-hearted moments but nothing like the previous Uncharted games. So there’s a huge shift in that regard, you can even tell in the new rendition of Drake’s theme, which is beautifully done by Henry Jackman along with some other intense music cues. The more somber and tense game works. Nate is an adult with responsibilities and when he receives a culture shock and is beckoned out into the treasure hunting business, you can tell that the treasure really isn’t his main focus, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed that Hennig left, the signature that she gave the series isn’t as present as it’s been in the previous games but I like the shift and how grounded the game is. I was deeply invested in the story and the characters because they’re all written brilliantly well.
Uncharted 4 does introduce a new character that I wasn’t sure how I felt about, I’m still not sure how I feel about him now, but he’s been an interesting addition to the cast. Sam Drake is Nate’s brother, who we haven’t seen in other games for a good reason. When he comes into Nate’s life it spirals a series of events that ends up turning into the adventure that they embark on. You can tell that Sam is a little shady, compared to the always charismatic and charming Nathan Drake. We get a better understanding of Sam throughout the game and though the character obviously is shoe-horned in, he’s put into the game with as much grace as possible for being a huge character that’s been absent through the previous game.
What I love most about the Uncharted series is the dynamic between Nate and Sully. It’s not as prevalent in this game but the moments where the duo is together the game hits a perfect chemistry. Moments where Elena is present also add a great layer of character and meaning to the series and for Nathan’s personal life. When the game focuses on any element of Nate’s life outside of Sam, it’s done wonderfully. His interactions with the important people in his life are genuine, endearing, and enjoyable. There’s just something about Sam that doesn’t really add to what I loved about not only this game but the series of Uncharted games. Being a brother to Nathan Drake almost puts a stigma on Sam that he doesn’t completely fill. After some thought, the character has grown on me and makes for a really fulfilling single-player adventure.
The multiplayer of The Last of Us was a surprising highlight of the game for me. How Naughty Dog integrated survival and resources into the shooter and the environment made for a more engaging multiplayer game. With Uncharted 4, Naughty Dog implements the rope swing from the single-player and some power up elements to make for a serviceable multiplayer. It’s something I’ve had fun playing, but it won’t reinvent the wheel. It’s not to say that you should gloss over the experience because there’s a good bit of fun to be had.
Uncharted 4 delivers a strong story experience, continuing to make their games more engrossing and cinematic and a fitting end to the story of Nathan Drake. While the multiplayer is nothing to write home about, it’s an essential game for all PS4 owners and makes for one of the highlights of 2016 thus far.