Uncharted 4 for PS4 hit the shelves on May 10, and here’s my review. Don’t scroll past the trailer if you don’t want spoilers!
“I am a man of fortune and must seek my fortune.” – Henry Avery.
Uncharted 4 has been a long time coming. Uncharted 3 released at the end of 2011, and the teaser trailers have been slowly piling up. With an ominous name like “A Thief’s End,” many fans suspected that Drake might finally see his death in this game. If you haven’t played the previous 3, Uncharted is a series that follows Nathan Drake, an orphan with a dubious past who seeks lost treasures and has a penchant for losing them in the end. It’s a little like Tomb Raider with a male protagonist with an adult sense of humor. The first three games are also available as one remix compilation for PS4.
Back to U4: The game itself was beautifully designed for PS4, taking advantage of better graphics to really give us screenshots that made my friends ask “Was that cinematic or gameplay?”
When we start out, it’s in a series of flashbacks that will throw us into gameplay changes right away and give a hint of what’s to come. Apparently, every time Drake hits his head we’ll remember something from his childhood. It’s a tactic used in the third game as well.
Previously, we’ve only seen hints of Drake’s past, but this game sets out to tell us all about where he really came from, and his brother–a character previously entirely unmentioned, because presumably he was dead. We’ve seen the trailers, we know he’s alive, but part of the story is finding out that he’s been in prison for 15 years and he’s here now with a dubious story of his escape. Personally, I hope you’re supposed to hate this guy, because I find him incredibly unlikable as a character. He’s rude, demanding, and has no care at all for Nate’s relationship with (his now wife) Elena. Don’t trust him, because there’s something amiss.
This is the only Uncharted game without a weird supernatural element. They joke a lot about pirates (be prepared for puns) and ghosts, but the only monsters here are human. Be prepared to explode a lot, though.
Aside from story changes, the gameplay adds some extra methods for climbing, optional conversations, and a very rare chance to select conversation options. It even embeds a little easter egg–the chance to play Crash Bandicoot against Elena’s high score. The biggest change is giving you (mostly) more than one way to solve climbing puzzles–more than one angle to climb from, more than one route around a cave. The exception is that you’ll now mysteriously find crates with wheels any time you need them, conveniently placed to be rolled against a wall too high to reach. Perhaps this seemed more realistic to designers than ladders on every ledge? The game also introduces hiding in water and in tall grass, and you can legitimately choose to
die a horrible death fight head-on or sneak around killing everyone. The sneaking effort is complicated by a notice meter. If a bad guy sees you dead on, you’ll be spotted. If you hide and run you can reduce their aggro, so to speak, and make them “lose” you. As usual, the badguys hit harder than you do, but it’s a lot faster to knock most of them out. The powerful weapons are less common, too, so be prepared to hang and shoot with a hand gun a lot.
Possibly my favorite addition is the driving portion of the game–utilizing a 4×4 Jeep, spinning through mud, braking to add traction, and the almost-open-world nature that can give you extra side notes or let you mostly shoot straight toward the end.
As usual, your extra companion(s) are generally useless and completely unhelpful, except in tall grass. Occasionally they will take out a guy in that situation.
Previous Uncharted games have run around 12-13 hours of gameplay each on Normal or Hard settings, but Uncharted 4 has a tendency to make you think it’s almost over and then add some more story. All told, it’s more like 16 hours if you don’t run around searching for every treasure and extra tidbit.
The game itself introduces two new adversaries. A previous associate, Rafe, and his cohort Nadine Ross. Rafe is a typical rich white boy who just wants fame in addition to his wealth. Nadine is a talented Black woman who owns her own mercenary company–and unfortunately, Naughty Dog decided to use a white voice actor for her voice (Laura Bailey, who is a veteran voice actress). Aside from this, the character herself is way more interesting than Rafe, and she thoroughly thrashes Nate several times. She also does not die in the end, and I appreciate this. This is also the first game where all the “bad guys” aren’t indigenous natives to whatever island you’re on, while you, the white hero, are shooting lots of people of color.
There’s a moment in the middle of the game where Rafe says that Nate and Sam aren’t “the type” to kill unnecessarily. This made me laugh, because Uncharted is a game of ambiguous morals. Nate Drake always does the right thing in the end, but he does a lot of wrong things getting there, including leaving a lot of mercenary bodies behind.
Throughout the story, Nate is dragged into saving his brother’s life because he thinks a Mob Boss from Panama is holding his life hostage for half of the Avery treasure. This is a lie. In fact, the story is full of lies, because Nate lies to Elena about where he’s going “so she won’t be mad at him.” This is a ridiculous move, of course. Elena shows up to save him, eventually, but she’s mad. And she stays mad. Eventually she forgives him, but she has some great relationship insight on the way, and she also totally punches him.
It turns out that Sam double crossed Rafe, who got him out of jail, to try to find the treasure first with Nate. It turns out their mom was a great historian and died when they were kids, and her journals are what led Nate to all his adventures. It turns out Rafe is a mean asshole with a cutlass. The end fight is different from every previous boss battle–a sword fight in a flaming ship, which is as cool as it is difficult, since you have to block from different angles to keep yourself alive.
All in all, it’s definitely the best Uncharted yet, and the epilogue gives me hope for another game in the franchise with a new protagonist. Look around and enjoy the scenery, because it’s worth it.
Kronda Seibert plays video games. If her social media is to be believed, she also absorbs all the superhero movies and occasionally leaves the house to go to work as a computer Systems Engineer/Architect.
Aside from writing for PopCultureBeast, Kronda splits her time between running the science fiction convention AnomalyCon, reading comics and SciFi/Fantasy novels, doing computer science, and blogging about intersectional representation in all things geek.