Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End Review

(Just before we start, all screenshots used in this review are my own, and were taken using the Uncharted 4 photo mode during gameplay which 1. should get the copyrighters off my back and 2. show you why you need to buy this game!)

Uncharted™ 4: A Thief’s End_20160521173236

It’s funny, I don’t really consider myself an Uncharted fan. But what I remembered while playing A Thief’s End is that I am.

I wasn’t excited about this game. I wasn’t excited about the others either. I watched half the E3 demo and then never gave it a second thought. Until last week, that is. With HITMAN dead until next month’s map releases and Fallout 4 expansion Far Harbor currently unplayable, I was left with a pretty desolate PS4 library. So I decided to jump back on the Sony party train and download A Thief’s End.

I finished it in a sweaty day-and-a-half, and it was fantastic. Everything, the graphics, the gameplay, the story, the performances (across the board) and the Zimmer-level soundtrack, was nothing short of excellent. Naughty Dog are the masters of execution, and this is their opus.

Yes, I think we’re going to have to de-crown The Last of Us. The quality and consistency of production here, the attention to detail and interactivity, intuition and variety, is without parallel, and that includes the developer’s last gory effort.

The game’s biggest achievement is its combat. And no, I didn’t expect to be saying that either. While I’ve enjoyed every one of the series’ entries, I always felt like their shootouts were just monotonous obstacles that got in the way of the next spectacular set-piece or chase, dizzying climb or mind-bending find. That is absolutely not the case here. A Thief’s End pools the best bits of the series’ gunplay and climbing to produce some seriously explosive firefights.

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Not only are the environs bigger and more varied, but the addition of the new grapple rope gives them a verticality and natural kineticism that makes every encounter a joy to blast through, replay, and direct, because with the new, and commendably nuanced, photo mode, every encounter becomes an opportunity for you to break out your inner Spielberg. A Thief’s End really makes you feel like you’re in one of those great Indy action scenes that the series so lovingly pays homage to.

Naughty Dog have clearly been paying close attention to contemporary trends in games of all genres, but particularly the open-ended evolution of the Metal Gear franchise with its fifth and supposedly final entry. One chapter especially takes obvious inspiration from Kojima’s swan-song; a road-trip through the Madagascan jungle and mountains in a jeep, full of guard outposts to annex in any way you want- subterfuge or guns-a-blazing, it’s up to you. And while this clearly isn’t an original approach- Far Cry, the aforementioned Phantom Pain- serious props should go to Naughty Dog for being the first to understand that that formula fairs much better in short bursts than the entirety of forty-hour games…

If you want to be blown away, this is the one to pick up. Uncharted 4 achieves what so many game developers have tried for so long to do: put you in the movies you love and that they love. Movies and games are not inextricable, but they share an undeniable formal bond that, sometimes, it’s okay to just accept and revel in. This is one of those times.

4.5/5

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