Title: Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
Developer: Naughty Dog
Playtime: 20 hours
My rating: 7/10
I’ve played all three previous Uncharted games, and I have to say I’m quite fond of these wee 15-20 hour adventure outings. I’ve been a gaming-life-long fan of Tomb Raider, and I was introduced to Uncharted as a male version of Tomb Raider. Generally speaking, I’m more of a massive-open-world-RPG-hundreds-of-hours-of-play type girl, but there is something very attractive about playing through a shorter, more concentrated story, as opposed to getting lost in days of side quests.
And in Uncharted 4, the story is really the strongest aspect of this game, and the way that the story is woven into the gameplay is really impressive. For example, when you’re fighting with your allies, they aren’t just present and plugging away and you’re just imagining that it’s a cooperative and bonding exercise. In Uncharted 4, it genuinely is cooperative and bonding. You can be mashing away on your buttons, and out of the blue, your brother hauls some thug off you and holds his arms so you can smash his face in. This makes the combat more than just plain old combat, it makes it part of the story and gives it that smooth, choreographed feeling you get in films. It turns my blundering about and button mashing into something stylish and purposeful.
The blending between gameplay and scripted storyline is seamless. You can be having a conversation while driving the car, ditch your allies mid-chat to poke around some ruin, and when you come back, they reintroduce the same conversation with a “Where were we?” type line. The car chase scene is probably my favourite for this kind of experience. I died a few times and blundered about a LOT of times, but somehow this game managed to stitch together all my blunderings into a coherent scene. There were such a lot of variables of behaviour that I introduced, but in the end it all seemed like what I did was on purpose. It made for a very satisfying scene, especially for Mrs Die-A-Lot over here.
There were points, however, at which I felt like the story was taking over from the gaming. There are a LOT of very lengthy cut scenes in this game, and at times I felt frustrated that it was starting to feel a bit like a long film interspersed with a few minutes of interactive gaming. This is the aspect of short adventure games that I don’t like so much: they can be over-scripted, and this is certainly the trap that Uncharted 4 has fallen into. Often I felt like it was heavily choreographed and I was simply pushing buttons in the right direction. This is probably just personal preference, but I like a game where my decisions have an impact on the dynamics of the game, or even just a game that allows me to make decisions. I know, I know, this is not an RPG. I’m playing Nathan Drake, not my own creation of a character, but the only decision-making that went on in this game was whether to approach a combat situation by stealth or by gunpoint.
I guess what I’m saying is there’s not much in the way of mental stimulation, beyond the strong storyline. Yes, there are a few puzzles (which is my favourite aspect of any adventure game!), but actually these dry up about halfway through the game and it devolves into pushing buttons in the right direction. On which point I would also like to mention that the controls are still a nightmare like in previous Uncharted games. I can’t even begin to count how many times Nate committed suicide because I was pressing the right buttons but he decided I wasn’t.
And while we’re talking about Nate, he can still be quite an irksome character. He’s still unbelievably dumb and overly trusting of bad guys (I was shouting the plot twist at him hours before he twigged himself) and he’s still painfully patronising towards his wife, Elena. All my innards twisted about themselves in a giant cringe when he uttered “That’s my girl” as Elena made a very easy jump that even I could make in real life. Even after she has proved herself more than capable throughout Uncharted history. I mean, he might as well have just patted her on the head and made me implode. And Elena is fulfilling that age-old male fear of wife forcing husband to give up all his dreams and adventures in life and completely emasculating him. That vexes me greatly, and I constantly wanted to smash her insensitive, selfish face in every time it appeared on the screen. It’s infuriating that this kind of male-female interaction is still happening in games. And worst of all, it makes me dislike the characters that I have to play with.
So overall, there are some really great gaming aspects to Uncharted 4, but there are also a lot of frustrating aspects. I originally got my hands on this game because the Official Playstation Magazine WILL NOT stop raving on about how it’s the best game ever made ever in the history of gaming ever. But I beg to differ. I can see what makes them excited about Uncharted 4 – it’s smooth and the story is very engaging and every scene gets me excited because they are all different and you’re not just repeating gameplay like many games demand… But it certainly doesn’t rank in my top ten favourite games – the cut scenes are dominating and some of the main characters are highly slappable and there’s not enough mental stimulation. It’s definitely worth a play though, just for the story alone, which is most definitely the standout aspect of this game.