Uncharted 4 is the kind of game that has no reason to work as well as it does: it breaks almost every typical writing cliche of the past decade, chooses to end it’s long-running series at a fourth entry rather than a third, and forgoes the past three entry’s lighthearted tone of humor, camaraderie and adventure in favor of a more real and mature story that deals with themes of loss, redemption, and the scary idea of letting go of what you love the most. With that much change, Nathan Drake’s final adventure should be a mediocre and unsatisfying end to a long-running franchise that loses its fan base by trying to be yet another “mature, gritty experience ” that loses all the charm of the last three games. And instead, it does the exact opposite. Not only is Uncharted 4 the best exclusive console title I’ve ever played, it’s easily one of the best games ever made, simply because it does what no second book, no sequel to a movie no TV show spin-off or follow-up to a popular video game has ever accomplished: remembering the series’ roots, yet even in it’s final entry setting a new bar for entertainment of all mediums and redefining what the word masterpiece truly means without losing the charm and wonder of the past three games.
After an intense introduction sequence that doesn’t let up on suspense, we see Nathan Drake sometime after the events of Uncharted 3 living a very normal life. He works a 9 to 5 job, goes home and eats dinner with his wife, and tries his best to stay on a straight and narrow path, even though he still has a small longing for more adventure. It isn’t until Nathan’s older brother Sam, reconnects with Nathan 15 years after his alleged death and warns Nathan he only has three months to find Henry Avery’s lost treasure of $400 million under threat of death from a powerful drug lord, that our hero has no choice but to jump back into a dangerous life he thought he left behind. Add a glory-starved spoiled rich kid who’s hired an entire private military to stop the Drake brothers in their tracks, and you start to get a sense of just how risky this final adventure really is. The premise alone is intriguing enough, but what’s really impressive is the fact that the story rarely falters or stretches itself too thin. Every chapter of the game feels crucial, and every supporting character has a perfect amount of screen time that allows for the classic banter of Uncharted to return in its best form yet. That’s what makes the story of Uncharted 4 so incredible. Even though it doesn’t shy away from very human themes and very flawed characters, it still manages to keep a great sense of humor and never take itself too seriously. In an earlier review I wrote for the Witcher 3, one of my biggest gripes was that 80% of the story was spent chasing a character who was always just out of reach, and the final 20% wasn’t enough to make me truly appreciate the story. Uncharted manages to brilliantly juggle a lighthearted tone, serious themes, and a compelling treasure hunting epic that could even put Indiana Jones to shame.
The National Treasure-level story isn’t the only reason to appreciate the game however. There are some literal jaw-dropping moments in the game that can come from the beautiful scenery surrounding a level, or some of the utterly insane action set-pieces. Uncharted 4 allows you to wander through orchards in Italy, scour ancient churches in Scotland or outrun an armored car on a motorcycle in Madagascar, and none of this feels needless or forced. All of it feels like an insane vacation around the world in the best possible way, and the attention to detail makes it that much more immersive. From a 4×4 jeep that makes deep tracks in the mud to clouds passing under the sun to create dynamic lighting, every part of Uncharted 4 works together to create a masterpiece of a whole.
This applies to gameplay more than anywhere else. Uncharted 4 adds a new stealth-based system that allows you to fight your way through enemies in an intense exchange of bullets or silently take out your foes from tall grass and from below ledges. Oh, and from above with an incredibly cool flying punch. Even though the idea of “go guns blazing or be a ninja” isn’t anything new for videogames (and if anything should be tiring), for whatever wonderful reason, it doesn’t, and maybe that’s because of the little things. Let me explain: if reinforcements arrive and Nathan hasn’t been detected by his enemies yet, he’ll whisper to his allies rather than yell. And surprising as it is, the companions in Uncharted are genuinely helpful. They’ll let you know if they see a particularly lethal enemy with a grenade launcher, take out enemies in stealth, and even help you perform a takedown on an enemy who’s a little too close for comfort. Every ally interacts with combat and stealth differently, and this alone makes replaying any chapter of the game unique and more importantly, fun.
All in all, that one word is the only way to describe Uncharted 4: it’s just pure fun when it shouldn’t be. It’s yet another treasure hunting game with a protagonist we’ve spent hours with in his past three adventures. Again, Uncharted 4 should be an underwhelming, repetitive and flat-out boring conclusion to an otherwise wonderful series. But that’s not the case at all.Not only does it stand out as the best Uncharted, the greatest PS4 exclusive, and arguably one of the most incredible games ever made, it forces us to remember why any of us played games in the first place: to have fun. And it does all of this with realistic graphics, a great story and innovative gameplay that ties together to create a beautiful adventure which contemplates on the idea of letting go and holding on to what really matters. Adventure-seekers look no further, because this game is a treasure all its own.
It’s easily a 10/10. Be sure to try the multiplayer too it’s pretty great.