Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune came at a key time in the Playstation 3’s life cycle. With the exorbitant price of $499 to $599 and difficulties creating games for the cell processor, the PS3 was struggling with developers as well as consumers. “Where are the games?” had become the question heard by many regarding the prestigious console and unfortunately, it was a valid question to ask. When November of 2007 brought us Uncharted, it was as if we were given a cold bottle of water on a 125 degree day in Arizona. Almost 10 years later we see the conclusion of not only a great series but a great cast of characters we have grown to know and love.
Uncharted 4 felt almost out of place when it was first announced. Uncharted 3 seemed to be the ending that Nathan and company deserved to see. There was a little skepticism on my part as I dove into Uncharted 4. But, having concluded the single player campaign, Naughty Dog delivers in a big way not only with the gameplay but the conclusion as well.
From the start you see the wonderful qualities of the last ND hit, The Last of Us. Can I say this, the visual quality and animation of ND games are simply unbelievable at times. It is such an uncanny balance of reality and colorful fantasy you can’t help but stop to just, look, and soak every bit of it in. How have they managed to do that with every title they pump out? It has truly been a treat to see them improve on something that didn’t really feel as if it needed much improvement. But it isn’t all about the eye popping visuals. There has to be a game with substance to make us feel as if our hard earned cash is being spent well. Uncharted 4 delivers as well in its action and pacing. Far too often while playing the previous titles in the series I felt as if the combat was constant and I became “fatigued” by the end of the game. Almost to a point where I was ready for it all to be over. While the enemies still prove to be bullet sponges at times, combat has enough variation and brevity to help you avoid tiring of it. This is also where the pacing comes into play.
Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us had many poignant moments when there wasn’t any action taking place. There were quiet, tranquil scenes that contributed to character and plot development. Something many games, as well as movies, lack. Uncharted 4 continues, and builds upon this design by providing players the opportunity to see the characters interact with each other sharing memories, handling disagreements, joking, and all the things that make the acting and animations come alive and feel organic. The moments where I literally sat the controller down to enjoy said moments were the ones that really resonated with me. And it is very fitting for this concluding game in the series since Drake comes in contact with his brother after many years have gone by. It is as if ND sat and really thought about how two brothers would interact after years of separation had gone by. Also, Nate and his wife, Elena, have much to discuss with the sudden appearance of his brother. Someone he failed to mention to her, ever. Nate and Sully even have their heart to heart moments. Therefore, there are a lot of different relationships to develop in this game and Naughty Dog does well with each of them for the most part.
Uncharted game play has always been a healthy mix of terrain traversal and third person, cover based shooting. The shooting in this game was a bit better due to the auto aim option that “snaps” your aiming crosshairs onto your target as soon as you pulled the L2 trigger on the controller. This, of course, sounds very easy and makes things simple but it was a nice addition that kept my frustrations low. As usual, the platforming is top notch and has been refined very well since the first title. Nathan reaches for ledges and will even climb to the ones close enough automatically. Coupled with various tools for climbing (a little influence from the new Tomb Raider games no doubt), it was a very fluid, smooth, experience that was enjoyable from start to finish. Enemies become repetitive and eventually became an interruption instead of a challenge. A little more variety in the enemy types would have been a welcome addition but it never caused me to feel as if something was missing from such a stellar experience.
Conclusions are a funny thing because there are some experiences that you want to continue but you also want them end on a good note. Almost like a professional athlete that has reached their retirement. You want them to leave while they are on top, so to speak. Although Uncharted is a series that I consider one of the best ever, it was time for everything to wrap up. We are all ready for the next big character with their own adventure. Solid Snake, Commander Shepard, Marcus Fenix, and many others have come to their respective conclusions. It is Nathan’s turn and ND does very well bringing everything to a satisfying end. I felt at ease and happy for all the characters when the end credits rolled. We have moved away from watching characters simply move from one end of a stage to the other end and have come to get to know these fictional entities feeling as if we relate to them. Games don’t have to be entirely about the combat and explosions in order to entertain us. Having moments of quiet reflection and thoughtful banter can go a long way in creating a balanced experience. Uncharted 4: ATE made me laugh, almost cry, brought me to the edge of my seat (or couch), and left me happy and satisfied with its wonderful conclusion. A game that had me worried going in turned out to be one of the best video game experiences I have ever had.