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Uncharted 4: A Thief's End Review

  • First Released May 10, 2016
  • Reviewed May 5, 2016
  • PS4
Robert Handlery on Google+

One more day in paradise.

"We receive the due reward of our deeds." So reads the inscription on an artifact discovered in the early hours of Uncharted 4: A Thief's End. It's a passage from the Bible, spoken by Saint Dismas, a man crucified on the same day as Jesus. He spent years robbing and murdering innocent people before being sentenced to death for his crimes. And with those last words of revelation, Dismas earned the title of the Penitent Thief.

This anecdote sets the tone for a powerful game about loss, betrayal, regret, and redemption. In both its momentous set pieces and its intimate, personal moments, Uncharted 4 drives its narrative forward with a rare understanding of its characters, its world, and the gameplay tying them all together. It's a stunning combination of disparate parts. It's a breathtaking marvel of a game.

By this point in the series, developer Naughty Dog has led us across the globe in search of famous treasures from equally famous legends: we unearthed El Dorado in the Amazon rainforest, found the Cintamani Stone deep in the Himalayas, and entered Iram of the Pillars, a sandswept city with a religious history of its own. In Uncharted 4, however, we find protagonist Nathan Drake leading a quiet life with freelance journalist Elena Fisher, who happens to be his wife. They live in New Orleans. They have a three-bedroom house. They play video games together.

But this all changes with the return of Nathan's older brother Sam, who was presumed dead for 15 years. Not only is he alive and well, but he's fallen in with criminals, and needs help paying a debt. He also has a lead on one of history's greatest treasures: the loot of the pirate Henry Avery, which the brothers have sought since their early days of treasure hunting. Now, with Nathan forced out of his calm life, they set off to chase their elusive white whale.

Elena and Nathan are leading a quiet life at the beginning of Uncharted 4.
Elena and Nathan are leading a quiet life at the beginning of Uncharted 4.
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Sam's arrival not only upends Nathan's newfound domestication, but complicates his emotional life as well. Uncharted 4 gives us insight into his past, and the way it shaped his psyche: how he despises authority; how he uses humor as a shield; how he long ago accepted violence as a justifiable means to an end. Uncharted 4 tells this story with affection, showing an expert attention to detail in the way Nathan's voice falters when discussing his childhood, or how he stares at Elena when she's not looking. These details are painfully human. They bring the characters to life.

This nuanced take on Nathan's personality is reflected in Uncharted 4's gameplay, too. As with previous titles, Uncharted 4 revolves around third-person combat, climbing, and puzzle-solving. But, unlike its predecessors, this game often lets you sneak past enemy soldiers without doing any harm at all. This is a clear influence from The Last of Us, developer Naughty Dog's darker take on a third-person adventure. Stealth requires a patient, measured approach--but it feeds into the idea of a more reserved Nathan. Uncharted 4's action flows seamlessly alongside its narrative. It's a fluid, believable experience when it all comes together.

There are minor mechanical problems: the cover mechanic can send you to the wrong obstacle or wall in the middle of firefights, and rarely, Nathan will grab the wrong ledge when climbing. But these observations wash away within the grand scheme of things. There's always something incredible around the corner to erase the momentary annoyances.

Uncharted 4's action flows seamlessly along with its narrative.

The game borrows from The Last of Us in terms of structure as well. Much like its cousin, Uncharted 4 embraces a more open approach with much of its level design. There are small sandboxes where you climb towers, learn the layout, mark enemies, and choose to fight through them, or circumvent the group in the interest of a quiet escape. These areas would hurt the pace of a lesser game, but Uncharted 4 keeps tension alive even in its calculated moments, transitioning from open areas to action sequences without halting the momentum.

Speaking of: Uncharted 4's set-pieces are the best in the series, and among the best-coordinated stunts in the medium. There's a heist in Tuscany. There's an acrobatic escape along the cliffs of Scotland. There's a chase through a busy marketplace, and it opens onto farmland as you leap between trucks, slide through the mud, and crash through shacks in the Madagascar countryside. Just when you think Uncharted 4 might settle into a steady rhythm, it throws something new at you with high velocity and incredible power.

One of the game's massive puzzles.
One of the game's massive puzzles.

These sequences give you agency, but also enough guidance to maintain the euphoric rush of a car chase without constantly dying. I'm reminded of Half-Life 2's escape from City 17, where you sprint through apartments and over rooftops, controlling your character while the game directs you without sacrificing tension in the process.

The key difference with Uncharted 4 is how it directs you with its camera and lighting, guiding you to the correct ledge or doorway or crumbling wall as you leap through explosions and plumes of smoke. Audio cues also aid you--characters shout over the din of gunfire, telling you when to fight and when to keep running. The dialogue makes sense within the moment.

And then there's the presentation of it all. The cinematography, both in-game and during cutscenes, amplifies the wonder of this gorgeous world. It's not enough to call the jungles lush. They're vibrant. It's not enough to call the game's version of Scotland vast. It's majestic. There's also incredible animation at play, and it sets a new watermark for games in the way it can illustrate subtle emotions like distrust and yearning.

Sweeping camera shots and intimate close-ups tie the characters to the beautiful locales, as Drake gazes toward mythical places he only dreamed of as a kid. Uncharted 4 doesn't root its visuals in the hues of realism, but rather, paints the world as it might look to someone intent on exploring every inch of it--someone intoxicated by the prospect of adventure.

Uncharted 4's cinematography, both in cutscenes and out, amplifies the wonder of its gorgeous world.

Uncharted 4's multiplayer, though, ditches grounded storytelling in favor of all-out chaos: Nathan Drake clones swing from grappling hooks. Victor Sullivans pistol-whip each other. The villains of past Uncharted games lob grenades and fire RPGs and beat one another into a pulp.

This all plays out in multiplayer mode staples such as team deathmatch and zone control. But then there are Mysticals--attacks that make use of the artifacts we've become familiar with throughout the series. El Dorado summons aggressive spectres to attack your foes, the Cintamani Stone revives fallen teammates, and the Djinn lets you teleport short distances, blinking from spot to spot for a tactical advantage. In addition to these fantastical elements, you can earn gold through kills and revives, and find it scattered across multiplayer maps. It lets you add Mysticals to your inventory, but also lets you summon AI snipers and medics to aid your team's efforts. Uncharted 4's multiplayer exhibits the necessary creativity to elevate its already fluid third-person mechanics.

But although the multiplayer works well, and features a progression system that can keep you playing past your first few matches, it is not the primary draw.

The world is bathed in vibrant hues and gorgeous detail.
The world is bathed in vibrant hues and gorgeous detail.

The draw of Uncharted 4 is its remarkable single-player journey. How each of its parts feeds into the same cohesive whole. This is a narrative that continues in its gameplay, as Nathan places a reassuring hand on his brother's shoulder, or mutters a joke in Elena's ear. Uncharted 4 is so meticulous, you get the sense that its characters are thinking things we'll never hear out loud. "We have a lot of ground to cover," one person says. Is that in reference to the journey, or the first uncertain step toward forgiveness? We can read it however we want.

Uncharted 4's gameplay pushes the narrative forward, the narrative feeds off its gameplay, and every detail coalesces to create something bigger. Uncharted 4 bounces between set pieces and personal moments with such grace, with such skill and poise and affection for its characters, that you don't mind when the guns stop firing, and the smoke clears, and Nathan gets a moment to breathe.

Yes, this is a thrilling adventure through exotic locations, with spectacular action sequences and a pacing that pulls you through with ease. I had a smile on my face the second it began. But it's also a story about family. It's a story about self-examination. It's a story about making sacrifices for the ones you care about.

And most of all, as its final moments make clear, this is a story about storytelling--the importance we lend our idols, legends, and myths. How we pass down the ones that inspire us. How an old photo of three friends sitting on a pile of gold can unleash a flood of memories. Uncharted 4 is a challenge to the medium. In its writing, in its design, in its understanding of what makes games unique, Uncharted 4 is something to aspire to. It's a shining example. And we'll be talking about it for years to come.

Mike Mahardy on Google+
Back To Top
The Good
Stunning action sequences
Nuanced, emotional characters and story
Gorgeous world, animation, and cinematography
Gameplay and narrative form a spectacular whole
The Bad
Inconsistent cover system
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Mike Mahardy beat Uncharted 4's story mode in 14 hours. He has since played multiplayer, bullet time mode, and turned the cel-shading filter on. Sony provided a copy of the game for review.
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Avatar image for avico81

Uncharted 4 is a very good game but it's definitely not a 10!

It has some long dull exploring moments, a not too interesting story and the characters are 'who gives a f...k'

The shooting is fun and challenging, although weapons lack in variety. puzzles are o.k.

I've seen better games scratch the 8 here.

Avatar image for SingletreeAve

GS hasn't had a 10 game for a while. I was getting worried.

Avatar image for deactivated-5b2c8e0382c99

@SingletreeAve: Lol. What? Hasn't had a 10 for a while? I hope you're being sarcastic. They give 10s out like they're candy now. They gave The Witcher 3 and Metal Gear Solid V a 10. Those were just last year. Neither of them deserved a 10. They were a solid 8 or 9, tops.

Avatar image for hughthehand88

Uncharted 4 is a solid 8, I don't get the hype behind it. It was a very good game, but that's it.

Avatar image for dksoul81

The score doesn't really matter, to some extent it's the reviewer personal opinion, no matter how hard he/she wants to be objective. No review will ever be 100% objective, no matter what. The game is excellent and every gamer should experience it. I won't rate it yet, as I'm only chapter 19 and haven't tried multiplayer, but so far it's strong 9.5-9.8 for me. Couldn't imagine not being able to play it. I love the series, platinumed all 3 on PS3 and all 3 remastered editions on PS4, means good few playthroughs each game, including Crushing difficulties. 4th game lived up to all my expectations so far. I can see that I might feel there's not enough combat there if I played Normal, but as Crushing is available from start I play on Crushing first playthrough and combat is really challenging and plenty of it - several attempts to every encounter, learning curve for enemies positions and behavior, etc. Story is 10/10, I could possibly take 0.1-0.2 point for technical glitches, but that's about it.

Avatar image for consolehaven

@dksoul81: You have to admit, though, that it's one of the series best? Almost as great as Uncharted 2, more awesome than Uncharted 3?

Avatar image for deckardsdreams

SPOILER ALERT **************

We can discuss rating systems and reviewer opinion till the cows come home, if we all reviewed A Thief’s End, we would have no two reviews alike, nor should they be as our experience of this or any other title is wholly subjective.

This aside, my own experience enjoyed a pendulum between elation and a form of disappointment until completing the story allowing me to reflect on my incredible highs and niggling lows of the journey and conclude that Naughty Dog have delivered another classic; a most worthy conclusion to an epic series.

The lows focused mainly on the absence of memorable enemy encounters or moments you felt you were never going to get past, for example, “The Blue Room” without the cheat, from Drake’s Fortune, the “Train Boss” or bridge battle during The Monastery section from Among Thieves or Drake’s Deception's Horse / Truck chase to name a few.

However, 5 or 6 chapters in and I realized that reversing the ratio of platforming & puzzling to combat set pieces was a conscious decision by the developer for the sake of depth of storytelling so my expectations adjusted accordingly as I realized I was playing a slightly different shade of Uncharted.

Perhaps The Last of Us project moulded the decision to go with exploring for treasures, journals and objects of interest to embellish the story rather than continual searches for Joel and Ellie’s essential survival resources and to do this meant enlarging, though not opening the Uncharted world to some breathtaking and visually rich settings where I savoured simply looking around and wandering completely carefree until happening upon a tiny glistening and discovering that I’d somehow missed several treasures since the previous.

Hell if I need encounters then I can always load up Plane Wrecked on Brutal difficulty :-)

The combat contra story trade off worked in my view, those nostalgic references to the previous Uncharted adventures and nods to previous Naughty Dog titles as well as tying up of all lose ends helped me “grieve” for the end of an era even if I wasn’t happy with the Tomb Raider piton or the Epilogue that seemed to portray the daughter as a prospective teen Laura Croft; their dog was a breathtaking digital acheivement though.

Avatar image for igorphoenix

@deckardsdreams: Strange, the dog seemed off to me. Something about it looked completely wrong (fur shader maybe).

Otherwise - great game. It looks fantastic, the story is good, the acting is top notch (plus facial animation really brings characters to life). And I love the pacing and the focus on exploration rather than combat.

Avatar image for p1p3dream

@igorphoenix: i also thought the dog looked really awkward

Avatar image for iskaroth

Meh, i watched the game on Youtube up until the auction part and im not impressed. As far as gameplay goes its basically the same as previous Uncharted titles but with better graphics/animations and even longer and more frequent cutscenes. Also Drake despite his nice guy personality is still a mass murderer.

Avatar image for rjthakid

@iskaroth: "I watched the game on Youtube....I'm not impressed"

Watched a Youtube vid huh? Good for you bro. Good for you. Maybe you should use what you remember of the video you watched of someone ELSE playing to write an in depth review.

Avatar image for pnova

@rjthakid: he a troll bro

Avatar image for xrizz1066

What a way to start a game straight into the action and boat ramming no less. Love the imagination of the guys at Naughty Dog. Not had much time to play as weather's so nice. But loving every glorious minute of this. Now this is what a system seller looks like.

Avatar image for pnova

Uncharted 4 the best game I played in a long time. Play watch dogs and than play Uncharted 4. You will understand why it's a 10. This review was perfect.

Avatar image for consolehaven

@pnova: So, would you rate this review as 10/10? I agree, though, Uncharted 4 is a great game.

Avatar image for EcksTheory

@pnova: So play a shit game to make a good game seem like the best game ever? Whats next, watch a shit movie to make star wars even better? Eat a mcdonalds to make burger king taste better?

Avatar image for razecah12

uncharted 4 is a piece of shit until came out on pc master race :D

Avatar image for steamaddict

This game is good no doubt about it...But no way it's a 10 out of 10 no way..soldiers still bullet sponges, graphics look great one minute then not so great the next. I have even seen purple graphs all over the skin kinda weird..This review makes it sound like one of the greatest things ever..Its not anything special. It's a good uncharted game no more no less I think an 8.5 or 9(maybe) All this crap he is saying in this review is so inflated..While I respect his opinion after playing all the uncharted games this is just meh...You can hide in tall grass that your head sticks up above and no one can see's laughable..So in short no way a 10 is justified...You can have a fire fight shoot 15 guys and the people on the otherside of the door you go through next heard nothing..It just makes me mad that they give it a 10

Avatar image for InYourMouf

@steamaddict: You probably just watched a YouTube video of it, considering your name. All your arguments can be refuted with: it's a video game.

Avatar image for consolehaven

@steamaddict: But, have you played the previous games? This is one of the best in the series and deserves its praise. It could come with the caveat : 10 / 10 if you like this franchise. Uncharted has been in its own category for quite some time, even next to the likes of TR which is more of a metroidvania style game. Aside from its unmatched attention to detail, Uncharted 4 won't win the hearts of non fans especially because it's an big evolution from the groundwork Naughty Dog lay down in Uncharted 3.

Avatar image for pnova

@steamaddict: No Uncharted game has bullet sponge enemies, this is not the Division.

Avatar image for EcksTheory

@pnova: Its not as bad as the division, but there still some spongy going on.

Avatar image for InYourMouf

@EcksTheory: Stop shooting them in the foot. One headshot does the job to just about every enemy not wearing a helmet.

Avatar image for igorphoenix

@InYourMouf: true. But speaking about helmets - there was one thing that that was constantly breaking the immersion for me. Why the f**k Drake can't melee enemies wearing the helmet? I get that ND tried to make a tougher type of enemies, melee included but that's the worst solution to come up with. He's not even hitting them in the head!

Plus melee, in general, can be frustrating at times, specifically during scripted events where I constantly wondered whether it's intended or I'm really doing it wrong.

Avatar image for InYourMouf

@igorphoenix: Well the ones wearing the helmets are generally covered in armor, which would make melee quite a bit difficult. Plus, the idea is to have a tougher, more threatening enemy type, which forces you to change up your tactics.

I was never frustrated with the melee in scripted events. I think I died only once during a cutscene, on normal difficulty. They definitely keep you guessing whether or not things are happening because you caused them, or just happening because they're scripted, which I enjoyed. Most of the time in games I know when things are scripted.

Avatar image for Dragerdeifrit

Finished the game last night and was great, but i kinda have mixed feelings for it, i was expecting a bit more gameplay/action, its mostly walking and climbing on ledges while listening to Nate and his companions conversations. And don't get me wrong, the story and characters are fantastic, the game kept me hooked from start to finish thanks to this, i just wanted to have the oportunity to play more and watch and listen less,

Overall a fantastic ride, a ride i probably won't replay, not enough true gameplay there to justify a replay, at least FOR ME (and no i don't care about multiplayer, thats not uncharted, sorry) , i probably approached it with the wrong mentality, i wanted an action game with a good story tacked on, like Uncharted 1 and 2, instead i got an incredible Story driven game, with just a bit action tacked on.

As for the 10 score,..well. i think it deserves it, what it does, it does totally right, can't find any flaws in the game but my own personal gripes, which is kind of frustrating, i didn't love the game, but it's so hard to hate on something that is so well done... "head explodes"

Avatar image for igorphoenix

@Dragerdeifrit: i guess to each his own. I loved the shift toward story and exploration with all the little details it brought to the game. it really brought everything to life (well, that and superb facial animation/voice acting).

Avatar image for iaruelas

Its not a bad game by no means but 10/10 my arse!!!!!!! 7.5-8/10 easily. I come to realize Gamespot is biased now. QB gets a 6 and the Division also gets weak 8 score.. How much is sony paying you guys???? Republique an 8 but QB is a 6... What world does gamespot live in?????????? Payed scores is all I can say. SMH.

Scores are like butt holes. Everyone has them

Avatar image for RicanV

@iaruelas: Driveclub and The Order both received 5's.

The accusation of bias and payment is a little farfetched.

You understand that everyone has varying opinions based on your last sentence. But you refuse to accept that perhaps one reviewer didn't enjoy a game as much as another reviewer and label it as bias and payment.

Avatar image for deactivated-58068e533d0c3

@RicanV: "Driveclub and The Order both received 5's" but both games sold over 1 million copies, Driveclub sold 1.9 million units, and The Order 1886 sold 1.6 million copies, so what does this say about reviews? and gamespot's own policy on how video game should be reviewed, a fair and honest review. What does this say about VanOrd' s review and his personal opinion that he did not like The Order 1886. I love The Order 1886 and I still replay as a gamer The Order is a great game. I have formed my own opinion about reviews positive or negative laughable. I use my own judgement.

Avatar image for RicanV

@rebfaction: my comment was in response to the accusation of bias. I have no ill will towards either game, in fact I own both.

I was merely pointing out that claiming bias against a website that has distributed positive and negative ratings is an absurd claim.

Avatar image for deactivated-58068e533d0c3

@RicanV: My comment was in response to the point you made that Driveclub and The Order both received a rating 5, and so what does it mean? that doth games are bad and gamers should not buy or even try it. Personal opinion negative made-up cons to justify the low rating it's not fair to game developers, developers don't get rewarded for their hard work, people lose their gobs and sends good gaming studio's in-to bankruptcy just because the reviewer did not enjoy the game. Personal opinion review is why the accusations of bias and or payment, rival consoles owners would have an issue with the rating. A fair and honest review is out the window and reviews have lost credibility with most gamers. I don't look to a review or user opinion when it comes to buying video games but I do think some gamers do.

Avatar image for analgrin

@iaruelas: Average user rating here is 9.2. Guess they're paid off to along with all those professional critics on metacritic who have mainly given it 10/10 too?

Avatar image for RaveNRolla

i haven't read this, sorry, haven't finished the game yet. but i do have a rather big problem with uncharted 4. i already posted this a few times looking for other players with the same experience:

i have a very hard time playing uncharted 4. when standing still the game looks brilliant and sharp but as soon as i move or turn the camera all background blur like hell and it is ruining my experience and hurting my eyes. i've never had this with any game before. i was actually surprised that pretty much all games on ps4 that i own stay really sharp when turning around the camera fast (REvelations 2, dark souls 2&3), but uncharted 4 becomes blurry even by just walking slowly with Nate. It is also visible in screenshots. pretty much all trophy screenshots i have for uncharted are very blurry pictures. in a game like uncharted where you often have to move very fast and turn the camera a lot (like in gunfights) this is giving me nausea.

so anyone else experiencing this. it's such a shame because the game is so much fun to play (i'm in scotland, chapter 8 or so) but this is giving me headaches. i tried focussing on Nate and not the background and that helps a bit but of course it doesn't help gameplay-wise and i'm missing out on these great backgrounds, because when still the game looks gorgeous. i don't understand why this is in the game and why not more players are complaining about it. I read somewhere that "motion blur" is sometimes used to "smoothen rougher edges" though i don't see how this makes anything smooth. is it something i get used too over time? why is this effect in this game and not in any other game i've ever played? and why is it specifically in uncharted 4, the game that is supposed to have the best graphics on consoles to date? If someone can relate or explain, please do so!

Avatar image for analgrin

@RaveNRolla: It's motion blur. They use it to help hide the fact it's only running at 30fps, it was also used in TLoU. I presume it was also in all the previous uncharted games but I can't be sure. I actually like the effect, it makes it more movie like. And yes it also helps get rid of jagged edges on objects while moving. I think for some strange reason you're just hyper-sensitive to it. Maybe if/when PS4.5/Neo comes out there'll be an option to remove it as I reckon it'll run at 60fps on that.

Avatar image for RaveNRolla

@analgrin: i was just thinking it may be that i'm spoiled by the ps4 as opposed to the ps3. Early last year i was playing REvelations 2, i had it 1st on the ps3 and then bought it again for ps4 and i remember that when turning the camera on the ps4 around fast or running with the character that all the background was still super sharp, much better than the ps3 version. it was the 1st time i noticed a jump in performance from ps3 to ps4 other than better graphics. since then i haven't touched my ps3 although i did play mostly remasters last year until dark souls 3 finally came out. and all the games i played on ps4 do not have the issue. you can turn the camera fast, run, strafe and everything looks sharp. it's only uncharted 4 that has this weird effect. well considering i find very few players that complain about it i hope i will get used to it over time or that they eventually patch it if it keeps being an issue for me.

Avatar image for Pelezinho777

"They play video games together!" ?

Did they play Uncharted?

Avatar image for deactivated-5bda06edf37ee

@Pelezinho777: They played Crash Bandicoot

Uncharted 4: A Thief's End More Info

  • First Released May 10, 2016
    • PlayStation 4
    Uncharted 4: A Thief's End will explore what it means when Drake is forced back into the world of thieves.
    Average Rating768 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Uncharted 4: A Thief's End
    Developed by:
    Naughty Dog
    Published by:
    SCE Australia, SCEA, SCEE, Sony Interactive Entertainment
    Adventure, Action
    Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
    Blood, Language, Use of Alcohol and Tobacco, Violence