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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+
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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.
2300 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
GameSpot has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to toxic conduct in comments. Any abusive, racist, sexist, threatening, bullying, vulgar, and otherwise objectionable behavior will result in moderation and/or account termination. Please keep your discussion civil.

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@7tizz: Too short for the price. Though i was impressed there is a Super Hot Fallout 4 mod. There is genius out there in the community.

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@7tizz: took u some time to post something bad about GS and UC4... Expected u to be the first!

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@7tizz: NOOOOOOOOOOOOoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

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@7tizz: what are try fans?

Avatar image for CRUSHER88

Right on. Currently grinding through Uncharted 1-3 on PS Now with the seven day free trial. Here's hoping I'll be done in time for Tuesday.

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@CRUSHER88: Why wouldn't you play the collection in 1080p , it is much better than originals. PS now only allows 720p

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@deviltaz35: I just bought Overwatch so my money is a little tight. I wouldn't be able to afford Uncharted 4 and the collection at the same time sadly.

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@CRUSHER88: Oh bummer, still Drake collection has been discounted in some places. You should be able to find it pretty cheap when you do have money spare.

The drake uncharted console looks pretty cool , i would have gone for that if i didn't have the Starwars one.

Overwatch does look good though

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I stayed up for this. No regrets.

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Game looks great, I wish you all PS4 owners enjoy it a lot. But a 10? maybe yes maybe no. Even it has an "Inconsistent cover system"? ... well nevertheless happy gaming.

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oh god no , now what do we do with all the play station fans for the next few months ?

I never understand how these cinematic adventure games get full score but cool RPG's like Dark souls and Skyrim with hundreds of hours of content don't ...

surely it has something to do with exclusivity .

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@kingcrimson24: Its ironic to talk about playstation fans in a derogatory manner when you seem to be just fine bashing a game you've clearly never played or suggesting it only got the score it did because of some sort of bias towards playstation.

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@kingcrimson24: Yes, let's focus on the 13-15 hour campaign and ignore the MP which could easily add 100's of hours.

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@kingcrimson24: People just have different tastes and value some things more than others. I've always thought the Uncharted series was alright, but overall I think they're overrated. But hey, they must be doing something right to have all these fans.

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@kingcrimson24 Dark Souls is a fun and great RPG. But it's quite obvious to see which game has a lot more hours put into it. Once you play it, you will know why.

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@kingcrimson24: by your definition, an up-sized big mac meal should costs and be valued more than a cod-fish/salmon fillet because the big-mac meal has more 'meat'....

Big doesn't mean it's painstakingly crafted

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@lord_lad: hmm . well in that sense it's right Uncharted is the best cinematic linear game I guess

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@lord_lad: That's why for me TW3 is a lot more a 10 than this (perhaps TW3 a 9.9 and this a 9.8), although TW3 has some controls-movement issues. 10 times more game with almost perfect content each second. Big DOES mean it's better if each second during the entire game is equal in perfection to each second during a shorter but also "perfect" game.

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@lord_lad: Has to be the best analogy I've heard in a while xD

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excited to play this :D

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Yes yes!

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Greatness has arrived.

Avatar image for Misfitgraves18

@Undertow207: And it only took 2 1/2 years.

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@Misfitgraves18: Xbox platforms haven't had a true exclusive to score a 90 or higher on metacritic since Forza 4 way back on October 11, 2011, which is definitely going to hit five years soon without a top-tier game, haha, ouch. And Xbone's only opportunity to break that cycle this year will be Gears of War 4, which happens to release on October 11 as well, which probably won't happen since the last entry in that series, Judgment, scored a 79. Whereas Playstation platforms have had true exclusives score above 90 every single year since 1996.

1996: Tekken 2
1997: Parappa the Rapper, Colony Wars
1998: Tekken 3, Gran Turismo, Crash Bandicoot 3
1999: Gran Turismo 2, Ape Escape, Syphon Filter, Wipeout 3
2000: SSX, Chrono Cross, Vagrant Story, Spyro: Year of the Dragon
2001: Gran Turismo 3, Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy, ICO, Twisted Metal Black, Klonoa 2, Final Fantasy X
2002: Virtua Fighter 4
2003: Ratchet and Clank: Going Commando
2004: Ratchet and Clank: Up Your Arsenal
2005: Shadow of the Colossus, God of War
2006: Final Fantasy 12
2007: God of War 2
2008: LittleBigPlanet, Persona 4, and Metal Gear Solid 4
2009: Uncharted 2, God of War Collection, Killzone 2 and MLB 09
2010: God of War 3 and MLB 10
2011: Uncharted 3, LittleBigPlanet 2, ICO & Shadow of the Colossus Collection, and MLB 11
2012: Journey
2013: The Last of Us, flower
2014: The Last of Us Remastered
2015: Bloodborne, Journey remaster
2016: Uncharted 4 (and still over a dozen true exclusives left this year, not including VR titles)

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@Misfitgraves18: cough.....Bloodborne

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@Misfitgraves18: Bloodborne came out in 2015...

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@Prats1993: I wouldn't call a nerfed "Souls" game greatness.

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@Misfitgraves18: nerfed? it was harder than either DS2 or DS3

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@UltimateBastard: No.... no it isn't. Everyone is the same build so all the strategies were crafted with that in mind. I've been playing without a shield since Dark Souls and believe me, Bloodborne is easier.... and shorter too.

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@Erebus: I couldn't believe how easy DS3 was, the bosses especially where a joke, and DS2 wasn't a terrible lot harder, the old hunters DLC in bloodborne was brutal, granted I played it on NG+4. I definitely remember playing bloodborne through for the first time and thinking it was harder than DS2.

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@UltimateBastard: I did NG+3 (NG4) for DLC also, 100% solo of course. Again, I'm used to shieldless mechanics and fast dodges made it much easier than I was used to. I would i-frame through everything, and when I failed I could just smack the boss or instant-heal to recover health.

You were either used to the shieldless mechanics before BB or you weren't. If you were, it was the easiest. If you weren't, it was the hardest.

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@UltimateBastard: Compared to Uncharted it looks like a PS2 title though

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@Misfitgraves18: Let the butthurt flow through you.

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@berserker66666: Not my cup of tea, but thanks anyway.

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@Misfitgraves18: Except you're completely wrong.

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@Misfitgraves18: yes the rest of that time was spent playing superior multiplats and highest rated exclusives. 40 million people agree.

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@pdogg93: You mean Bloodborne and...

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@Misfitgraves18: and...Infamous:SS

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@louixiii: Never played that i thought it bombed rather badly.

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@deviltaz35: Bombed? I don't think so.

The game received great reviews overall and it sold well. In fact, it's the fastest selling inFamous game to date.

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@Ezioprez9709: ok thanks , i was never into infamous, i had the first game and due to some bug in my ps3 it kept losing my save so i lost interest in the game. I tried the demo of second one and that was just stupid being chased by some silly creature all the time for the whole demo.

If this is significantly better i might check it out. The game would be really cheap now in my local store anyway , so i'll have a look when i pick up uncharted 4 this week.

Just checked $18 in my local store for Infamous second son , i guess i could try it for that :)

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@deviltaz35: inFamous: Second Son is one of the best games I've ever played. Definitely pick it up. Also, try and play the original again. It's worth replaying, and I also wrote a review on it. Check it out if you want.

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@7tizz: Because it's a genuine opinion of mine.

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@Ezioprez9709: Cheers, i just found the combat all a bit samey in the first one. I had more fun with Prototype at that time to be honest.

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@deviltaz35: No problem.

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@Ezioprez9709: With all the hype of new Nvidia pascal GPU's being announced the only thing that interests me this week really is Uncharted 4 lol. I have $1000 aside for the next big GPU but i would rather there is something amazing that is going to make that worthwhile and for now that just doesn't exist. In the meantime i am happy to play Uncharted 4 and Doom on PC when it releases this week. i can only dream of a PC game reaching Naughty Dog's level of quality.

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:
    SCEA, SCE Australia, Sony Interactive Entertainment, SCEE
    Action, Adventure
    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