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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.
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Avatar image for grandwisdom

uncharted 4 is the best uncharted game i ever played for ps4

Avatar image for ptown58

is the un4 le ps4 console any different? (other than paint)

Avatar image for goodgamesguy

It's pretty pathetic that the metacritic score is suffering because little loser kids are giving it zero's. Seems like something 7tizz would do. Sad.

Avatar image for Puggy301

Can't wait to play this. I'll be too busy with a work-related projects to play until Thursday, but after that, I'm diving in. The multiplayer actually looks better than I thought it would. Outstanding job by Naughty Dog.

Avatar image for FBohler

This comment section is a fanboy-fest. Nobody seems to just want to enjoy a great game. They need to tell someone else that it's not on their console of choice.

Avatar image for blackbeltjones

@FBohler: My console of choice is the Xbox One but I also own a PS4 because I am not crazy enough to miss any of this awesome series!

Avatar image for tempaccess

The only problem I have with naughty dog games is the super realistic faces these characters have. I cant help but feel uncomfortable looking at them. They should tone it down and start to animate more and motion capture less.

Avatar image for snugglebear

My copy still hasnt arrived. Curses, slow delivery schedule!

Avatar image for silv3rst0rm

@computernoises: I'd suggest you guys to change the stock 500Gb hard drive but tbh with all those rumors about PS4.5 and whatever you might as well wait a bit and see if it's even worth it or if you'll be swapping console in the near future.

I did swap the stock 500Gb for a 1Tb SSHD myself which is a hybrid HD.

I can't say I noticed any real performance gain from the fact it has SSD cache (Some said it could save a couple of seconds in big games like GTAV) but tbh, I enjoy having enough space to install 30 games + ! =)

Avatar image for analgrin

@computernoises: Same. I got in. Put the disc in PS4 then sorted out my dinner, shower etc. Went to my PS4 expecting it to be installed and updates downloaded etc. . . Switch tv on. "Not enough room to install" Bugger!

Avatar image for LexLas

Well it looks better then its past chapters. I'm definitely in on this one. Making it one of my next games, or next.

Avatar image for onehitta323

Great game. Definitely worth the wait. Amazing graphics and game play so far. Just another reason why the ps4 is better than the Xbox None. Greatness is here.

Avatar image for bigrod69

But the self proclaimed feminist reviewer at IGN had this in the 8's because the lead character was too macho. I don't know what to believe.

Avatar image for analgrin

@bigrod69: Dont lie. It was at 8.8, due to not being able to hide bodies, and a repetitive 3rd act. Now they've been able to play properly online they have increased the score to 9.

Avatar image for bigrod69

@analgrin: I wasn't lying, she had it at an 8.8 before getting roasted in the comments there for her sexist comments in the review and eventually bowed to pressure and raised the score. But what I wrote at the time was correct.

Avatar image for unchartedfan

@analgrin: yep lol she love rise of the tomb raider than this game because of Lara croft is female. Uncharted 1, 2 and 3 never had thing is hide bodies seem like she never played those games before. this game is her first time to play on ps4

Avatar image for analgrin

@unchartedfan: There's a lot more emphasis on stealth this time. What use is stealth if NPC's are alerted by the bodies that you can't hide. She has a valid point.

Avatar image for irish40

I haven't played it yet but I had a chance to play through the first two and half way through the third one now. I could only imagine how awesome it looks because the the first three looked great! I don't know about it being the best looking game on the PS4 lets not forget about The Order 1886. I know its not as good as Uncharted but I am talking about its graphics.

Avatar image for analgrin

@irish40: I've got The Order on PS4 and believe me. UC4 pisses all over it. It really is that good. The Order uses lots of dark shadows to help hide any low res textures. UC4 is bright and vivid AND even more realistic. Awesome achievement by ND

Avatar image for elmarine2064

@analgrin: I agree 100%. The order had great graphics but UC4 just took the throne and believe will have it for years to come.

Avatar image for bigrod69

@irish40: I have The Order and it doesn't even look as good as Ryse on the XB1, but looks don't mean much if the game isn't fun and neither The Order 1866 or Ryse were very fun. The Division on my PC looks amazing, stunning, worlds better than what I'm seeing here and is fun. Not knocking anything other than just pointing out graphics really don't mean a lot if the game isn't any good.

Avatar image for irish40

@bigrod69: Ryse definetly looks better then The Order 1886 and was more fun but as far as the Division goes it was extremely boring after awhile. The AI had to be some of the dumbest AI I have ever seen in a game nothing like guys running at you with baseball bats. I still haven't finished the game I kind of shoved it to the side and played Far Cry Primal instead.

Avatar image for analgrin

@bigrod69: I don't agree with Ryse being better looking the The Order. I've got Ryse on PC running at 1440p maxed out yet I still think The Order looks a little more real. Admittedly The Order uses dingy dark environments to hide imperfections. Ryse has nice bright locations . . suppose I'd be willing to call it a draw :)

Avatar image for bigrod69

@analgrin: Ryse on the PC running at 3440x1440 looks absolutely stunning, I'd say it looks better than The Division on the PC at the same res and The Division looks amazing. The Order looks good, I certainly think it looks better than Bloodborne, but I don't think it looks as good as Ryse even on the XB1, and certainly not even in the same league as Ryse on the PC.

Avatar image for cejay0813

Between this and DOOM my shooter itch looks to be kept at bay for some time. Love single-player focused shooters.

Avatar image for cejay0813

@computernoises: True, so let's say my action game itch, since shooters can definitely be classified as such as well.

Avatar image for irish40

@cejay0813: Yeah I am excited for Doom as well I just hope they fixed some things on the multiplayer but I have a feeling it is the same.

Avatar image for iohannfus2015

10 it is a low note for Uncharted 4, for PC/XO1 owners maybe is too big, they have HW and FPS arguments but they don't have the joy to play this master piece ... anyway, they remains with Witcher 3, Fallout 4, SW Battlefront and other games that are much better than UC4 but for their consoles/platform ... imo, UC4 is a lesson of how to make a proper game and doesn't matter what haters will say or will try to demonstrate, hawk !!!

Avatar image for elmarine2064

@iohannfus2015: I agree. I have PC, PS4 and XBox. UC4 is a masterpiece but I don't think Xbox is capable of running this game due to lack of hardware power. I do wish Xbox only gamers could experience this game. It is so good.

Avatar image for blackbeltjones

@iohannfus2015: Actually I own an Xbox One and a PS4 so a lot of Xbox owners like myself will play it. I also owned a PS3 and Xbox 360..... Any gamer who has a job will just get both. Why miss out on great games from either system? I wont sell myself short. Played the first 3 on the PS3 and then bought the Uncharted remaster bundle when I finally picked up a PS4.... I cant express how much I love this series and did I mention I am an Xbox One owner....

Avatar image for cejay0813

The game is great. Only negatives I got from a 4 hour play session in the single-player would be the inconsistent cover system and the amount of lengthy cutscenes which break up the action pretty substantially. I will admit I have not gotten far so I'm still hoping to be surprised but so far so good.

Graphically the game is top notch.

Avatar image for killerious

@cejay0813: That's why I haven't bought it. It's like the last of us, amazing game.. boom and it's gone (you finish it). But at least the last of us wasn't that full of cutscenes as far as I can recall, whether this game looks like an Interactive movie. I skipped it, although I believe it's a good game overall. I don't play a full AAA price for a day and a half title. But yet again, I'm sure that those who enjoy these type of game we'll really love it.

Avatar image for cejay0813

@killerious: While some cutscenes have been lengthy, after playing further I notice that there's not too much of this. It falls more in line with previous Uncharted games as it progresses. TLOU was pretty stocked with cutscenes from what I remember and after playing so more, I wouldn't put U4 directly in line with that game. What makes the world of difference is the production value in the scenes which I would put in line with TLOU. Everything is a joy to behold but of course when it's time for subsequent playthroughs, I will be skipping all of it

As far as it being a day and a half title I've been playing for about 6.5 hours (checked the playtime clock last night) and I'm not even halfway through (I know the number of chapters). I am playing rather slow to take in the exploration and all but overall the game feels like it has some weight on the single player alone. I may or may not get into the multiplayer. Never did with past UC titles but I had some fun with the beta. Overall, I think it's worth the money they're asking and a price drop, if that's what you choose to wait on, would definitely make it a steal. It's worthy to have in the PS4 collection.

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:
    SCEE, Sony Interactive Entertainment, SCEA, SCE Australia
    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