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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.

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"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.
2300 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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Avatar image for killersushi

After playing for a while, it is the best looking game ever on any platform, period. And I say this a s a PC gamer.

Avatar image for mister_davis

@killersushi: wow a pc gamer that doesn't have is head up is ass.

Avatar image for ArchoNils2

@killersushi: It looks great and it is a wonder it performs so well on a PS4, but it is far from being the best looking game ever

Avatar image for killersushi

@ArchoNils2: So tell me a game that looks better.

Avatar image for ArchoNils2

@killersushi: One? i can give you 10. But I'm pretty sure you will discredit every single one of them with some weird reason.

Witcher 3, Just Cause 3, Crysis 3, Ryse, GTA5, Project Cars, Metro, Arma 3, Battlefield 4, Star Wars Battlefront, ...

All on PC of course. Also if you add mods, the list gets even longer.

Why wouldn't they, you can have much better hardware on PC. With my 970s SLI I can choose between maxing games at 1080p with great fps or pretty high settings on 4k with >30fps (Uc4 runs at max. 30fps). Also did you see how great Star Citizen looks? And what do you think PCs will be capable once the 1080s are out? Can you imagine playing games while SLI-ing 2 or 3 of them?

However: On PS4 Uc4 it is one of the best looking games, no doubt.

Avatar image for killerious

@ArchoNils2: Graphics is not just the realism or resolution fidelity, but also the amount of details, the art design, animation and how all belnds together to create a unique experience. I think that in that regard, Uncharted tops most of them.

Avatar image for darkness470

@ArchoNils2: GTA5 on PS4 doesn't even look as good as most PS3 games, and Battlefield 4 is a bit dated now. The other games are not that great looking either when compared to Uncharted.

Also, the average gamer can't tell the difference between 30fps and 60fps unless there are severe frame rate drops.

Avatar image for killersushi

@ArchoNils2: Haven't played them all, but I can tell you that Witcher 3 is nowhere close, neither is GTA 5. Not surprising either, both are open world games and even expecting them to have better graphics than an Uncharted 4 type game with small levels and much more linear gameplay would be unrealistic. Metro again doesn't match this in the slightest.

Note I've played all these games on PC with a 980Ti at max setings and 2k 165Hz monitor. Of course the framerates are better, but other than that in terms of fidelity it's no competition. I'm talking about graphics in general which includes believability of the set pieces, art direction etc. not just technical mumbo-jumbo.

Are you even playing Uncharted 4? Screenshots don't do it justice, believe me.

Avatar image for ArchoNils2

@killersushi: Well I guess we have different eyes then ^^ Yes I played it long before most here, I posted two gameplay videos of me playing the game, you find them in the comments. It does look great and it is a wonder this thing runs on a PS4 so stable. But I really think even open world games like GTA V or Witcher 3 look better than it, especially running in 4k. Maybe it's because I play on a big 4k Tv, no idea.

Avatar image for killersushi

@ArchoNils2: Funny, just got a mail by Allegorithmic saying this:

"Uncharted 4 can arguably be considered the most beautiful game ever made. We have never seen such intrinsic quality in all assets at such a large scale and with such mastered, consistent art direction."

There you go. I'm not alone :)

Avatar image for metallinatus

@killersushi: A clueless one.

EA's Battlefront may suck, but it destroys this in pure graphics....

Avatar image for killersushi

@metallinatus: Nope. With Uncharted 4 I'm getting moments when I think for the first time ever this looks like an actual movie under certain lighting conditions. The set pieces are so staggeringly beautiful, the animations so seamless and smooth and the quality of the models/textures/shaders is so perfect, it's just insane.

Avatar image for gfantini

@killersushi: Exactly. Resolution, effects or filters can only take you so far.
There's simply nothing in the gaming industry at the moment that can rival Uncharted's visuals in terms of realism and cinematography. Battlefield 1's trailer does get close, but it's far from released. Everything else mentioned here may look cleaner or smoother on a high end PC, but cannot touch U4's graphics overall.

Avatar image for metallinatus

@killersushi: The maps on Battlefront are almost freaking movies themselves.... they really set up a very high bar with that game's graphics.

And if you want to talk about looking like a real movie, we should mention P.T. too.

It was a PS4 exclusive too, so be happy.

Avatar image for Erebus

As a fan of the series, I find this game rather disappointing.

I've been playing this same game since Uncharted 2. I'm about 6 hours in and it feels tightly scripted with loose controls -- bad combo. Specific grapple points are placed exactly where you need them. Carved ledges telegraph the one and only way to progress. Anything off the beaten path results in a dead-end within seconds. Buggy jumps, grabs, and grapples often cause you to fail through no fault of your own. Some drops of 10 feet will kill you, while others at 20 feet are just fine -- whatever the game wants you to do is the only way to do anything.

This game is about 60% jumping puzzles, 30% shooting + "stealth," and 10% other (driving, swimming, puzzles, etc). With such a high score I was expecting more than the last two Uncharted games I already played.

This would have been the perfect game to snag at $30 in a few months. Linear, derivative, and rough around the edges, Uncharted 4 ironically feels well-worn.

7/10 for longtime fans. It's good, and it looks amazing, but it falls well short of expectations. Players new to the series will find the design novel while returning players should find it derivative.

Avatar image for LexLas

@Erebus: You definitely should play part 1, its a classic. Its what started it all. I can't imagine playing the rest without the first.

Avatar image for killerious

@LexLas: I see you just enjoy complimenting yourself. That's what fans do, look at what they have that others don't and emphasize its importance, nothing more, nothing less.

Avatar image for ArchoNils2

@Erebus: Wow, it is so nice to actually see somebody who played the game and agrees with me. Most just seem to be blown away by the graphics so much they totally miss the problems the gameplay has. No matte rhow much examples I present, I just get ignored by the blind fanboys :S

How did you like the story? Did you understand the motivation of Nate in chapter 7 to go to Italy (to formulate it spoiler-free)?

Avatar image for Erebus

@ArchoNils2: I get their motivations, and you never know that could be something that comes up later -- I give it a pass. But honestly I don't think the story is so great. It's not bad either. I think Uncharted 2's story (and pacing) was a lot better by this point in the game.

I still think Uncharted 4 will pick up, and I'm hoping the game is much longer than previous entries and as such is just taking a VERY LONG TIME to heat up.

Avatar image for ArchoNils2

@Erebus: Well if you played 6 hours you should be about half way through the game

Avatar image for Erebus

@ArchoNils2: That's a shame. I've been moving at a decent clip but stopping to take in all the sights as I go. If I'm not half way, I'm definitely close one way or the other. I'll pick it up again later.

Avatar image for ArchoNils2

@Erebus: Well it always depends on how fast you actually are, but it takes around 13-14 hours to beat it. So you are at least close top the mid-point of the game.

Avatar image for grephat_isch

@ArchoNils2: Alright, I've got a question for you guys. I played uncharted 2 and absolutely loved it: great gameplay, great pacing, looked sick, basically same reasons i loved rise of the tomb raider. Then I played uncharted 3. WTF! I ended up finishing it but the game downright sucked. Do you think as a fan of uncharted 2 this game would be worth getting? From how you described it it sounds like it suffers from some of the same problems that plagued 3.

Avatar image for ArchoNils2

@grephat_isch: Yeah it really does. I did like 4 more than 3, but liked it less than 2. I still think it is worth getting, it's just not as good as 2 (and IMO not a 10).

Avatar image for rixsta911

I prefer Pac Man

Avatar image for ArchoNils2

@rixsta911: The first chapter is pretty much PacMan, just drive with your ship into smaller ones (dots) and avoid the big one (ghost)

Avatar image for stingergg

luckily gamespot and others reviewer gives outstanding score JUST BEFORE the preorder on playstation store ended yesterday night. So, I was successfully snatch the 10% discount in the last minutes.

Can't wait to play this great game, my first uncharted series :) if it is great as many reviewers said, maybe I'll buy the nathan drake collection.

Avatar image for Lazerbeak2125

Never played an uncharted before.Played tonight for the 1st time,2 1/2 hours in,i was instantly hooked.Great story,graphics,and gameplay.

Avatar image for ArchoNils2

@Lazerbeak2125: Oh you liked the story of 4? What chapter are you at? If you already are at chapter 7, I'd wonder if you think that the motivation of Nate to help his brother makes any sense to you. Why would he change from living the normal life he protects so hard to going to the auction in Italy without much of a discussion? Why even go the long way of trying to find the treasure if you could go after the bad guy directly, especially since they don't seem to care about killing 100s of "enemies". Why go after a friend you once had, when you can go after the bad guy and find the treasure with your friend. The guy that actually has the money for finding the treasure easely?

Avatar image for GhostHawk196

People who only own a Xbox one, its well and truly time to get a PS4. If you can't afford one sell the Xbone and the sh!tty b-grade knockoffs like Rise of the Tomb Raider, Quantum Break etc so you can enjoy the real deal; Uncharted 4. You're welcome.

Avatar image for xenomorphalien

@GhostHawk196: We should definitely listen to a random user on the internet.

Avatar image for tony_dates

@GhostHawk196: I'll give it to you for Quantum Break being a crap game but Rise of the Tomb Raider was a good game (hopefully you've played it before calling it a knock off) and there would be no Nathan Drake without the OG Laura Croft.

Avatar image for jlenoconel

@GhostHawk196: I watched gameplay footage of Uncharted 4 and it looked a little boring to be fair.

Avatar image for deactivated-5b15dd02102d5

Time to put your big boy pants on people and stop making it a console war honestly those days are over! I have both systems and could careless who has what game coming out because I enjoy both systems. The PS4 is my first PlayStation system and I had a chance to play through the Uncharted collection for the first time. I will be getting a copy of Uncharted 4 as well as Doom for the Xbox One.

Avatar image for SolidTy

@sheri3366: Multiplats run better on PS4, just a heads up. I own an Xbone, but I only use it for exclusives.

Avatar image for deactivated-5b15dd02102d5

@SolidTy: Honestly I could careless! I play multiplayer on both systems I am not biased toward either one they both are great systems.

Avatar image for trollhunter2

The salt in the comment section is staggering *sigh*

Avatar image for veryusername

So finally PS4 has couple of games now. After 5 years it will be fun to get a PS4 for 200$ and play all the 10 games in coupe of months and sell it.

Avatar image for SolidTy

@veryusername: But the PS4 has more than double Xbone games. in total library.
I guess you might be referring to exclusives, but looking at games, the PS4 has more than the Xbone or Wii U.

I hope Uncharted 4 is as good as I hope, considering it's the team behind Uncharted 2 and The Last of Us behind it.

Avatar image for trollhunter2

@veryusername: thats sad, xbox has no games on this quality so far

Avatar image for dadlm

Came for the reviews.

Stayed for the flame wars.

Good job Gamespot's community, you will never cease to amaze me.

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 Rating777 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
    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