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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 DavidinCT

Stunning game even today. The worst part of this game is when the story is over... For me, that is it...

And the 3-4 year wait for another :(

Avatar image for jfracchia

Since i bought it, i have played it 3 times already!!! Damn! And every time its awesome!

This game its a treasure for me.

Avatar image for moatez

what a game! what a pure graphics! it just like real.

it is more beautiful than the other parts

10/10 rated

Naughty Dogs keep going with such amazing games

Avatar image for kljvoph

Interesting to look at this review in hindsight and realise how wrong Gamespot were. This game will not be talked about for years. No-one is even talking about it now. I played it. It was OK but really not that special. I wonder if they misinterpret nostalgia for greatness. Anyway just my 2 pence worth

Avatar image for don_p75

Best game I have ever played!!

It really deserves a 10/10!!

Avatar image for cantonjester

This is a fun game...Except that it's been done previously (and better (at least in Uncharted 2 and 3), I might add).

If it were a one-off game, then yeah, I'd give it a 9. But it's not. It's simply doing exactly what Bethesda's previous Uncharted entries have done. At some point, that's got to start to ding the score, because you're sure as hell going to feel a wave of deja vu that'll knock you out of your seat.

Avatar image for mikeblazingit

The game is amazing it deserves that 10

Avatar image for Ezioprez9709

Got it at Christmas, played only a few hours and I'm starting to see why this got a ten. Right now it's one of the best games I've ever played, cannot wait to see everything it has to offer. Best in the series? Sure as hell looks like it.

Avatar image for deathswagga

Who's here from Twitter?

Avatar image for stingergg

I have played this game but to be honest it doesnt deserve 10 score.

I even had put comment in this page during this game release and talk about all excitement before playing it. Turns out it does not as good as the hype.

Graphics are surely stunning, but its story quite flat after sometime. Gameplay also may become boring after sometime, just jumping around here and there, solve puzzle which sometimes challenging but sometimes kinda boring. Stealth game is also painful, I'd rather choose to go rambo style. That car chasing action is awesome though.

I have played Last of Us before, and this game should has lower score than Last of Us. Last of Us can mix all the story, gameplay, stealth, firefight, into one linear sequence which make make always want to go home early just to continue playing from last game saved. however, it does not happen with Uncharted 4.

It shoul be 8/10, and Last of Us should be 10/10 :)

Avatar image for don_p75

@stingergg: I don't think the last of us deserves a 10/10.

I had more fun playing uncharted 4 than the last of us.

Avatar image for theunstablehero

@stingergg: I played all the Uncharted games and on the ps3 Uncharted 2,3 seemed so much better than this one.

Avatar image for deactivated-597790eb0da2d

Dear adventurers, in the practical part of my master's thesis I analyze the Uncharted 4 and I need some data. If you finished the game (single player) please complete the short survey about it. I would highly appreciate your help.

Avatar image for SythisTaru

Best game ever made, no doubt.

Avatar image for jerrymeza

I just finished it today, I really enjoyed it and now Im going to finally finish Uncharted 3, lol

Waiting for chapter 5 (I can hope, can't I)

Avatar image for deactivated-5c66a5fc40886

I almost finished it now and even if it did not take long to get to the end it certainly did feel like it. There are certainly worst games but it is remarkable how bland an AAA game can become if its developer is absolutely opposed to make anyting interesting or risky with it. The most annoying thing is how filmlike the game wants to be but the characters are so bland and the dialog is so boring. Climbing feels like a long linear corridor and shootouts while not totally horrible but still feel more like a chore then anything else.

Best part of the game is when you let Nathan fall of a cliff becase he is a totall fuckwit. I don't think I have played any game in my entire life where the main hero is such an unbearable smug piece of shit. He is constantly making his little jokes in the middle of fights when he like kills 20 men and then he is sad not because of that but because he got in to a fight with his wife! To whom he lied for no reason but to make drama. The parts with his wife and private life are especially unbearable. But thankfully a lot of the bad can be ignored and mainly the core is solid. The puzzles are fun and the gameplay fluid. Cutscenes can be skipped. 6/10 from me.

Avatar image for stingergg

@mathi4s: dont agree with that score, but I do agree that seeing Nathan fall of a cliff or even with his jeep makes me laugh lol :D

Avatar image for SythisTaru

@mathi4s: This is shameful coming from someone who supposedly likes Planescape Torment. I wouldn't think Uncharted would go so far over your head; but it seems I'm wrong.

Avatar image for deactivated-57f149464394d

@mathi4s: What about mario, hes way more smug and his dialogue is always witty and poignant, the thing I love most about Mario is that he isnt defined by genres, age or racial stereotypes hes just a grounded guy but then hes like uhh no they kidnapped my princess and hes all like sad and stuff(in a happy smug kinda way). He then goes on the rampage jumping on goons and eating flowers that give him fire powers and indiscriminately killing all of bowsers men..

Well we assume they are... not like he asks or anything. So he rescues the princess and says something like Im the best!(smug! right). So by my comparison as Uncharted 4 is regarded as a modern classic just as Mario 64 was in its time but did anyone mark down that hes just too happy or too non fussed with the natural fauna hes destroying in this pipe world...No we don't because its a game and its fun and real life logic doesnt apply. Would you play uncharted if you shot one guy then spend the rest of the game with guilt, No you probly wouldnt I mean if you didnt want to shoot them melee is an option, you could fool yourself into thinking they are all 'ok' we don't know what the real nathan drake thinks because hes a character in a game and the story elements want you focus on the journey of the characters with a bit of tongue in cheek fun. So don't skip them...You wouldnt skip marios story cut scenes.

Avatar image for dmblum1799

I don't like platforming and I don't really like puzzles. Not really. But I love this one and UC 2. What I like about Naughty Dog is they set the right tone - this feels and looks very different than Last of Us (which I would say was 10 and this maybe 9).

Avatar image for dmblum1799

@dmblum1799: There's also a sort of 4th wall humor I enjoy.

At one point his brother says "Geez, there's lots of lifting and crawling under things."


Avatar image for xxbioghostxx

This game is missing the Uncharted charm that the previous games had. (Could be because of different game director?) I am still struggling to beat this game as it gets extremely repetetive at times and even frustrating, the sliding the rope climbing the uninspired and monotone level sequences. Don't get me wrong its a great game but i just dont feel like its a 10/10 experience. Maybe a solid 8.

Avatar image for M_T_Mabowels

'Gorgeous world, animation, and cinematography' is indeed what I am getting when I played this game on my new Limited Edition (UC4) PS4. However, having come straight from UC3 on the PS3, I think they have missed a trick by not taking advantage of the glorious stereoscopic 3D of the previous game and that can now be achieved relatively cheaply with many modern monitors. With the raw processing power of the PS4 it ought to have been a cinch to implement this. For me, 3D would have made this game practically perfect - the icing on the cake.

Avatar image for Warsilver

This is what games are all about. Storytelling through awesome design.

Avatar image for kinzaamer

Why we all loved uncharted 2 , is because we had some out of this world creatures , a crazy fancy train scene and the BAD guy wins. and drinks the portion. but when all hope is lost the under dog DRAKE, still beats the bad guy ..

uncharted 3, the biggest thing they were promoting was the airplane and it didn't even last 5 minutes. drake should had got hold of the plane, but the plane would be going down after a little dog fight with some other planes then drake would had to jump off and grab one of the crates in a free sky diving.. Marlowe should have got the treasure and open the box and it should have caused DJINN in her to rise and drake had to beat her.. that would have made that game perfect.

uncharted 4, no more mystical creatures.. and the bad guy doesn't win, drake wins.. no crazy scene like the epic train ...yeah great scenery.. nothing we can SAY was EPIC ... i gave it a 8, its worth playing but not worth playing twice..

Avatar image for anthonettex
Avatar image for 066774

A game more for those who want to see how it all ends. More style than substance really. Bit over hyped

Avatar image for zosoph33r

Just beat this game on crushing. This game deserves a 7-8 score. I love naughty dog, but this game isn't as good as the last of us nor uncharted 2. if the game was longer perhaps,, maybe if they would have taken some time away from credits to make game longer? lulz.. its not bad, but not a 10. I wish it was.

Avatar image for zero_dawn

It is an amazing game, well deserving of a 10/10. Fun, diverse gameplay, mastercrafted characters and voice acting, brilliantly written script and the best graphics and animations ever on console. Also has the best action sequence I've ever played. The ending is unexpected, creative and touching.

Avatar image for megantereon

The cinematics and acting were very good, however the game itself was so simplistic and linear and much less than the previous games in the series so hard to see a 10/10, other than the huge amount of advertising of the game on this site. I would like to find a site where reviews are not tainted by advertising dollars.

As a movie it was nice to look at but the storyline and plot too simple. It walks you through he few puzzles and there was just nothing innovating in the gameplay. Uncharted 2 was far better as a game. I doubt I would play this again so replay value is limited. I think it was dumbed down and focused on being an interactive movie with a straightforward plot so it would be more addressable to the masses. Last of the series so it was popularized to get the most sales. I doubt I would buy a sequel to this.

Avatar image for RaveNRolla

@megantereon: i thought especially the enemy encounters were pretty creative with those great level-designs. tons of stuff to do: climbing, sliding, ropes, tall grass. if only there were a few more enemies.

Avatar image for deactivated-5843866777e41

@megantereon: I agree, i loved the game, i really did but its not worth a perfect score. there were a few parts where textures were off as well

Avatar image for jazzycmk

Just beat on Crushing. Much more difficult than crushing in previous UC titles. Gun battles were extremely challenging, with cover being limited (or temporary with wooden crates, etc.), and issues with running low on ammo. Felt very accomplished when I completed it (then again, I may be easily impressed).

On to multiplayer to get my butt kicked.

Avatar image for RaveNRolla

@jazzycmk: really? it was hard no doubt, but for me it felt easier than uncharted 3 crushing mode, which was just total frustration where you had parts where you had to run or ride and it was a question of pure luck wether enough bullets would hit you or not. i think the level design in u4 definitely helps in crushing mode. lots of places to hide and even though enemies are much sharper (easily spot you in tall grass if you're close enough) it is possible to re-enter stealth by running away and hiding.

btw. the enemies are a lot less motivated than their last of us counterparts. while both claim to "go look" when they think they saw you, only the last of us enemies actually do so. uncharted enemies stay on their spot just looking in that direction before deciding that it was probably nothing. or has anyone ever actually encountered an enemy that was going out of his way to check your hiding spot, like they did in the last of us?

Avatar image for purgatori

I thoroughly enjoyed the game, and the Uncharted series is one of my all time favs., but I was very disappointed to read that TLOU devs who took over after Amy left, she worked on 4 for two years btw, went out of their way to appease the feminists by making one of the main villains a female. Nadine was changed from a male after it was suggested to Druckmann that the game needed more women. They also purposely wrote Nadine beating the crap out of Drake just to have some "girl power" man-hating nonsense in there. Which is a shame, because I actually thought she was a badass character, but this news has soured her a bit for me. This was after I just got done reading a different article stating that the Druckmann used that wackjob femnazi Anita Sarkeesian as "inspiration" for the TLOU dlc, which is why Ellie had her little "experimentation". There are other feminist elements inserted into UC4 if you pay close enough attention. I still really like the game but Naughty Dog should watch themselves. If they keep going down that SJW route then they will destroy their games, and a lot of us will no longer want to play them.

Avatar image for zero_dawn

@purgatori: I thought Nadine was great and perfectly portrayed.

Avatar image for deactivated-5843866777e41

@purgatori: I also read an article where Druckmann says that when he presents a character the one of his artists she occasionally asks him "what if it was a woman?" I dont mind strong female characters in games but going out of their way to change characters in odrer to appease a certain group is just plain moronic in my eyes.

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
    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