A fitting sendoff for an iconic character

User Rating: 8 | Uncharted 4: A Thief's End (Libertalia Collector's Edition) PS4

Uncharted 4 is a difficult game to evaluate, particularly for those of us who have played all of the other games in the series. On the one hand, the game is made to the highest standards of quality, with drop-dead gorgeous graphics, epic set-pieces, and first-rate acting. On the other hand, veteran gamers will recognize, and a fair reviewer should acknowledge, that the series hasn't improved in many ways since Naughty Dog hit its high water mark with Uncharted 2 more than 8 years ago.

8 years is a long time, and the seams start to show at a certain point. The flaws that seemed inconsequential when balanced against the sheer excitement of a truly novel experience are harder to overlook the third time around (I'm excluding the original Uncharted, which almost felt like a beta-test for the concepts that Naughty Dog eventually perfected a few years later in Among Thieves). Here are the major downsides of this series. First, the level design is highly linear, but filled with "dead-end" detours that amount to little more than a 20-30 foot passage off of the main line. To be honest, these space- and time-fillers get annoying after a while. If a game really is purely linear, I can live with it as long as the pacing and story keep the gamer engaged. That's where Uncharted shines, so it's a little annoying to then find these dead-end side paths that inevitably lead nowhere and, at most, contain a single "treasure" item to collect (for no real purpose). Second, the combat controls are "loose" in a way that's hard to describe. The shooting doesn't feel impactful or meaty, it seems too slick and slippery. Also, enemies take an inordinate number of shots (3-4 pistol shots, unless it's to the head) to put down. I get that there has to be some difficulty to sequences, but it just creates the sensation that Drake goes through his entire adventure with air rifles and water guns.

That being said, this game shares the strong suits of its predecessors and improves in one aspect: the storyline and the character development here are the best of the series. This game is the first in the series that makes a concerted effort to show us more about Drake's history and personality, and to depict an exaggerated but somehow also nuanced depiction of his relationship with Elena. By the end of the game, I cared much more about these characters than I did in Uncharted 2 or Uncharted 3. The influence of the directors of Last of Us is clear in this game, particularly in the well-composed epilogue.

Overall, this is a memorable game because it offers a satisfying and poignant conclusion to the story arc of one of my favorite characters of the last 10 years. And, despite the fact that some of the series' foundation and mechanics are showing their age, this game remains a must-play for any Uncharted fan.