By Danny Arriaza
Besides some reservations because it is only May, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, the latest effort by developer Naughty Dog, is my choice for Game of the Year. The final adventure of Nathan Drake, Victor Sullivan, and Elena Fisher is perfect in almost every way and wraps up all points of their story in an effective and natural way while also introducing a new cast of characters that almost immediately have fantastic chemistry with the original cast. But, despite all these great features what really is the selling point of this game is the technical quality of the graphics. A Thief’s End is the best looking game of all time, its closest competition is only The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt but even that game it surpasses with flying colors.
Since we were first introduced to these characters almost nine years ago back on the PS3, it seems Naughty Dog has refined every aspect of their storytelling and gameplay features. The gunplay and traversal is smooth, polished, and refined with a wide variety of guns to choose from. One of the best additions to the combat was the dedicated sneak system, the player can decide to avoid battle entirely at some points if they so please or can use the bushes and high foliage to get the drop on enemy AI. In one of the midgame levels, the player is presented with an open plain littered with ruins of a tower crawling with enemy soldiers. Along with Sam and Sully, Nate is given the choice of attacking head-on or choosing a more tactical approach, this freedom makes tackling these situations that much more rewarding when you succeed.
Then, as with all games that place such an emphasis on climbing and running for traversal, the question is raised that if the developers did a good job on the mechanics; the short answer is yes. Naughty Dog must have put several hundred hours to make sure that everything is smooth. In my fifteen or so hours of playtime through the story, there were very few glitches when I was climbing or jumping. Also, the addition of Drake’s grappling hook was a stroke of genius, giving another level of traversal that is fun and useful in combat. But also allowed Naughty Dog to show off the beautiful scenery that will be played through as the camera will pan out when Drake is on the line. Another feature that was added were rock slides which add some fun but don’t serve much in the way of anything really useful.
Now, for Naughty Dog’s ace in the hole: the looks of the game. This game really is great looking and isn’t afraid to show it off. Many of the climbs Nate does is in service of showing some great views which he remarks on. From the hills of Italy or the plains of Madagascar to the snowy wonderland of Scotland, there is no shortage of breathtaking spectacles to behold. The photo mode is wonderful in this game, and it really allows and encourages the player to take and share pictures with their friends.
Yet, no matter how good a game looks it would be worthless if it didn’t have a great story with relatable characters and Uncharted has both. Seeing the relationship between Elena and Nathan is sweet, funny, and endearing. Also, this game really solidifies Sully’s role as Nathan’s father figure by the interactions. Though the most intriguing dynamic is between Nathan and his presumed dead brother Sam. Nolan North and Troy Baker are fantastic playing brothers, even though the characters have been apart for years, they instantly feel like real family. Then there are the two new villains, which are the best the series has had, Rafe Adler and Nadine Ross. Rafe is sociopathic, angry, and fueled by a desire to prove himself. While Nadine is cold, calculating, and is the leader of Shoreline, a private military to be bought. All the characters interactions are terrific and make for an enjoyable albeit predictable campaign.
Then there is the multiplayer component, which is a bit of an afterthought but it is a very fun distraction from the meat of the game. It has four modes which are all enjoyable, but it is nothing that hasn’t been seen before.
Overall, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is one of those games that should be played by everyone because just by itself it is an amazing experience with a story that will tug at your heartstrings at times and at others have you slack-jawed from awe by its beauty. Ten out of ten, game of the year contender.