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by Stella Yan on May-21-16 09:43
Uncharted 4: A Thief's End plays like an action-packed exploration movie which halfway in, you'd wish it would just go on forever rather than suffer the ignominy of coming to an end.
The final chapter for PlayStation's favourite explorer, A Thief's End rightly so doubles up as 'A Thief's Beginning', as players are led through Nathan's formative years, on top of exploring the close bond he has with his older brother, Samuel and what drives them in search of the greatest pirate treasure of all. Also, as it turns out, there's a history to their surname 'Drake' and how they came to be which players will come across in halfway into the game.
One does not need to be an Uncharted fanboy to appreciate A Thief's End masterclass delivery in suspense and intrigue as well as clever intersplicing of quick wit and smart banter between the characters. This is the gold standard of presentation in video games and for those who wonder if Naughty Dog will ever be able to reach the heights of their gut wrenching epic in The Last of Us, look no further.
The stellar voice acting from the likes of Nolan North (Nathan Drake), Emily Rose (Elena Fisher), Richard McGonagle (Victor Sullivan), Troy Baker (Samuel Drake), Laura Bailey (Nadine Ross), and Warren Kole (Rafe Adler) gives A Thief's End a blockbuster-like feel befitting the game's scale and magnitude; something that gamers will greatly appreciate.
The emotions shown between the main characters are of the highest quality which makes you wonder why aren't they making a full-length movie instead here. As the game progresses, we explore the complex relationships that puts Nathan in the position he finds him in and how those closest to him made him the man we all come to know today.
Mention 'Uncharted' and the first thing that comes to mind for most of us is surely the exotic locales Nathan Drake sets his foot on and Neil Druckmann and co really hit it out of the park when it comes to brilliantly fleshing out the stage of the Drake brothers' latest adventure. From the rocky shores of Scotland to the lush greenery and clear blue waters of Madagascar, A Thief's End is by far the prettiest game on the PS4 to date and is Sony's testament to the console's graphics processing abilities and this isn't restricted to the surroundings.
I'm halfway into my second playthrough of the game and I'm still astounded by the lengths Naughty Dog went in detailing every single graphical aspect found in the game. From the details found on Sully's beige shirt, to the mud stains on Nathan's pants, Sam's receding hairline, the roadside posters at the market in Madagascar to the intricate designs of the treasures our character comes across - you can instantly tell that great care and attention of detail was put to even the most insignificant trinket which most players won't bother taking a second look at.
In A Thief's End, Naughty Dog dabbled with familiarity while at the same time constantly surprised us with clever bits of new gameplay that sets it apart from other games of this generation. The new melee mechanics, destructible environments and clever set-pieces keeps the excitement dialled to a ten, only to be punctuated with an overload of pirate lore and side explorations.
Speaking of exploration, the removal of the HUD altogether rewards the curious and players will more than ever find themselves marvelling at the beautifully rendered scenery, hitting their 'Share' button for that magical Kodak moment - something that appears quite often throughout. While this is certainly fun and all for Uncharted purists, frustration may build for those who prefer going straight to the point rather than getting lost in the vast space which Naughty Dog threw their way.
Combat-wise, it's pretty much the run-of-the-mill shoot, find cover, move on to the next and occasionally, stylishly take down enemies with a dual melee finisher combo when in proximity of a friendly character. There are several intense, high-octane set pieces that will leave you screaming for bloody murder but with careful timing and precision, a cinch to get past. However, as exciting as they are, it seem as if Naughty Dog decided to divert the main focus away from such actions in A Thief's End, and put more emphasis on character development which is fine by me.
The introduction of the stealth factor is more of an alternative to an all-guns-blazing approach and does not affect the outcome of the game in any way - except for saving ammunitions and lowering the chances of a Nathan Drake death. Hiding in tall grasses allows Nathan to creep in for a stealth takedown, slowly whittling down the crowd ahead of the inevitable exchange of gunshots. While this does add suspense to the game forcing players to carefully chart their moves in clearing heavily guarded sections of the map, this tends to feel tedious especially during the third arc, where ultimately, stealth approaches does not feel as rewarding as they ought to be.
Another gripe would be the grappling rope, which, despite its vast potential of usefulness, pretty much serves as a plot device to draw you forward rather a tool to vary Nathan's approach in the game. You can only use the rope at designated sections of the map, most of the time to get from one point to another. Using it during firefights will almost guarantee a silly death as Nathan is pretty much most vulnerable when swinging about. The reward for such high risk moves is usually a cool from above takedown ala Batman but you'll soon learn that the reward is not worth the risk.
Every moments that require snap decisions can be frustrating due to the fact that there's only one way of getting through the section you were funnelled into. Any sense of instinctiveness and urge to try something totally unconventional in the game instantly disappear the moment you realize the limitations imposed by the developers. Thankfully though, these moments are far in between.
However, despite these flaws, Uncharted 4: A Thief's End is a fitting end to Naughty Dog's epic Uncharted franchise. The combination of enormous scale, masterclass in storytelling and voice acting, of and of course, being the new bearer of the standard for graphical performance on the PS4 makes it a must have for old and new fans alike.