Sharing a PS3 with a buddy 115 miles away meant console access was a bit of an issue until recently. With the majority of Naughty Dog’s Uncharted series being available for the aforementioned system, Nathan Drake hadn’t made an appearance on Hitbox Gaming’s screen. That was until last weekend, when Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End was finally unboxed.
Truth be told, the game had been quietly gathering dust since the PS4 was bought in June. However, with A Thief’s End‘s recent nomination for more or less every category in the Game of the Year awards, there is no better time for this Nathan Drake virgin to pop their cherry.
So bloody pretty
Uncharted 4 is without a doubt one of the most visually spectacular games available on the PS4. Naughty Dog has gone beyond what should be possible to deliver on a piece of technology that wasn’t exactly powerful when it was launched a few years ago.
The world in Uncharted 4 is so faithfully recreated that you really feel like you are sliding down slate shingles on a Scottish coastline or trying to escape from a dingy Panamanian prison. The way that a landmark which was miles away suddenly appears right under your nose after half an hour of climbing up rocks and swinging over canyons is incredible. The way you progress through the world in A Thief’s End feels like an actual world, rather than a series of small playable areas with a nice background.
The attention Uncharted 4 puts into the small details is what really brings the game to life. From the way the light shines through the jungle canopies onto one of the lost cities to the plant life glistening when it gets wet, transports you right into the world. The number of times you end up dying simply because you were momentarily distracted by something random flapping about in the wind is a testament to the seemingly living world around you.
Learn to climb before you can walk
Climbing comes as easy for Nathan Drake as discussing the weather or queueing does for the English. It’s such an intrinsic part of moving about Uncharted 4’s glorious world that almost every obstacle can be solved by jumping around enough until you cling onto something. For a newcomer to the series it’s a fun way to get about, although at times it can make the game feel like it doesn’t exactly follow the laws of physics.
On the rare occasion that you can’t just hop about until you’re suddenly climbing, you have to use Nathan Drake’s trusty grappling hook and swing about a bit. A real-life friend/blogging rival reliably informed Hitbox Gaming that this swinging mechanic was only added to the series in A Thief’s End, and you can tell that it hasn’t had three games of refinement behind it. While it’s fun to swing across a canyon in the jungle, the physics just don’t feel as smooth as the rest of the game and you’re often left wondering if it was skill or luck that got you across.
Stealth is fun, shooting is not
Without wanting to spoil the plot too much you’re basically hunting for lost treasures and hidden cities. It turns out that you’re not the only one that wants the plunder and naturally they’re not too pleased to see you. Whenever you come across a group of enemies you generally get to choose to stealthily murder them or go in all guns blazing and shoot their heads off.
Quiet murder is without a doubt the method which seems most fitting with Nathan Drake’s character. When you sneak up on an unsuspecting enemy and drag him out of a window or crack his neck, it’s very satisfying. In most encounters, you can silently move from place to place, dragging nameless militia into the bushes for a cheeky bit of murder and before you know it, Nate is waltzing on out of there like it ain’t nothing to it.
Being the stealth game n00b that it is, Hitbox Gaming wasn’t particularly good at it. Instead, almost every enemy situation ended up into an all out gun fest within a minute or two. While running into battle all guns blazing is almost certainly not what Naughty Dog had in mind for the encounters, the fact remains that shooting guns in Uncharted 4 is one of the few things that isn’t very good.
With the exception of one or two weapons, almost every gun in Uncharted 4 feels the same to fire. The only obvious differences between most of the guns are whether they are semi-automatic or automatic, and whether it’s a pistol or a rifle. Strangely, there are a huge array of different weapons but as they all feel so similar to fire that it just seems like a bit of a waste. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with having a big selection of guns but they’ve got to feel different for there to be a point.
You should probably play the other games first
Even though playing Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End was a thoroughly enjoyable experience, it’s difficult to shake off the feeling that you’re missing something if you haven’t played the other games in the series. There so many moments that are a clear ode to previous adventures or not introducing characters that have already been developed, that you get the feeling that you’re being a voyeur to somebody else’s nostalgia.
The ending gives the indication that a couple of spin-off games could be on the cards but A Thief’s End feels very much like a swansong for Nathan Drake, and for somebody who’s just got into the series, it’s a bit sad.
With Black Friday just around the corner, The Nathan Drake Collection is already in the Amazon shopping basket so at least Hitbox Gaming can experience Nate’s past adventures, all the while knowing some undoubtedly story ruining information.
Game of the Year?
Aside from the slightly odd swinging (ooh, matron) mechanic and average gunplay, Uncharted 4 is one of the finest examples of gaming across all genres on the PS4. It is truly one of the most immersive, beautiful and enjoyable adventures, and it has rightly been nominated for 2016’s Game of the Year.
For Hitbox Gaming, A Thief’s End has won over a belated Nathan Drake fan and even rekindled a lost love for action adventure games. That in itself should be proof enough, if there even needs any, that Uncharted 4 deserves a place in every PS4 owner’s collection.