Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End – Review (PS4)

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Anyone who has read this blog for a while will know about my love for the Uncharted series. Victor ‘Sully’ Sullivan remains one of my favourite game characters of all time and the dynamics of the relationship between Nate and Elena, among others, keep me coming back title after title. But after the release of Uncharted 3 and a teaser trailer for the fourth instalment, it was all change at developer Naughty Dog – the driving force of the series Amy Hennig left and The Last Of Us team took over the reigns. The game was rebooted and reimagined. So could they continue the good work laid out in the previous games?

The Last Of Us had a huge impact on the gaming landscape both in terms of design and character development in games. The concern from some corners was that the devs might make Uncharted too ‘serious’. I don’t feel that happened and, actually, I believe toning down a few sections really helped the characters shine. Uncharted 4 still has the bombastic, action filled set pieces I’ve always loved but now includes a few options to use stealth for battles if desired. There are still plenty of one liners and quips but also real conversations and moments of downtime. It’s a slow start compared to other Uncharted games but I think it benefits the game in the long run.

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The story this time is your typical ‘one last job/coming out of retirement’ fare, all based around the reappearance of Nate’s long thought dead brother, Sam. For me, Sam was an interesting character but led to a few issues with the overall Uncharted universe. I don’t recall him having been mentioned much previously but if you ignore the ‘retcon’ of back story and just enjoy the plot it isn’t too much of an issue.

Graphically the game is a powerhouse, I’ve not seen anything like it and it’s definitely one of those games (like Driveclub or Star Wars: Battlefront) that you can use to show off what a PS4 can do. Gameplay remains largely the same, lots of climbing and firefights, although the addition of the grappling hook also gives you a lot more freedom of movement to escape from (or rush to) enemies. The AI of the enemies seems much improved and there were a few occasions that felt genuinely challenging on the Normal setting.

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I was a little disappointed that Greg Edmonson didn’t return to score but I guess the new Uncharted Naughty Dog team wanted to put their own stamp on things. Henry Jackson’s score does the job and the opening theme does hit home as expected. The voice acting is, as always, truly superb. Additionally the facial capture is among the best I’ve seen, able to capture subtle expressions of thoughtfulness or glee. Newcomers Laura Bailey and Warren Kole (as Nadine and Rafe, respectively) delivered two more great characters to the series. Rafe might actually be one of my favourite all time videogame villains.

I’ve always enjoyed the shooting in these titles and Uncharted 4 delivers again, with various weapons all feeling different to handle and having a decent heft to them. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for the hand to hand combat. Taking a more Last Of Us direction meant that close quarters fistfights became a mess of button mashing and hoping for the best. There were also a few sections when climbing that weren’t immediately clear on direction and I ended up falling to my death. Having said that, at least it added some (small) stakes to climbing, which hadn’t happened in previous instalments.

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Multiplayer is back and bigger than ever, with fast paced action set around a few core modes. Uncharted multiplayer has always been a bit ‘Marmite’ but I’ve always enjoyed the fun nature of it and this game really ramps things up by introducing computer controlled side kicks and mystical abilities based on items from the series. This feels like a good move to me, the game thrives on the magic artefact theme so why not lean into it for multiplayer? Players remain a touch bullet-spongy, again not an issue for me but others may not like that style of combat. The grappling hook also comes into its own here and it’s very satisfying to take out a human opponent from up high!

I don’t want to go into detail about the story but I will say it was the most enjoyable one in the series for me. Uncharted 2, with its triple-crossing, pulp action comes a very close second but the character development in 4 is truly great. They have the benefit of this being the final game, which allows them the luxury of tying up some loose ends and I’ll finish this short section on the story by saying, as someone heavily invested in the series and characters, that I was really pleased as the credits rolled – Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is a great way to wrap up the series.

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Another stellar title in the series then, as Naughty Dog continue their amazing run of games on PS4. With the increase of players on Playstation this generation lots more people will get a chance to experience Uncharted’s special brand of treasure hunting. If you haven’t already picked this up, I’d really recommend you do.

Rating: 10/10

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Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception – Review (PS3)

It has to be said that a lot of people were wondering whether Naughty Dog would be able to improve on the superb ‘Among Thieves,’ a game that walked away with awards for ‘Best Voice Acting,’ ‘Best Graphics,’ ‘Single Player Game Of The Year’ and the biggie – ‘Game Of The Year’ in my end of year round up for 2009.

Where both ‘Drake’s Fortune‘ and ‘Among Thieves’ concentrated more on the relationship between Nathan Drake and Elena Fisher, this instalment focuses on Nathan and Victor ‘Sully’ Sullivan. As a big fan of Sully that’s a plus in my book.

The gameplay is as fluid as ever although the same gripes from the second game do raise their head. The main one being when certain gameplay parts flow (such as a chase or escape scene) they *really* flow but if you fail the section and have to re-do it a few times it totally breaks the immersion for a bit.

This isn’t indicative of Uncharted specifically, any game that is scripted this tightly (for example the Call Of Duty games – in particular I had this issue with the snow sled escape in MW2. I’m sure it was amazing if you got through it in one go – not so much when having to re-do it) often have this problem but it feels so much more harsh here because the game does such a good job of dragging you in.

The banter between characters is fantastic and it is one of the few games I found myself chuckling along with. You can tell these actors have known each other a long time and worked together to build these character relationships.

The gameplay itself isn’t anything new, a mixture of climbing, shooting and solving puzzles but after the success of ‘Among Thieves’ refining rather than changing was probably the best route Naughty Dog could’ve taken.

The plot is great and throws up a few curveballs but nothing like the backstabbing double-crossing of the last game. ‘Drake’s Deception’ is the story of Nate and Sully and it was great to find out more about their relationship.

I wrote a detailed look at the multiplayer experience during the early access we had (which can be found HERE) and thankfully not too much has changed. Multiplayer really has improved from the last game and the whole experience feels a lot deeper – the medal kickbacks and power plays add a tactical element to proceedings and allow players to quickly escape a sticky situation if they’ve earned the right to.

I’ve seen some reviews of the game picking holes in ‘Drake’s Deception’ and while I admit it doesn’t have the same impact as the last game (how could it?!) Naughty Dog have done a great job on tightening things here and there to deliver a stellar title. We have been spoilt with the last two games in the series, which is why I think some people are a bit down on the game.

For me this is another complete package – the best third person multiplayer on the market coupled with a great story and the best character design you’ll see in a game. While watching the last cut-scene of this campaign I actually had goosebumps – surely the sign of something special.

Rating: 10/10

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Uncharted 2: Among Thieves – Review (PS3)

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Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune was an immense game and to this day remains one of the best single player games around.

The follow up, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, has been hyped up all over the place – one European magazine going so far as to give it a, frankly impossible, 21/20. πŸ˜†

Having enjoyed the first game I desperately tried not to buy too much into the hype for the sequel so I wasn’t disappointed.

There was no need to worry.

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Uncharted 2 is a complete gaming package. There is plenty of taking out bad guys, lots of puzzles and some wonderful dialogue.

Naughty Dog really have done a great job on the voice acting and the expressiveness of the character models. It is easily the best I’ve come across (though Heavenly Sword was a close second).

I won’t spoil the story but for those who don’t know, Nathan Drake gets pulled back into that murky world of treasure hunting for hire. I loved the story of this game – with a few twists I saw coming and a few I didn’t.

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The gameplay opens in epic fashion, with Drake desperately trying to escape a train that has derailed and is hanging over a cliff edge, and continues in that vein for the rest of the game.

The puzzle sections are nicely done, with you using Drake’s journal to solve them. They aren’t too hard which is good with me. πŸ˜†

Uncharted 2 gives you a lot more options of how to do things than it’s predecessor. If you can get away with it you can stealth some sections of the game – not bypassing enemies but by taking them down silently along the way.

Graphically the game is superb and the audio is also top notch. With a varied set of exotic locations Uncharted 2 keeps things fresh and some of the views on high climbs are particularily impressive.

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I played the game on Normal and it was nicely challenging (clocking in at just under 11 hours) but the range varies from Very Easy all the way through to Crushing (Very Hard) so there should be something for everyone.

Indeed, even if you’re not a big gamer, stick it on Very Easy and give it a go – it’s a game everyone should play.

The multiplayer aspect, which I was worried would be just tagged on the end after the single player, is a well thought out and very enjoyable experience. See here for my more detailed look at the beta.

Being able to traverse the terrain on so many levels vertically in multiplayer really adds some depth and with some interesting Boosts (Skills) to aquire this looks like one I’ll be playing online for a while. 😎

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Overall I think the guys at Invisible Walls made a great point on the game – Uncharted 2 doesn’t do anything groundbreaking or new but it improves on the original by borrowing the best bits from other games, adding them into the mix and bringing in it’s own amazing characters and great story.

If you own a PS3 there is no reason not to own this game – if you only have an XBox 360 or Wii then get yourself a PS3 Slim and enjoy one of the most finely crafted games I’ve ever experienced.

Rating: 10/10

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