Some Thoughts on Uncharted 4
Yes, I'm in Japan! I'll tell you all about it soon.
When it comes to Uncharted, my expectations are impossibly high. Uncharted 2 is one of my favourite games of all time, and I consider Uncharted and Uncharted 3 to be among the best of the last gen. I adore the series and hold Naughty Dog in the highest of regards.
Uncharted 4 was my most anticipated game since, well, Uncharted 3. And it is excellent, a fitting finale for an era defining franchise. All the same, it left me a little disappointed.
It's missing some of the excitement of old. My favourite moments of U4 were some of its quietest, such as the trip down memory lane in Drake's loft and dinner on the sofa with Elena. ND are experts at creating believable and likable characters, and establishing chemistry between their leads. This is why low-key scenes like the dinnertime back-and-forth work so well. I thought Rafe was an excellent villain, Sully was as dependable as ever and, despite my initial concerns, I quickly warmed to Sam. As per usual, the voice work and mo-cap is exemplary.
With all that being said, I thought the script fell short of the series' high standards. The relationships between the main characters are underdeveloped, in particular between the brothers Drake. They were on the brink of having it out on a number of occasions, only to be interrupted by a new discovery or influx of Shoreline baddies. Nate's feelings of guilt over (unknowingly) leaving his brother to rot in prison are hardly touched upon, nor is any resentment Sam may have towards his younger brother and the life that should've been his. We never discovered the source of Sully's distrust of Sam, nor explored Sam's feelings towards Nate's surrogate father, and it's a shame that Nadine never developed beyond a tough lady with nice hair.
There is no attempt to explain Elena's ability to track Nate down to a motel in Madagascar, and her anger towards her lying husband is forgotten all too quickly. She maintains her disappointment with Drake for about thirty minutes, and there are a few touching exchanges between the two where we feel her pain and believe Nate's remorse. However, these moments are soon forgotten. Before long, she's back on board with the mayhem, making jokes and capping South Africans.
Uncharted 4 differs greatly to it's predecessors in two key areas: combat and exploration. There are far fewer shootouts, though the body count is safely in the hundreds, and larger levels offer up the opportunity for limited exploration. I've always appreciated the linearity of Uncharted, as I enjoy being lead by a developer as capable and confident as ND; with a few exceptions, I didn't get much enjoyment out of U4's more open levels. I found them needlessly confusing and they offered little reward for wandering off. In most instances, there were a couple of slightly different routes to the same objective with little reason to choose one over the other.
Playing on Crushing, I struggled greatly to establish any sort of rythm within combat. Parts of the game are packed with skirmishes, whereas other stretches feature no murdering at all. The final run of combat-heavy chapters are beyond frustrating on harder difficulties, though checkpoints are fairly generous throughout. Some areas may be approached more stealthily, adding a new and welcome element to the series, though I often found it quicker to go in guns blazing. I liked the grapple hook but thought that gravel-sliding was overused. Shuffling down a mountainside on Drake's arse was almost as tiresome as interacting with yet another 19th century crate.
Yes I'm disappointed, but it's all relative. I've just finished a third playthrough, and I'm not one to stick with games that I don't enjoy. It's the best looking game I've ever played; I loved the pirate treasure premise and the combat is as satisfying as ever. But more than anything, I adore these characters and will miss them if they are truly gone.
Uncharted 4 isn't quite the game I hoped it would be, but I definitely enjoyed it overall. Despite my moaning, don't be surprised if it features near or at the top of my GOTY list come December.
Much like Uncharted 3, Uncharted 4 is a wonderful game that couldn't quite meet my impossibly high expectations. I blame Uncharted 2.