Naughty Dog’s Uncharted 3 was developed at the same time as The Last of Us, and as such was developed with half the staff of the previous game(s). This lead to a game which had supposedly finished the trilogy on a weaker note than anticipated. However, just like the original Spiderman trilogy, the new 4th entry to the series comes out strong with improved graphics, intense plot and the ability to convince you that the rock wall in gymnastics class was the most important part of your education.
Let’s get to the part where I rant about the history of this game series as I always do for some odd reason. The Uncharted series revolves around main character Nathan Drake and his partner Sully roaming around the world on the search for rare artifacts in an odd, playable fusion of Indiana Jones and James Bond. Uncharted was a classic that got Naughty Dog a chance at a sequel, but it was Uncharted 2 and its famous opening scene that put it on the map. Prior to the “lets climb a falling train in the middle of a snowy mountain with a bullet in our chest” introductory scene, Uncharted was just seen as Assassin’s Creed with guns, but suddenly the series focused on its iconic gameplay: parkour rock climbing. As dumb as that sounds, the series has made waves with only four games that other series haven’t made with ten. With a wise-cracking main character and a cast straight out of any heist movie, the games are filled with charisma and unpredictability.
Unlike its most recent predecessor, Uncharted 4 introduces new tactics and mechanics, such as the use of rope and sliding. It sounds simple, but it’s better than a game about how Nathan and Sully met without any focus on improving the gameplay. That reminds me, the story doesn’t blow extremely hard anymore, in fact as soon as chapter 2 ends you’re bound to be hooked. This game gives back the personality and pacing that we had come to expect from the series, telling a thrilling story with powerful, fleshed-out characters rather than Nathan Drake versus evil Martha Stewart. In case you were wondering, I’ll stop ripping on Uncharted 3 when an uncharted movie comes out that I can make fun of in its place. The dialogue is well crafted and the music is certainly on par with prior installments, but these are not the things that make this game great.
None of the other aspects compare to the most incredible feature that makes this sequel stand out from the rest: the graphics. The style is realistic and looks similar to the graphics of the other Uncharted installments, yet something is different here than in any other game. The quality of graphics outside of cutscenes are artful, while the cutscenes themselves are masterpieces. This makes it seem out of place when a sudden transition from gameplay to cutscene occurs, yet it is never an unpleasant surprise to say the least. Considering this is a game about exploration and discovering untouched, uncharted territories, this is all anybody could ask for.
Are there problems with the game? Of course: the combat is extremely similar to previous entrees, so dodging in the heat of the moment or simply tapping a direction can put you in a world of pain. Nathan moves at only one speed, so when you’re faced with delicate navigating it’s more tricky than it needs to be, and yet simultaneously running is out of the question unless the game itself decides to increase your speed. The graphics are done so well that sometimes you can’t tell where to go. Everything looks so real that you honestly have no idea where the hell you should be going. After dying or taking too long the game may decide to give you a hint, yet it’s still quite frustrating from time to time.
Speaking of frustration, the shooting sections bring up something that video games are notorious for: Swiss-cheese enemies. I’m talking about enemies that are just normal guys wearing tuxedos and yet somehow, upon shooting them three times, they’re still standing. Newsflash: in real life people are lucky to live after being shot once. if you’ve been shot twice in the knee you should not be running around and shooting me back, you should be on the floor screaming while grabbing your new, freshly-minted stump.
And that brings up another thing, just because you put me into a scripted battle scenario where I can’t win doesn’t mean I appreciate it. Upon meeting Natalie in Chapter 7, you are forced to fight her, yet this fight would be just as fair if she just had a gun. She doesn’t attack unless it’s impossible for you to dodge, forcing you to attack. Additionally, unlike every other combat in the game, you can’t escape from any of her attacks. When I eventually do fight against her and win, I want to feel like it was due to my cunning and new techniques that I learned over an awesome journey, not simply because the game made it impossible for me to win an otherwise simple fight.
Regardless, nothing seems out of place; everything feels natural. There are no obvious places to hide from enemy fire to make you think, “Oh gee, I wonder if enemies will be arriving here so – and there’s the cutscene.” Your partner, who I will not spoil, is there for the sole purpose of helping you. He will never get discovered by the enemy, or attack on his own. If you die or get caught, it’s not his fault, it’s all on you. This ingeniously supports the player’s decision for both the sneaking method and shooting style of play, allowing players to be supported by an ally yet not having that ally solve all of the player’s problems for them.
The game plays the same way it always has: climb, fight, climb, fight, play Crash Bandicoot, climb, rinse and repeat. However, there’s no harm in keeping what doesn’t need to be fixed. Sure, I might complain about the shooting sections, but to be fair, I don’t like shooting games. If there was a game to be bundled with the purchase of a PS4, Uncharted 4 would undoubtedly be the best choice (that was me hinting at an actual offer that Sony currently has). For what should have been the finale to the original trilogy, Uncharted 4 looks like $400 million.