Sometimes, it feels as if certain games come to exist in my house thanks to pure fate. Most of my games I seek out myself, but Uncharted is one series I never once put my mind to acquiring, and yet, here I stand the owner of not one, but two, entries from the series. The main reason why Uncharted never really appealed to me was because I’ve never been a fan of games that are too…realistic, I guess? There’s just something about games that feature realistic-looking humans or even just good, ol’ planet Earth that don’t appeal to me. (I mean, the Sly Cooper series seems to take place on Earth, but it’s populated by anthropomorphic animals, which is okay in my book.)
When I bought my PS3, it was accompanied by Uncharted 3. I decided to play the game, since I had it in my possession, after all, and while it was pretty cool, I quickly forgot about it shortly after completion. For a short while, I considered checking out the first two games, and then that just never happened. And yet, that was certainly not the last I would see of the series, even if I didn’t know it at the time. It was with the recent purchase of my PS4 that another Uncharted game snuck its way into my gaming shelf once more, the fourth (and final?) entry in the series.
Fancy seeing you here, Nathan Drake. Long time no see.
At first, I had little intention of playing the game, especially when I saw the massive amount of space it would take up on my PS4’s hard drive. And yet, after completing the Ratchet & Clank remake and having no other game to currently play on my brand new console, my mind kept wandering back. Fine, I give in. Perhaps I would pay Drake another visit, after all.
A big thing that drew me in, aside from having nothing else to play, was the fact that this particular game had a pirate theme. I recall spending a lot of Uncharted 3 in the desert, which is not exactly my favorite type of scenery, and the promise of a more tropical-themed adventure was quite appealing. Skipping right to the point, this game has Nathan and his older brother, Sam (formerly believed to be dead), searching for the pirate captain Henry Avery’s treasure. All the while, they have to contend with a guy named Rafe Adler, along with his partner Nadine Ross and her Shoreline mercenaries, who want the treasure for themselves.
The first thing anyone will surely notice when playing this game for the first time is that the graphics are absurdly good. For certain games, graphics don’t really matter, but for me, they are a big deal in this game. While many people may enjoy the action or the story or a number of other things in the Uncharted series most of all, the highlight for me was the scenery. Maybe I’m a boring person, but the most fun I had in this game was simply walking around and enjoying the nearly realistic graphics this game has to offer. (I don’t travel much. So getting to visit foreign countries and tropical isles from the comfort of home was good fun.) Certain locations, particularly those in the latter half of the game, are so beautiful, that I probably spent as much time admiring my surroundings as I did making any progress. I don’t think any other game is this fun to simply walk around in, which is certainly a good thing because you spend a lot of time traveling.
On the other hand, while I found the simple act of getting from point A to point B to be a lot more fun than one would expect, I wasn’t a big fan of the fighting in this game. From time to time, your progress will grind to a complete halt as you’re forced to defeat a whole bunch of mercenaries, with stealth, guns, or by simply punching them in the face until they relent. While I know that some sort of fighting is certainly to be expected in this game, as well it should be, that didn’t mean I really enjoyed these segments of the game. This was one of the few games where I largely employed stealth to take down my enemies because I learned early on that shooting at them and alerting them to your presence is the worst thing you can do.
After being surrounded by a bunch of dudes with guns and dying over and over again, I learned to attack from the shadows (I mean, the tall grass, to be more specific), and that got me through most situations with minimal trouble. While I did start to have fun with the fighting segments of the game, once I got the hang of it anyway, and I did become pretty adept at defeating nearly every enemy I encountered without even needing to use a gun, it’s certainly a time-consuming process. Much of the time, I was so anxious to get a move on and see what was going to happen next that spending a bunch of time crouched in some grass until enemies decided to wander near got a bit tiresome after a while. And whenever I encountered situations where stealth wouldn’t work, I spent my time largely yelling at the screen in rage because I kept dying in what seemed like hopeless situations. In short, the stealth aspect is kind of fun, if not tedious. The shooting aspect of battles, however, is super frustrating when you can’t find a single place to hide from an overwhelming amount of gunfire and repeatedly die within moments. It’s bothersome, to say the least.
Though, like I mentioned earlier, you probably spend more time traveling in this game than anything, which was fine by me. Sometimes you’re on foot, sometimes you have a vehicle or a boat. And many times you’ll spend your time climbing up mountainsides or swinging from your grappling hook. In a way, Uncharted 4 is like…a platformer…for “grown-ups”. (You know, instead of controlling a plumber who jumps on turtles and leaps across bottomless pits, you’re a regular guy who is unnaturally skilled at rock climbing. And who can’t do double jumps.) I know some people disliked all of this “platforming” and even found the game to be too slow-paced, but I rather enjoyed it. Along the way, you also have optional treasures to find, puzzles to solve (some of them are super clever), with all kinds of extra challenges thrown in (booby-trapped corpses, anyone?).
The game also has a pretty interesting story, though I have to say that I probably found the history behind the pirates the most interesting thing of all. With the hopes that I won’t spoil anything, what I mean is…throughout the game, you find letters and such from Avery’s day concerning people and events that take place 200-300 years (if I remember correctly) before the present day. All of these letters form pieces of a puzzle, so to speak, that tell the greater history behind the pirate treasure you are seeking. It was like a semi-hidden story that you had to collect pieces to, and I found it to be a particularly interesting aspect of the latter half of the game.
If you are a fan of the Uncharted series, I would definitely recommend this game. As good as Uncharted 3 was, I had a far better time with this game, including a more emotional connection. By the end of the game, I almost felt like I had truly been through an exhausting, but rewarding, adventure. As I played through the epilogue (which I loved), I was rather sad as I thought back over all that I had gone through over the course of the game. Throughout the game, I also felt angry whenever the explosive-loving Shoreline mercenaries destroyed ancient buildings in their quest to either find clues to the treasure or to prevent us from discovering them ourselves. As a fan of urban exploring, it really bothers me when history is purposely destroyed. I guess I just forgot sometimes that this was just a video game and not real life. Whether or not such destruction was simply added for pure action-and-excitement’s sake or because Naughty Dog wanted to give us one more reason to hate the bad guys, I know not. All I know is that any game that makes me feel such emotion is pretty special, even if that emotion was sometimes fury. I’m very passionate about old buildings, darn it.
Of course, the absolute, single best moment of the game was when…you know what, I mustn’t spoil anything. Suffice it to say, it’s very close to the end of the game (chapter 21/22, if I’m not mistaken). You’re in an echoing cave, climbing around and with no idea what you’re going to find. Reaching a dead end, you tie your rope to a random branch and lower yourself over the edge into the deep pit below…and what you see is so magnificent and unexpected that I audibly gasped in awe.
So that’s where it was all along…
Uncharted 4 was awesome. And this is coming from someone who didn’t even want the game in the first place. Sure, some characters don’t seem as developed as they could be. Some chapters drag on a bit longer than they ought to. But all games have flaws. But not all games weave together adventure, story (including backstory), action, and emotion together as brilliantly as Uncharted 4 did.
Naughty Dog, I really wish you’d make another Jak and Daxter game, though I am pleased to see you’ve been spending your post-PS2 days wisely.
Aargh, I Be the Most Feared Pirate of Them All…the Duck AKA Captain Blackbird!
This post was originally published on United We Game on January 3, 2017.
Screenshot from Flickr User: Celeste Monsour