One of the most popular series on the PlayStation 3 had its swan song on the PlayStation 4 when developer Naughty Dog teamed up with Sony Computer Entertainment and released Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End in 2016. The final installment in the series would follow the “last” adventure of treasure hunter Nathan Drake and his entourage of helpful partners. Would it be really the end for him and if so, would Drake go out with a bang, or would this series finale wash away in the sands of time?
If you have read my previous reviews on the Uncharted series, you’ll know by now that the protagonist, Nathan Drake, is a complicated person with an obsession for danger, adventure, and treasure. That means he has sacrificed many relationships, including his on-again, off-again relationship with his wife, and fellow adventurer, Elena. Even his mentor, Sully, has seen better days as Uncharted 4 comes into focus. Everyone is a bit older, and a new character is introduced to players in the form of Drake’s long lost brother, Sam who is just as treasure crazy as Drake is.
The game begins with a flashback as Drake and his brother are hunting for a treasure belonging to a pirate named Henry Avery. The two brothers come up with the idea to infiltrate a Panamanian jail to hunt for clues about the treasure where some of the pirates from the ship ended up long ago. The brothers and their friend named Rafe find some clues and a valuable idol. The prison warden wants in on the action, and Rafe ends up killing him resulting in a chaotic prison break. Drake and Rafe escape, but Sam is shot and presumed dead by Drake.
Time passes and after the events of the third game, Drake and Elena live a “boring” life where they are retired. Don’t worry, in bursts Drake’s newly escaped brother Sam and informs him that they need to find the treasure of that Avery pirate because he promised to split it with a drug lord named Hector who helped bust Sam out of prison.
Drake lies to Elena about what he is up to and takes Sam and Sully with him to go find the pirate treasure. They begin their search by stealing an idol from an auction that Rafe is it. The idol contains a map that leads them to Scotland where they find more clues that lead to Madagascar. All this time, Elena believes that Drake is doing a salvage job in Malaysia.
The trio discovers that there is a pirate utopia, where pirates from all over the world stored their treasures together. Elena finds them at their hotel where she is displeased, to say the least. She leaves red-hot and Drake asks Sully to go after her as Sam and he needs to find the treasure to save Sam’s life. They then encounter Rafe who reveals that Sam double-crossed him and that it was Rafe that actually released Sam from prison but he wanted to search for the treasure with Drake instead. Furious, Rafe shoots his gun at Drake but Sam jumps out in front and sends Drake falling down a cliff.
Elena rescues Drake and the two reconcile and head for the island that Sam and Rafe are on. They rescue Sam but he decides to forgo an escape and search for the treasure resulting in Drake chasing him until they reach the pirate ship in a cavern. Filled with treasure, as well as Rafe and his boss Nadine, the ship catches on fire from one of the many traps set by pirates. Nadine leaves the three of them to fight amongst each other as she escapes. Drake kills Rafe by crushing him with the treasure while Sam and he escape to safety.
As the game ends, Elena reveals to Drake that Sam gave her a huge cut of the treasure he took and that she bought the salvage company for Drake and she plans to revive her broadcasting career. Years later, a flashforward shows Drake and Elena’s daughter discovering their memories and treasures from their adventures.
Presentation and details in Uncharted 4 will blow you away. Uncharted 2 and 3 were gorgeous on the PS3, but Uncharted 4 outshines them on the next-generation console. During my playthrough, I remember being so impressed by the water and mud physics. It all seems so realistic and responds appropriately to your every step.
You can see that the characters have aged, there are more wrinkles on them and perhaps a hint of gray at the temples of Drake. I’m very picky about hair physics, but they look great in Uncharted 4 as Elena will brush her hair out of her face or a braid will fall from her ear. I have zero complaints in the graphics department for Uncharted 4.
Puzzles will litter the gameplay like other Uncharted games. Sequences like “how do I get up there” or “how do I reach that section” that has Drake moving boxes around or climbing cliffs. There are also some stealth elements particularly in the auction part of the game where you need to not alert anyone to your presence. Some of my favorite parts of the game was driving the jeep around the cliffs and river. It felt like I was part of a true safari and to be able to drive the jeep in those exotic locations felt special.
Combat has stayed the same for most of the series. You’ll have the familiar shoot-outs and ambushes. There is plenty of action for Drake to plow through alone and with his brother. I’m not sure if Naughty Dog could have included some type of new aspect to the combat because it felt the par for the entire series of picking up a gun, looking for ammo, and firing it until you clear out the area, but I think I would have welcomed something new whether it was a different presentation of the combat or actual gameplay. I always felt like I was hiding behind a box or rock and then peering out to shoot at mercenaries. Overall, it worked fine, but it would have been cool to see something different or special for the finale of the series.
Where Uncharted 4 loses me a bit is the story. I applaud the relationship between Elena and Drake, as it seems authentic with “real feelings” of jealously, betrayal, and anger. Drake’s brother, Sam is mysteriously never mentioned until this game and I felt like that was just a bit pushed for a surprise effect. The two brothers seemed inseparable, and if they were so close you would think Drake would have mentioned him before to Elena or Sully. I also can’t quite remember how Elena tracks them down to their hotel room, perhaps that was just an open plot hole but if her broadcasting career flounders, she should become a private detective as she always seems to find Drake at the most opportune times.
I was very excited to play Uncharted 4 when it was released and remember being blown away by the details. I liked hunting for the treasure and thought the pirate plot was a cool one. I thought one of my favorite characters might bite the bullet, particularly Sully, but was happy to see everyone make it out alive.
Uncharted 4 is a fitting end to a fantastic series filled with lovable characters, adventure, and action. The series had come a long way and I’m happy to see Drake and Elena in retirement with Sully still kicking around. Some questionable plot decisions raised my eyebrows but overall this is another wonderful experience for adventure fans.
Uncharted 4 scores a 9.4 out of 10.
Do you remember when Uncharted 4 first came out? Did you think that one of your favorite characters would die? What did you think of the story? What was your favorite game in the series and do you think it will ever be revived? Let me know your memories and thoughts, I’d love to read the comments.
If you’d like to own a copy of Uncharted 4, you can purchase a brand new copy of it for the PS4 for $17 on eBay.