Uncharted 4: Thirst for the unknown

Uncharted 4 is a fitting farewell to a series that defined the action-adventure genre on the PlayStation.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

Uncharted 4: A Thief's End takes everything that we love about the series and dials it up to 11.

The strength of the Uncharted games has always been their cinematic qualities - relatable characters, masterful storytelling, jaw- dropping scenery and heart-racing action sequences.

Uncharted 4 does all that and more, in a fitting farewell to a series that defined the action-adventure genre on the PlayStation.

At the start of the game, we are introduced to Sam (Troy Baker), the older brother of Nathan (Nolan North). Sam is Nathan's main companion, and their genuine affection for each other, though masked by gentle sibling rivalry, is one of the emotional pillars of the game.

Because of circumstances surrounding Sam's sudden appearance, Nathan has to leave his humdrum life with his wife, Elena (Emily Rose), to track down a hoard of pirate treasure.

On the storytelling front, the game has grown along with us, the fans who have been playing the series since Uncharted: Drake's Fortune was released nine years ago.

Nathan is no more a carefree young man who can fly across the world at the drop of a hat. He is a husband with a stable job and household to maintain. So when the siren call of treasure sounds, he is torn between loyalty to his brother and honesty to his wife.

Uncharted 4 taps this rich net of relationships - between siblings, spouses, mentors, rivals - to weave together a story that ultimately boils down to one thing: an adventurer's insatiable thirst for the unknown.

This globetrotting tale is set against some of the most beautiful scenery ever rendered.

When Nathan and Sam crawl across a craggy rock face to reach the Saint Dismas cathedral on the coast of Scotland, players can see and hear white-tipped waves crash against towering cliff walls. In a gloomy underground tomb, a ghostly mist blankets the floor as the siblings hunt for their next clue.

The treasure trail leads to Madagascar, which is all browns and greens and dust and heat, with water pooling on dirty concrete floors mirroring the brightly coloured shophouses that flank the streets.

As with all Uncharted games, the linearity - there is often only one set route to get through each place -makes it easy for developer Naughty Dog to set up fantastic panorama shots, with our view often panning across sweeping vistas or directed towards swathes of striking landscape.

Gameplay-wise, Uncharted 4 feels familiar, but a lot more refined. Nathan's monkeying around is smoother, and there is a noticeable inertia to his movements. When he leaps to grab a ledge, he pendulums back and forth before eventually stilling.

Also, while the movement would sometimes feel too resistance-free in previous games, Uncharted 4's Nathan has a heft and weight that adds a level of realism to his parkour.

Fans of the previous games will not be surprised by some of Naughty Dog's tricks, such as the sudden jolt that you get when you are hanging on a pipe and it suddenly creaks and bends, or when you lunge towards a handhold, only to have it crumble away.

The puzzles are routine for the avid adventurer, with most relying on rotating, pushing or pulling bits of the room into position.

Multiplayer games are also available, with four modes: Deathmatch, Plunder, Command and Ranked Team Deathmatch.

This keeps things fun across eight maps that are modified versions of in-game terrain. Plus, there are Mysticals and different power-ups that give you abilities such as teleportation and heals.

Verdict: A magnificent swan song for one of the best-loved action- adventure games of this generation.

9/10
RATING

PRICE: $74.90 on PlayStation 4

GENRE: Action-adventure


This article was first published on May 18, 2016.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.

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