If there was ever a flagship series for the Playstation brand it would be the Uncharted games and in the hands of Naughty Dog the series has gone from strength to strength. Its not often these days that a developer can inspire such devotion in its fans, but Naughty Dog do just that. These games come and go, raising the bar and leaving a bigger impression on the landscape every time. After 20 years they know their trade and here, as in the previous games and even The Last of Us, the Naughty Dog stamp of quality has come down hard.
This release sees an older, more weary Nathan Drake living as best he can in a normal life while ignoring the pull of his past. That is until someone from his past comes looking for him and Nathan can only offer his help in the way he knows best: Adventuring, fighting and leaping impossible chasms.
The story dips into Nathan’s past, treating us to hitherto unknown events. This flashback sets the scene for an emotional reunion and opens the door for the treasure hunt ahead. And what a treasure hunt it is, stretching from Scotland to Madagascar, Drake is on the heels of a fabled Pirate Treasure, following clues, solving puzzles and shooting bad guys without remorse.
At the end of the day the game remains the same, its an Uncharted title – you know what you are going to get. However that only covers the mechanics, its a cinematic platformer with cover shooting and a few quick time events thrown in. It really is what lies under the hood that makes the series special and furthermore, what makes this game a jaw dropping experience from start to finish.
The environments are spectacular, deserted islands, caves, tombs, wide open plains and tight Favelas. The level of detail is glorious, everything seems to be in its spot for perfect effect. Its not just the environments, but the way Drake moves through them that makes them feel like they have purpose. The way he apologetically eases through a crowd or reaches out to touch a wall now and again.
There is something organic about Drake and the way it sits within his world. He gets wet, he shivers when cold, he fiddles with his cuffs while wearing a tuxedo, he gets spattered with mud and has amazing hair. Its all the little details that you may have thought about in other games, but never seen in one place and that level of detail is a thing of beauty. Every single one of the behavioural actions that come out of him add to the immersion of the player.
As usual the game comes with a host of friendly characters that wander the trip with you, the irascible Sully, Elena and Drake’s long lost brother. Chloe is noticeably absent, but the the others more than make up for her, so much so they are so much more that supporting cast. The AI assist is generally good, your partner in most levels is full of witty banter and hardly ever gets in the way, however they do have quite a big box around them. So if Sully decides to stand in your way blocking a narrow passage you can have fun trying to get past.
Combat is a healthy portion of the series and its no different here, there are a variety of weapons on offer without an abundance of ammunition, so headshot training is the order of the day. Away from the gunplay the melee combat shines, with dynamic action suiting the environ or moment while the camera swoops in to add some pace. Its very satisfying, especially the airborne leap, land and punch which is a doozy to pull off. Also there are options to double team the bad guys depending on how you are doing and where your AI partner is placed. Its great, its cinematic in a way that some movies can only dream of and all this spectacle is handled without any intrusive UI cluttering the screen.
There are a few new mechanics too, the rope for swinging around levels is easily tossed out at a suspect branch ready to allow Drake access to the next area by swinging or clambering up the rope. It doesn’t take long to get used to, nor does the effect of sliding down a slope of shale or mud, while throwing yourself onto the slippery side of a mountain, skittering down the slope to an impending doom before leaping at a distant ledge at the last minute.
Hands down my favourite and not over-used mechanic is the winch and grapple, seen on an underwater crane and the front of Drake’s all terrain Jeep. The winch line is drawn around an object such as a tree trunk, attached to itself where it tightens properly and behaves realistically – great for winching the Jeep up a muddy slope or pulling a rickety bridge down.
There are times when Uncharted pulls its punches to ensure the cinematic experience continues, this is more noticeable when making leaps of faith to another ledge. It was prevalent in Uncharted 2, its less obvious here, but here all the same often helping out with an impossible leap just as you start to become complacent and saving you from a deadly fall..
Being the last game in the series Naughty Dog have certainly delivered big, bold and explosive cinematic experience. It may be what, seven years since Uncharted 2 and while I thought that could not be topped I have to admit to being wrong. The writing, cutscenes and actors performances make the ride a joy and completely destroy Hollywood in dollar per minute entertainment.
Although there is that faint hope that Chloe might return in some form of DLC I just can’t wait to see where Naughty Dog take us next.
Online Multiplayer has been unavailable at the time of writing, servers should kick in around launch and we will revisit the post with impressions.