Uncharted 4: A Thief's End - Spoiler Free First Impressions
These are my initial impressions of Uncharted 4: A Thief's End - they contain no spoilers beyond what was been shown in trailers and gameplay demos before the release. What do I think so far?The absence of the upbeat, carefree "Nate's Theme" and the classic sound as he falls to his death are indicative of what Uncharted has become in the five-or-so years since a new instalment on consoles. As we return to Drake's universe, things are noticeably darker, more moody and more grown up. For the first time in Uncharted, Naughty Dog is telling a story where if feels like things might not end up OK: the stakes aren't necessarily higher, but if feels as though there is a genuine threat posed to our hero.
And he's grown up too. An older, retired-from-fortune-hunting Drake greets you as you begin Uncharted 4, and continues along your journey - although his being slightly older isn't an overplayed aspect of the game, which is probably a good thing as I can imagine such a feature would begin to overstay its welcome fairly quickly.
While we are saved from that annoyance, there are some slightly irritating aspects so far. In a similar way to Uncharted 1 having the same thing happening over and over again, Uncharted 4 feels as though one thing goes on for far too long, which has almost the same overall effect of making you feeling fatigued.
But, I can almost forgive that, because what you're doing and what you're looking at is so incredible. The camera - an aspect of Uncharted which continually annoyed me when playing through the Nathan Drake Collection - has finally been fully fixed, as has the traversal mechanics, which are far and away the best in the series, and rival that of games like Assassin's Creed and Tomb Raider. In the more open areas, I find myself trying to climb around as much as possible, just because it feels so light and purely fun.
The gun-play - minus the removal of the ability to throw back grenades, which is irritating at the best of times - also feels more polished, but that could be because huge shoot-em-up sequences are few and far between in the areas I've played so far. In addition to that, is the tantalising stealth option -again the best in the series, and again something that continually makes me go out of my way to use it.
Because - in the past - all these elements have been somewhat weak, the story has always been the main feature of Uncharted. While, this time, they're stronger, the story still manages to hold its own, and is something I won't discuss any further, to let you appreciate it fully.
The biggest compliment I can pay Uncharted 4 is that it's managed to change the series, yet keep it familiar in an almost un-describable way - like a friend who you haven't seen for five years: they're the same person, but they've developed in a way that adds something fresh. In Uncharted's case, the reason for development is, surely. Naughty Dog's smash hit and arguably one of the greatest games ever made: The Last Of Us. While, before experiencing the game, I was sceptical about any influence from The Last Of Us - namely losing the banter between characters and moving away from being an action-movie style game, both of which are very prevalent features - after jumping in I can safely say it's made the series a whole lot better and been able to mix things up a bit in the process.
If you haven't picked up Uncharted 4 yet (and you have played 1,2 and 3) then do so. From what I've seen so far, while it might not rival The Last Of Us as one of the greatest games of all time, it certainly does as one of the prettiest and most genuinely fun. Naughty Dog have done it again.