Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is the culmination of the story of Nathan Drake and his misadventures searching for treasure, his identity, and his place in the world. After discovering the legacy of Francis Drake his claimed namesake in El Dorado, braving the risks of Shambhala, and the hidden voyage of Francis Drake into the Rub’al Khali desert Nathan Drake is found living a domestic life working for a marine salvage company. Nathan is doing his best to live the home life and sharing moments with his wife Elena Fisher like betting each other over video games to decide who does the dirty dishes. Surprisingly Nathan is greeted by his brother Samuel Drake, someone he thought dead, and after brotherly comradery and catching up he thrust into a new adventure searching for the infamous pirate Henry Avery, his treasure, and the key to saving Samuel Drake’s life.
Through various flashbacks, this journey explains the backstory of the Drake brothers, the strains of honesty in relationships, and what it means to be family. The traditional gameplay elements of cover shooting, climbing, puzzle solving, and amazing set pieces carry through into this entry. New features are the rope grapple for climbing, swinging, and mobility based combat as well as an enemy tagging system to assist with stealth efforts. The bones of The Last of Us, the previous Naughty Dog release are visible in this game and it is best described as a hybrid between the Last of Us and Uncharted. The crate moving for accessibility to higher areas is straight from The Last of Us. The follow system by the non-player characters is the same. and only your actions can result in enemy alerts.
New enemy AI is visible with enemies pairing up to investigate disturbances. I was verbally shocked when pulling an enemy down a ledge when hanging there and the enemy actually grabbed Nathan’s leg on the way down leading to a grapple break scenario. This random element showing the evolution of enemies are the delights and surprises in playing these games.
The callbacks in the game are lovely between playing Crash Bandicoot and referencing Monkey Island were highlights.
Plot wise the story is fraught with danger, betrayals, surprises, and death-defying escapes we come to expect from Uncharted, but the mystical elements of the first three games have been replaced with the scarier elements of human relationships and emotions of greed and betrayal. For someone new the series starting on this penultimate entry it would be accurate to complain that the third act of the game can drag down the pace, but for someone who has grown up with the story of Uncharted and Nathan Drake the understated plot that allows the characters to breathe and live is a fitting and appropriate conclusion of the Uncharted Saga. While that last stage is slower paced than previous entries third act due to what the player and the game has shared over the lifespan makes it all the more meaningful.
In hindsight, it was a good thing for Naughty Dog to release the Nathan Drake collection to allow all of the games to be playable on the same system. With the story, I strongly recommend playing the Nathan Drake Collection of games first before to fully appreciate the plot.