Saturday, May 12, 2018

Uncharted 4 Review

By Patrick Morris

How Sam Ruined Everything

     Reviewing Uncharted 4 this year is inevitable for anyone who wants to keep this type of job. That being said I am and have been a big fan of Uncharted for several years so I am happy to do it. My adventure with the everyman that slowly turned into a superhero so subtly that we didn’t even notice began in 2012 when I became the twelfth person in the world to buy a PlayStation Vita. With my brand new dust collector I bought Uncharted: Golden Abyss solely because it looked to be the most impressive handheld game I had ever seen. After playing through the incredible adventure that was only mini in the package in which it was originally delivered and finally defeating Guerro in a horrendous quicktime event that almost ruined the climax of the game (spoiler alert for the other eleven Vita owners out there) it was most definitely the most impressive handheld game I had ever played. Damn that was a long sentence, thanks for sticking with it. What interested me more than the incredible fidelity that Bend Studios had packed into such a tiny PlayStation was the adventure that they had just taken me on. Immediately after finishing Golden Abyss I went to the store and bought the other three games. I became so enthralled in the series that I didn’t stop playing but to use the bathroom and make short trips to the kitchen for shitty microwave food. Now that we have established the fact that I am indeed a fan of the series (in spite of my tardiness) it must be said that Samuel Drake should never have been created.
     From this point on you can expect spoilers for Uncharted 4 and you should absolutely not expect me to give two shits about spoiling the game for you if you keep reading.
     Naughty Dog has created a game that is truly fantastic; one could even call it a masterpiece but that game is not named Uncharted 4, it’s called The Last Of Us so finish it Nathan. The combination of tone changes, an incredibly slow beginning, lack of a major set piece, and not enough time spent with our beloved characters from the previous games leads U4 to not live up to expectations. Not saying that it's not a truly incredible game because it most definitely is but it certainly doesn’t live up to the greatness of adventure established by the first three games. 
     From a mechanical standpoint U4 is Uncharted at it's best, without a doubt a series high. The cover system was never frustrating on my first play through on the moderate difficulty and only occasionally on my crushing play through. Gunplay was fast paced and exciting and felt crisp the entire game due to the variety of level design throughout, and I never found myself in a situation in which I could post up in a corner and shoot anything that came close to me in order to progress. The game forced me to move and that felt fantastic. Stealth action was a welcome addition to the series as it allowed for that major mixture of play styles as now I wasn’t moving from climbing section to shooting section to a new climbing section. Naughty Dog was able to include stealth sections to throw me a curveball occasionally and while the stealth action was extremely basic it was put together well and created some fantastical memories. 
     The settings that U4 takes it's audience to and lets us explore are vast and expansive and in a single word: stunning. The semi-open world concept used in a few of the larger areas functioned as both a good and a bad thing for the overall progression of the game. On one side I loved how organic it made the whole adventure feel and it allowed me to explore and experience major parts of the game that I wouldn’t have noticed otherwise had I not been pushed into these fairly open-ended environments. The Madagascar area in particular gave me some much needed face time with Sully and helped me feel that he was just as much a part of this adventure as he had been in the previous four. What cemented itself as the best aspect of the settings was something that didn’t even show itself until my second play through with the game, as I progressed through the story for the second time I found myself not recognizing areas and paths and after exploring a bit I realized that I had been taking entirely different routes through some of the major areas of the game making the whole thing feel like I was playing it for the first time again.
     There is a lot of good to be said about U4 and judging by the other reviews that good is pretty much anyone has any interest in discussing. What people aren’t saying though is that there is also a lot wrong with U4, not necessarily bad but a lot of things that could have been done in a much better way. So if you are a person that is as fragile as a museum exhibit or a modern day “activist” and you cant handle opinions that are different from your own then perhaps this is the time at which you should stop reading. However, if you’re a grown ass adult that understands that you’re not a special little snowflake please continue. 
     Sam Drake ruined what should have been a farewell tour for the three main characters that we have all come to love. U4 focuses almost entirely on Sam, his struggles and his relationship with Nate. It is because of Sam that we didn’t get the end of the Sully and Elena character arcs that I personally felt we deserved. Every time that Sam was on screen all I could think of it as was missed screen time for Sully and Elena. Two characters that have become fan favorites were pushed to the wayside to shoehorn in a long lost brother that created more continuity errors than a modified Deloreon could have. 
     Tonally Sam’s presence completely changed the game from the well-established series. It has been a well-documented fact that when beginning work on Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune Naughty Dog was setting out to make a pulp action adventure. This created a sense of wonder and excitement in the previous games that U4 was lacking and once again I blame this shortcoming on Sam. The previous games were about hunting for treasure and exploring vast jungles while solving mysteries that had eluded humanity for hundreds of years. Sam’s presence drove the story in a direction of desperation and dire completely sucking all of the pulp out of the story. While playing it almost felt as though ND had forgotten that these stories were supposed to be fun. 
     Mechanically Sam’s existence also pushed the limits of suspension of disbelief. Early on in the game young Sam teaches young Nate how to use the grappling hook that becomes a fundamental gameplay element throughout the rest of the game. The grappling hook adds significantly to the gameplay and was an excellent addition that was added in the worst way possible. If Nathan had learned the grappling hook and the sliding mechanics from Sam at such a young age (12?) then why hadn’t he been using them throughout his previous adventures? Am I as a member of the audience supposed to believe that there was no viable place to use those skills in Panama (Nate spent a lot of time in Panama), Shambala, or the Pillars of Iram? 
     One more gripe about Sam and I will wrap this whole thing up: Story. How in the hell are we as the audience supposed to believe that neither Nate nor Sully mentioned Sam’s existence to Elena? Upon seeing Sam Sully mentions that is good to see him again implying that they worked together in the past. Nate appears to be about 26 in Golden Abyss, 28 in Drakes Fortune, 30 in Among Thieves, 32 in Drakes Deception, and 35-38 in A Thieves End. That means that Nate and Sully met Elena at least seven years ago and in those seven years they have been on three massive adventures together and Nate and Elena have been married not once but twice and I’m supposed to believe that they never mentioned Sam to Elena or around Elena? Not even once? That seems more like sloppy story telling than anything else. The idea that Elena had no idea of Sam’s existence is a suspension of disbelief that I simply cannot swallow and I’m a die-hard fan of professional wrestling so that’s saying something. Also I hated that Sam’s character forced the story to be more grounded and there wasn’t some sort of zombie Henry Avery waiting for us in Libertalia but that’s neither here nor there. 
     Overall the game was fantastic and is without a doubt a contender for game of the year here at DoomCat but in my opinion there are simply to many things wrong with U4 for it to be a lock like I once thought it would be. It seems as though the ousting of Amy Henning in favor of Neil Druckmann led to the final entry in the series suffering from taking itself to seriously. Druckmann is a fantastic storyteller that does hard drama in a way that has yet to be matched in the medium but when entering into a pre-established series it is the job of the director to adapt their style to fit the series rather than adapting the series to fit their style. Druckmann tried to turn U4 into Uncharted: the last of us and it simply didn’t work. The game was amazing but lacked what made the first four games so special.
     Since I promised spoilers: Nobody dies, there is nothing supernatural, Nate and Sam find Libertalia, Nadine is a bitch, the final boss fight with Rafe is a letdown, and Joel and Ellie show up after the credits if you beat the game on crushing.
     Did I help you realize how wrong you were about U4 when you said it was the best thing since sliced bread? Did you find yourself thinking “Wow this guy is much smarter than me and I should therefore give him all my money.” Well lucky for you we have setup a way of doing just that; donate to our Patreon at and tell us about it on Twitter @doomcatteam, tell those pesky children that groceries can wait you have to donate to DoomCat.


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