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Uncharted 4: A Thief's End review: The last pillage

There's also the introduction of a grappling hook, which by the third or fourth time I used it, I began to wonder, how on earth did previous games never have one of these?

Naughty Dog

Uncharted 4 is an evolution of the series and, in many ways, its developer Naughty Dog. The game takes a lot of the superb environmental cues and nuances from its previous game The Last of Us and meshes it with Uncharted's iconic gameplay. The result is a more mature Uncharted game, both in its technical achievements and its cinematic feel. With maybe one or two exceptions, I'm not sure there's another team in the business that does storytelling this well at such an impressive level of production value and polish.

I won't give away Uncharted 4's specific plot points, but the gist is that Drake is on the hunt for Henry Avery's long lost pirate treasure. How Avery acquired the treasure and the events that followed are the pillars for what makes the experience such a compelling one, and that much more addictive.

Where other games litter their worlds with endless amounts of collectibles and data to rummage through, Uncharted 4 surgically inserts the perfect amount of exposition to keep some of the background story relevant, and most importantly, wanted. And while the pirate lore begins to unravel, you're also exposed to Nathan's personal journey, the unpacking of his relationship with his brother Sam, appreciating his marriage to Elena, and of course, cracking wise with Sully.

Naughty Dog

Uncharted 4 feels like it has it all. But I've yet to even show my hand. If there's one thing that has stayed with me well after my time searching for Avery's gold, it's without a doubt the game's surreal environments.

A Thief's End has some of the best world design I've ever seen. You're treated to a cascade of sprawling locales in nearly every kind of terrain imaginable. Both inside and out, regardless of where you go, you'll likely stop for a few seconds just to take it all in. The word "scope" gets thrown around a lot in describing games with massive vistas. You hear it all the time, "anywhere you can see you can go." Well that's not true in Uncharted 4. Instead, it's what you can see that is frankly astonishing.

And just when you've managed to shimmy over the cliff with the bottomless drop below, you find yourself staring up at the ceiling of a gigantic observatory, with every inch decorated with gold and silver and the most ornate fabrics of its time. It makes sense that Uncharted 4's photo mode is so robust. You will want to take pictures.

Naughty Dog

There's a painstaking amount of detail etched into every corner of this game, to the point where I began to worry I wasn't seeing every last bit.

From what I gather, I probably did miss some stuff. That's because Uncharted 4 doesn't feel as linear as its predecessors. The idea was pitched to me by Naughty Dog as "wide linear," but essentially it means that there's a few branched paths to take that ultimately bottleneck you to a common end. It makes for a feeling of helplessness at times, because not everything is spoon-fed to you. On the contrary, you'll likely never be confused about where you can climb, however, as those spots are very obviously highlighted.

By design, you're more likely to accidentally explore passageways that don't continue your progress, but instead lead to a handwritten letter or a secret treasure.

Naughty Dog

When it's all said and done, Uncharted 4 delivers the fan service series loyalists will absolutely eat up. For the rest of us, Naughty Dog treats the player to an adventure that spares no expense.

If this is indeed the last Uncharted game, it's a supremely satisfying celebration of the series and an absolute must-play on PlayStation 4.

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