Uncharted 4 – Thoughts and feelings

So having completed Naughty Dog’s masterpiece Uncharted 4 : A Thief’s End here are my conclusions. This isn’t a review as such, more of my thoughts and feelings on this game and the series as a whole.

Firstly, let me start by saying I love the entire series. It’s rare that a game series is quite as consistently excellent as the entire Uncharted series has been and Uncharted 4 continues that excellence.

Graphically there has yet to be a better game on any console and really shows what the PS4 can be capable of and I suspect it will take some time before Drake is knocked off this particular perch. Plus, the gameplay has been tweaked and tightened to perfection, everything about Uncharted 4 is the culmination of Naughty Dog honing their skills throughout the first 3 games.

This is a much more involved title that shows you Nathan Drake’s life in an in depth way that we haven’t seen before. The story sees the protagonist struggling between his brother Sam and their quest for treasure they’ve been searching their entire lives for, and his marriage to Elena and his promise to have left this life behind. But of course Drake can’t help but get messed up in adventures and Elena, despite some obvious resentment ends up along for the ride too.

Uncharted 4 is a longer experience than the previous 3 games, some 12-15 hours, and Naughty Dog are certainly signing off from the franchise or at least as far as Nathan Drake is concerned, with lots of little trips down memory lane that remind you of all the adventuring you and Drake have done in the years since the first game was released.

However, there is something about Uncharted 4 that feels missing. When Lead writer and creative director on the Uncharted series, Amy Henning left Naughty Dog some eight months into development the studio scrapped everything they had done up till that point and started from scratch. Unfortunately, the the loss of Henning can be felt throughout the game, the script doesn’t have the same charm to it. The characters’ conversations don’t feel as natural or funny as in the previous games and the overall storyline isn’t as engaging either.

Also as the previous games developed towards their climax the reveal of the final location at the end of the games, Shangri La or Eldorado were both stunning and I was hoping for a similar jaw dropping reveal but the final scenes in Uncharted 4 just don’t deliver that wow factor from the previous games. Don’t get me wrong the graphics throughout deliver vistas that are stunning, but I felt that the final areas didn’t kick that up a notch like we had seen previously.

So Naughty Dog sign off with an accomplished game that is as beautiful to look at as it is to play and truth be told I was pretty sad when it came to an end. No more Nathan Drake, it’s a sad loss to gaming as one of it’s most endearing characters sails off into the sunset. But will we see any more Uncharted and if so what will that look like?

Naughty Dog have said they will not be making any more Uncharted games but as Sony own the rights they can produce more if they so wish. This brings both hope and trepidation as we have seen how handing over the reins of a much-loved franchise to a new developer can be a real let down. You only need to look at what has happened to Halo since Bungie passed the baton. Thankfully Naughty Dog would oversee a new developer to ensure the quality of the franchise continues. But if another developer does take over the series their first order of business should be getting Amy Henning back involved.

As for story, Naughty Dog have left a couple of possibilities. Sam and Sully have started a new friendship and finish the game discussing the possibility of working together, but whether Sam is a string enough character to lead his own story is debatable. Another is the introduction of Nate and Elena’s daughter Cassie, who could take up her parent’s mantel. But personally I would like to see a third option.

My preferred option would be for Chloe Frazer from Uncharted 2 & 3 to get her own series. She is an engaging, sassy character who has enough in common but also enough differences to Nate to take the series in a new direction. She also has enough fans among the Uncharted faithful for the change to be accepted. You could add Charlie Cutter from 3 as well and even get Sully involved to add continuity to the whole thing. It is certainly the way I would take the story.

Whatever happens in the future of Uncharted it’s been one hell of a ride, enjoy your retirement Nate, you’ve earned it.