50 Best Games of 2016: #30 – Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
Our 50 best games of the year countdown isn’t in any order, we’re just going through fifty of the finest the year has given us. Find out more here.
It’s been around six months since Naughty Dog graced us with their technical masterpiece, and I still can’t believe how fantastic of a conclusion to the beloved series it truly was. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End was everything fans of the series had hoped it would be, and so much more: it had the iconic traversal mechanics, blisteringly intense gunplay, an emotional storyline that wrapped everything up, hugely varied gameplay and environments – the list could go on forever. If you want a full review, then check mine out here.
So why does it belong on a list of the best games of the year, said nobody? Well, nobody, that’s because it finally proved that the Playstation 4 was a console that you absolutely, unequivocally, positively needed to own if you wanted to experience some of the best games made. There’s been some controversy these past few months regarding the huge number of remasters available on the supposedly ‘next-gen’ systems, and they’ve arguably been bringing down the reputation of the console market as a whole; if you’re only buying a shiny new box to play old games, what’s the point? For example, three of the top ten games on PS4 – according to Metacritic – are games previously available before the PS4 released. Uncharted 4 is significant because it’s a game that simply wouldn’t have been possible if released on Sony’s last console.
Now, of course, the other Uncharted games fared fine on the PS3. They were graphically impressive for the time, and the gameplay mechanics were solid enough to make the experience smooth and enjoyable. With the fourth iteration, however, we’ve got these sprawling, beautiful expanses which you can explore to your heart’s content. Sure, the size would have been possible on a previous console generation, but the attention to detail and innumerable number of hidden secrets and pathways couldn’t have been as dense as it managed to be. Uncharted 4, despite being a relatively linear action game, is hugely diverse in how you choose to approach it. These wide vistas allow for a true sense of adventure that manages to blend a third-person action game with something more akin to an open-world title.
Take the breathtaking Madagascan location in the game, for example. Could a previous console have been able to generate such lush vegetation to hide within while you scout out the enemy encampment, all the while your friends wait on a hill in the jeep you drove here to begin your assault? Perhaps, but not to such a degree that you can almost feel the blistering heat beating down on our hero Nathan Drake. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is an almost unparalleled game in terms of beauty, and for that alone it deserves its place on this list.
Thankfully, that isn’t all that keeps it afloat. The game plays like a dream, with each button command guiding our protagonist naturally through his treacherous landscape. Nate will run, jump, roll, punch, dive, swim, and swing his way around a multitude of locations while you play through the game’s 12-15 hour playtime, and you’ll have a bloody good time watching him do it. Not only that, but you’ll genuinely give a shit about his exploits, because Uncharted 4 boasts some of the best characterisation and facial animations this side of a Telltale game. I’m typically not one for a game’s narrative – gameplay is my primary focus – but I couldn’t wait to see how A Thief’s End plot would unfold. It’s arguable that the narrative feels slightly padded towards the end, but that’s forgivable when you’re having such a good time playing.
And if you get bored of the storyline, or finish it and don’t feel like replaying it immediately, then there’s always the serviceable multiplayer to keep you entertained. It’s nothing outstanding in terms of originality, but the team-based action is definitely worthy of being included on the disc. It even manages to translate most of the single-player’s mechanics across in a natural way, such as using the grappling hook to traverse the landscape and beat-down your enemies. Couple this with a solid progression system and fun sense of aesthetic customisation, and you’ve got a package that’ll keep you entertained for long after the credits roll on the main game.
If, for whatever reason, you own a PS4 and still haven’t played Naughty Dog’s masterpiece: fix that. It’s a game more than worthy of your time and money, and will reinvigorate the faith in originality of even the most jaded gamers.