One. Last. Time
If you’ve already played Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End – and let’s be straight, most of us probably have and we’re just coming back for a sweet second serving – then you already know the drill.
Series protagonist Nathan Drake embarks on a heroic voyage to steal the stuff off of a long-dead person. Along the way, he climbs, jumps, cracks wise, and kills many, many people. He’s the good guy, apparently, and all those Shoreline employees – fathers, sons, brothers, uncles, husbands, partners, you get the picture. Drake is a straight-up killer but we love him because he is mildly funny.
If you don’t know the story of Uncharted, well, I’ve just told it to you. Except this time around, things are a little different. The first three games in the series were pulpy nonsense inspired by Indiana Jones. They were light-hearted fun and silly tales of the supernatural that always ended up buried from humanity forever, only existing after Nate’s adventures in the form of scribbles in his journal.
This time, the stakes have changed and there’s more emotional baggage in the form of Nathan’s long-lost brother, Sam, who “dies” early on in the introduction but gets brought back from the “dead” to drag Nathan into one more adventure for Henry Avery’s treasure. No supernatural stuff this time, just a dead guy’s swag. Naughty Dog decided to “mature” the story for this final outing.
Way back in 2016 when Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End was released, I was a little bitter about this. The change in direction – apparently there was a power struggle within Naughty Dog and series director, Amy Hennig, got booted out so “auteur” Neil Druckmann could put his mark on the game. Six years later, I’m still a little bitter. Why? Because the change in tone is so stark, and for what? Maybe I just don’t get Druckmann’s vision. Or maybe I just don’t see the point in random chats between characters that adds nothing to an already dull and predictable story. Nate has never been motivated by anything other than his desire for treasure. It’s a break in his character, or at least that’s the way I see it. Time has not been kind to my thoughts on this fourth entry… Or fifth, if you count the PS Vita’s Uncharted: Golden Abyss, which Naughty Dog and Sony seem to shun like a ginger step-child. Remaster it, you cowards!
But what has been kind is technology, namely, the PS5. Having the game running on Sony’s new console means we can play in the fabled 60 frames-per-second. This I can get behind, even if the actual gameplay can be a bit tedious; there are only so many ledges I can make Nathan climb before the repetition gets to me. There are only so many times I can push a bloody crate before I get bored. And there’s only so many times I can look up the arse crack of my partner-in-crime before I get sick of bums, and I’m a bum guy!
That all said, the 60FPS mode is really good and it holds that line really well. To be fair, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End played really well on PS4 at 30FPS with its responsive controls and the feeling that Nathan was always moving on a buttered up pivot. But the increased refresh rate brings it up another level and it definitely makes the combat encounters – one aspect of the game I genuinely do enjoy – more fun. The responsiveness is a godsend when you’re scrambling around, swinging from one elevated position to another while being shot at by a half-dozen civilian contractors who are just doing their job. Yeah, I still feel bad for the “bad” guys.
If 60FPS isn’t a big deal for you and you favour bells, whistles, and big resolutions, then Fidelity mode has you covered. I only tried this out briefly because for me, I’ve been spoiled by 60FPS gameplay upgrades and I just can’t go back to 30FPS if there is a higher option.
Fidelity mode gives the game an extra layer of sheen and sine and ups the resolution to a dynamic 4K, but you’re stuck with 30FPS. If that’s a trade-off you can deal with, fill your boots. For me, though, it’s 60FPS every single time.
Nathan Drake’s final(?) adventure is a bittersweet sendoff for the character that I spent my 20s growing up with. On one hand, it’s nice to see Nathan grow, mature, and eventually settle his thirst for adventure. On the other, it’s in a way that I don’t particularly care for. I didn’t want the emotional conversations or orphan issues; it’s such a massive change in tone from the first three games, that I can’t help but wonder why they didn’t just start a new Uncharted sub-series if they wanted to go in that direction while letting Nate chuckle his way through another adventure with an insane body count.
Is this tenner upgrade worth the cash? I’ll say yes, but only because you’re getting an upgrade for two games – the spin-off semi-sequel starring Chloe and Nadine – so it’s only a fiver each if you split the hairs. But on the other hand, I can’t help but feel a little hard done by when I look over at my Xbox Series X and see next-gen upgrades being dished out for free, either by first and third-party Smart Delivery, or the FPS Boost updates that cost nothing. I won’t let this review fall into a rant about how Sony is extracting the urine, but I won’t celebrate paying for an upgrade, either.
If you haven’t played Uncharted 4 before, this is the best way to play, without a doubt. If you have and you just want to play it again in its best possible form, this will do. Or the eventual PC version…
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game bought at the expense of the reviewer. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Primary version tested: PS5
- The next-gen upgrades are great, with 60FPS gameplay being a highlight
- Wide-linear levels offer more exploration, especially the Madagascar chapters
- Fantastic graphics that have held up even with the most recent game releases
- The story is predictable and at times, dull as wet wood
- The change in tone and in Nathan Drake's character just doesn't fit well with the previous games
- The designers came up with three new gameplay features - moving crates, sliding Drake on his arse, and a swing rope, and all are shoehorned in at every opportunity