THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is here, and I’ve had the chance to play through the single player campaign. It’s long and action packed and has the most emotional weight of any game in the series so far, all good things for fans and newcomers alike.
There are large scale set pieces, flashbacks, new and returning characters, fairly expected twists and turns and plenty of self-aware humour. It’s Uncharted, and it’s a heck of a great way to end the series.
I’ve been thinking about the game a lot over the last few days as the launch approaches and I’ve managed to narrow down my single most favourite thing about A Thief’s End. Needless to say, this is something of a spoiler, so if you want to go in fresh don’t read beyond this teaser, which is a wonderful promo for the game.
SPOILERS AFTER THIS POINT. YOU HAVE BEEN THRICE WARNED NOW.
My favourite thing about Uncharted 4 is that it doesn’t stumble off into supernatural stuff.
Each of the previous games in the series have thrown in a supernatural element in the final act, often seemingly at random, and they’ve felt totally at odds with what has come before.
Nathan Drake is defined by being quite ordinary, by how genuinely terrified he is by the situations which are happening around him, and sometimes surprised that he’s managed to survive at all.
When he’s suddenly faced by ancient Nazi zombies, immortality juice or Arabian demons, this fragile sense of Nate as a real person is shattered, particularly as they’re often accompanied by outlandish set pieces.
Now it’s fair to say these elements are in keeping with the source material Uncharted draws from – old movie serials and most specifically Indiana Jones. Mysticism and magic are a part of that realm, and the adventures have remained thrilling despite spiralling off into silliness.
But that’s what makes A Thief’s End so refreshing. In a very real sense the main enemy here is a force within Nate and his brother Sam –a self-destructive drive towards danger and discovery which puts them in harm’s way time and again.
And the journey is similarly grounded in this relationship, of a man learning to overcome his compulsions, to instead look forward to a more peaceful life with his partner and maybe even a family one day.
Even as Nate and Sam chase the ultimate treasure on a long-lost pirate island (it’s not totally grounded, you know) their complicated bond remains to the fore, and it’s sorely tested before the end.
The game also takes the time to retain the importance of Drake’s wife Elena Fisher. She’s not always present but remains a vital part of his story, even when the two are at odds.
In this end, Uncharted 4 is a game that’s defined more by deep and complex human relationships than the need for a bombastic threat or supernatural spin. The spectacle is plenty thrilling when it arrives but the scale is a little smaller, the stakes a little more intimate and that’s a big part of the reason why it might be the best story this franchise has ever delivered.
As for the ending itself, I’m not going to discuss that here, but suffice to say it manages to be deeply satisfying for long-time fans while also potentially leaving things just a little bit open for the future.
Uncharted 4 A Thief’s End is exclusively on PS4 on the 10th of May, 2016.