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Critical Consensus: Uncharted 4 a real treasure

A Thief's End draws widespread praise for bringing Nathan Drake's story to a satisfying close

If Uncharted 4: A Thief's End is really the last we hear from Nathan Drake, at least the Indiana Jones-inspired adventurer's final foray is more "Last Crusade" than "Kingdom of the Crystal Skull." With the game set to launch next week, review embargos lifted today and the initial wave of praise for the game has been effusive. As of this writing, the game carries a Metacritic score of 94, based on 62 critic reviews, with 20 perfect scores and no score harsher than an 8 out of 10 (yet).

GameSpot's Mike Mahardy was one of the reviewers maxing out his outlet's grading scale, giving the game a 10 out of 10.

"Uncharted 4 is a challenge to the medium," Mahardy raved. "In its writing, in its design, in its understanding of what makes games unique, Uncharted 4 is something to aspire to. It's a shining example. And we'll be talking about it for years to come."

Like many reviewers, Mahardy dedicated particular praise for the game's narrative, which revolves around a newly domesticated Nathan Drake being pulled back into the life of a gun-toting treasure hunter for one last score by his long-lost brother.

"Uncharted 4 gives us insight into [Drake's] past, and the way it shaped his psyche: how he despises authority; how he uses humor as a shield; how he long ago accepted violence as a justifiable means to an end," Mahardy wrote. "Uncharted 4 tells this story with affection, showing an expert attention to detail in the way Nathan's voice falters when discussing his childhood, or how he stares at Elena when she's not looking. These details are painfully human. They bring the characters to life."

Andrew Reiner echoed that sentiment in his 9.5 out of 10 review for Game Informer.

"It's a hell of a story that shifts between Uncharted's patented 'everything is suddenly exploding and everyone is yelling' design to the slow and heavy emotional tone of The Last of Us," Reiner said. "There's clear inspiration from The Last of Us in Uncharted 4, and it's a better game because of it."

Mahardy found that inspiration extended well beyond the story and into the game's approach to combat.

"As with previous titles, Uncharted 4 revolves around third-person combat, climbing, and puzzle-solving," he said. "But, unlike its predecessors, this game often lets you sneak past enemy soldiers without doing any harm at all. This is a clear influence from The Last of Us, developer Naughty Dog's darker take on a third-person adventure. Stealth requires a patient, measured approach--but it feeds into the idea of a more reserved Nathan. Uncharted 4's action flows seamlessly alongside its narrative. It's a fluid, believable experience when it all comes together."

IGN's Lucy O'Brien also noticed a shift in the series' approach in her review-in-progress for IGN, which carries an 8.8 out of 10 score.

"In amongst its frantic combat, slick parkour, and outrageous action choreography, Uncharted 4: A Thief's End achieves something wonderful: maturity," O'Brien said. "This is less a breezy lad's tale revelling in fortune and glory and more a story about the lads when they're all grown up, bolstered by an equally developed graphics engine and career-high performances from its cast."

She added, "What lets it down, however, is an uninspired and overly long third act which slows down its pace considerably with curiously repetitive gameplay. Uncharted 4 consequently falls short of the greatness achieved by some of developer Naughty Dog's leaner, more inventive predecessors."

Reiner also noticed a certain formula to some parts of the game.

"The thrill of a platform falling apart as soon as Drake lands on it doesn't get the blood racing anymore - it's an expected element that, by the fourth installment, seems fairly commonplace," he said. "Naughty Dog finds new ways to make things go boom - there's plenty of fun in that - but I was never hit with the that one defining moment I had to tell everyone about like I did in Uncharted 2 and 3."

USgamer's Mike Williams gave the game 4.5 stars out of 5, and while he enjoyed combat additions like the grappling hook and stealth, he appeared to find the game's visual improvements more impressive.

"[T]he studio dove deep this time and crafted every environment with real care," Williams said. "The ruins feel like nature has really reclaimed them. You can dive into the rivers and underground lakes to see seaweed and bright coral. Fog rolls in the distance, snow alights on Drake's hair and clothing, and the rain pours on him from above. This is a stunning game in the visual department; Naughty Dog's technical and environmental artists are worth every goddamn penny."

He added, "Is this the best Uncharted yet? Emotionally, I'm going to say yes. It wraps up this entire world perfectly; there may be more Uncharted, but Nathan Drake's story is done... Yes, the vehicle sections at mid-game mess with the pacing, but once Uncharted 4 gets going again, it's a great ride. It's not perfect, but I'll be damned if it doesn't get close."

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Brendan Sinclair avatar
Brendan Sinclair: Brendan joined in 2012. Based in Toronto, Ontario, he was previously senior news editor at GameSpot.
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