Note: What follows are non-spoiler impressions of the single-player campaign. I have yet to try multiplayer.
The hardest time to write a review-in-progress is when you’d really rather just keeping playing, but here we are at 12:01am and I needed to get the word out: Uncharted 4 might just be the best of the series. Currently playing chapter twelve about ten hours in, I assume I'm halfway through since the previous installments were at least twenty-two chapters. It’s been quite awhile since the last adventure starring Nathan Drake. Being the first of the series to transition to a new console is apparent not only in the graphical upgrade, but in terms of scale, themes, and gameplay.
The story so far has retired explorer Nate leaving his wife Elena behind in search of the biggest pirate treasure ever, in order to save his until recently-thought dead brother, Sam, alive. The focus here is on siblings and, like all Uncharted games, not being able to escape one's past. The tone is more mature, but still not as heavy or gritty as Naughty Dog’s masterful tale about Joel and Ellie. This is Uncharted after all, so the quips keep coming and the set pieces keep exploding with ear-shattering volume.
As I noted in my preview, the gameplay seems to have taken a few cues from Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Tagging enemies, scoping out the terrain, and allowing the player to experiment with every enemy encounter is a godsend. While I have died plenty on the game’s normal setting (now called ‘moderate’), I rarely think it’s a design issue. I’ve yet to have a successful all-stealth takedown. The main gunplay is better than ever. They haven’t completely gotten rid of the bullet-sponge issues, but aiming is now more difficult while the amount of bullets needed to take someone down seems halved. This is a small tweak that adds to greater tension. When things go south, they really go south.
Visually, I can’t imagine how this game could look better even if it was in 4K. Forests are lush with green, while a walk through a village in Madagascar is full of materials of every kind. Everything looks wider. It’s hard to explain as the aspect ratio of all HDTVs are the same, but the way Nate, Sam, and Sully occupy space feels more like they are actually occupying space.
I’ve had a handful of puzzles so far, and I could not figure out one of them. It involves using Drake’s trusty journal, which finally feels like a vital part of Nate’s inventory. You still just tap the pad on the DualShock 4, but now you can zoom in and sometimes rip out pages in order to rotate and place them in a specific order. I was in luck about that puzzle as I had the hints option turned on.
I’ll be able to go into much greater detail about the story and the variety of level design in my full review, which will be up soon. Uncharted fans, get excited!