Unchartered 4 Review (PS4 Pro)
As those of you may have seen from previous reviews, I like the Unchartered games, but always found them a bit hollow. In fact, it was the original Unchartered game that put me off the series for so long, with its mediocre presentation, lacking game design, and weird characterisation. A started to warm towards the series throughout playing 2 and 3, with both games not only pushing the limits of what was possible in the graphical department for such an old system, but also making the characters more likeable.
So here we are at the fourth title in the series, and what have Naughty Dog managed to do? They’ve managed to learn from their previous titles, that’s what.
You see, what I didn’t mention is that between 3 and 4, Naughty Dog released The Last of Us, a great game that I reviewed when it was released. It received critical acclaim, and rightly so, especially for the character interaction and building that they managed to do. Naughty Dog haven’t rested on their laurels, and with the help of the lead writer, creative director and programmer Neil Druckmann, have managed to create characters you can genuinely love, and hope do well. This isn’t to say Neil was the only developer who helped craft unchartered 4’s story, far from it, but he seems to have pushed the seriousness of gaming one step closer to Cinema and TV, making it a better medium as a consequence.
Anyway! Back to square one before I go on a tirade about nonsense. How does Unchartered 4 play? Well, if you’ve played a previous entry in the series, then you’ve basically played Unchartered 4. Don’t get me wrong, theres a few new mechanics used throughout the campaign, such as the hook mechanic to swing from platform to platform, but overall nothing new can really be seen here. You go through the same old routine of – narrative > puzzle > platforming > kill lots of henchman > platforming that we all know and (maybe) love.
This tried and tested formula may not be very revolutionary, but what’s different this time round is the previously mentioned character arks, especially with Nathan Drake himself. You see, from Unchartered 1 through 3 you never really knew anything about Nathan’s past – yes, he would occasionally say things about how he met sully, but outside of that you’d never know how he knew so much about history and had some great survival skills.
Unchartered 4 manages to do a fantastic job of not only fleshing out Nathan Drake, but also his new, never before seen or mentioned brother, both of which have a few chapters that go back to their childhood in an orphanage, and even what they got up to as youngsters. This fleshing out at first feels a bit contrived, merely to teach you some new mechanics you may first think – but as the campaign progresses you start to get a real sense of brotherly love between the two siblings, and eventually, care about their wellbeing.
Graphically, the game is stunning. Everything from the mocap on the main characters, to the detailed forests, and even the gorgeous ancient buildings all looks truly magnificent, so much so I was taking screenshots every few seconds. I swear I’ve said this before, but if only Naughty Dog wasn’t a PS4 exclusive developer – the things they could do on a platform as powerful as the PC could be truly breathtaking.
What helps bring the graphically impressive world to life even more is the new open world driving sequences, which, whilst are new in the game design of Unchartered, are still fairly linear. You’re given a big area of a map to explore, and an objective to find something, so you proceed to drive around looking for clues that may help to reach your objective. These sections can be as long, and as short as you like, and certainly add something new to the traditional formula of Unchartered.
The set pieces are just as extreme as ever, and push the physics simulation of the PS4 to the absolute max, with debris flying everywhere, as well as dynamic building falling as you progress, or even cityscapes being drawn in on the fly. My other half also found them incredible, being surprised that even with eh amount of detail on display, I was still controlling Nate throughout the entire scene as it was unfolding. If you liked previous Unchartered’s set pieces, you’re sure to love them here.
There is unfortunately still the issue of ludonarritive dissonance – that is the fact that the story. puzzle solving and everything else seems to have no bearing on the actual shooting of enemies throughout the game. It’s like you’re playing two completely different games – no one ever mentions the fact they’ve just killed a bunch of men, and no one certainly mentions the blatantly stupid story moments when enemies just so happen to be in the ruins of a never before seen city. It’s all a bit immersion breaking, and certainly got annoying towards the end of the game when (spoilers ahead!) the group abandon the cave with treasure in despite the fact they could go back there at any time.
Another issue I found was the combat. Whilst Unchartered 4 pushes you to be as stealthy as possible, I found it was easier (and faster) to just start shooting the first enemy as soon as possible. Being sneaky resulted in a lot of AI routine bugs, especially when they were within close proximity to each other, resulting in enemies walking to a cliff edge, back into a friend, and back again.
So overall, I definitely enjoyed Unchartered 4 more so than the previous entries in the series. It still has some of the same issues that plagued the previous titles BUT it managed to add enough story moments, along with better character depth, to make me choke a little at the ending. It’s been a long ride, but one I’m glad I experienced, and dare I say it, you should too.