It's funny to think about how far the Uncharted series has come since it hit the scene almost ten years ago. As production values soared and set pieces became more breathtaking with each instalment, the biggest thing that made Uncharted great has always remained constant: its characters.
Ever since the very beginning of Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, the three main characters, Nathan Drake (Nolan North), Sully (Richard McGonagle) and Elena (Emily Rose) have been fully-realised individuals who felt like they'd walked right off a movie screen.
To this day, the Hollywood-level acting and writing found in developer Naughty Dog's adventure series has yet to be topped, and our affection for this trio has only grown stronger with each entry. This, along with a greater sense of maturity, a bigger scope, and the most glorious visuals seen in a console game to date, makes Uncharted 4: A Thief's End the strongest entry in the series yet.
Old habits die hard
It's been years since the events of Uncharted 3, and Nathan Drake is officially out of the thieving game. Our hero has left that world behind for good, trading bullets and chaos for an honest job and domestic living. Though he now lives comfortably with Elena, Drake's heart is still in his past adventures, spending plenty of time in his attic nostalgically revisiting pictures and trinkets from years gone by. His boss keeps trying in vain to lure Drake back to slightly shadier work, but it's not until his long-lost brother Sam (Troy Baker) steps back into the picture, that Drake finds himself with no choice but to set off on another dangerous mission.
Together with trusty partner-in-crime Sully, the Drake brothers embark on a quest to track down Henry 'King of Pirates' Avery's missing treasure, said to be worth $400 million. Unfortunately for them, their old murderous associate Rafe (Warren Kole) and his ass-kicking partner Nadine (Laura Bailey) will stop at nothing to get to it first.
Sights to behold
Like any good Uncharted game (meaning all of them), the fourth entry in the series sees you set out on a globe-trotting adventure that pushes the boundaries of video game gorgeousness. From the lived-in interiors of Drake and Elena's house, to the stunning sun-kissed islands of the Indian Ocean, Uncharted 4 excels because of the small details within them.
Though you're probably expecting the game to make your jaw drop – a scuba diving sequence early on will have you wishing for a Naughty Dog-developed entry in the Endless Ocean series – Uncharted 4 still has the power to blow you away. It might even have the most realistic foliage I've ever seen in a video game. During a moment in which Drake is chased into a jungle by a helicopter, I was amazed at the way the leaves on all of the surrounding trees and bushes blew around in an accurate manner. The way in which Naughty Dog harnesses the power of the PS4 is nothing short of miraculous, adding a sense of true immersion to all of the game's astounding environments.
Speaking of environments, Uncharted 4 offers much larger traversal areas at times than fans of the series may be used to. Driving a jeep through the open plains of Madagascar gives the illusion of a sandbox-like experience, with multiple ways to approach certain missions. However, Naughty Dog's clever level design makes sure you end up hitting all the desired beats of what is still essentially a linear action game.