Uncharted 4: A Thief's End review

A time for action

Each of Uncharted's core gameplay mechanics, which include cover-based shooting, climbing, stealth and hand-to-hand combat, has seen an evolution in one way or another – each refinement feeling like a natural extension of what has come before.

Though Uncharted's aiming has always been problematic, either feeling way too loose or too sluggish, Uncharted 4 offers a new Grand Theft Auto-style snap-to-target system which makes gunfights much quicker and easier, but may frustrate those who want precise headshots. Lucky for those people, all aim assist options can be switched off entirely. Cover is also more destructible than ever, with grenades and heavy weapons even shattering concrete blocks. To stay alive, you'll have to keep on your toes.

Climbing feels roughly the same as before (albeit with nicer animations). However, Naughty Dog has clearly taken some inspiration from Crystal Dynamics' Tomb Raider series with the inclusion of a piton that can be spiked into certain cliff faces. It's not quite as useful as Lara Croft's climbing axe, only allowing you a one-off resting point between ledges, but it does prove invaluable later in the game.

Uncharted 4 review

Stealth has been reworked as well, with a new targeting system that allows you to mark enemies Metal Gear Solid-style, letting you to keep an eye on their positions at all times. Their marks will even change colour depending on how alerted they are to your presence – white for not at all, yellow when investigating, and orange when you've been busted. Thankfully, Naughty Dog's fantastic foliage comes in handy when you want to sneak up to enemies through long grass and snap their necks.

While there are probably a few too many fist fights in the game for my liking, hand-to-hand combat has become more context sensitive, allowing you and your nearest ally to team up against opponents in satisfying ways.

What's new?

Those who played the recent Uncharted 4 multiplayer beta will be familiar with Drake's new grapple hook, an indispensable piece of equipment that can be used to swing into battle, rappel down a cliffside or reach ledges and areas that would be impossible to get to without it. Many of the campaign's climbing puzzles require it, which adds a new dimension to something we've all grown quite familiar with.

As mentioned earlier, driving is a big part of Uncharted 4. Though it never enters true open-world territory, levels involving the jeep are much bigger than anything the series has attempted before. At first, it can be a little daunting, with nary a map or GPS in sight – you simply have to start driving towards your desired location and hope for the best.

Eventually, it becomes evident that Naughty Dog wants you to approach driving like one of its climbing puzzles. Though there are multiple ways to get to your destination, you'll need to navigate your jeep around narrow cliffsides, up hills and over muddy trails. Occasionally, you'll see tire tracks heading up a steep rock face, sort of like when you're looking for a place to climb. Being a 4x4, the jeep allows you to drive to areas you normally wouldn't be able to reach in most video games, which feels pretty awesome.

Uncharted 4 review

Intermittently, you'll come across areas too steep or muddy for your jeep to traverse. This is where the jeep's winch comes in handy. You can wrap the winch around a tree to pull your vehicle up to a desired area, or even use it to pull down a bridge and make an impromptu ramp.

Though the jeep is primarily used to get around, it also provides Uncharted 4 with its most sensational set pieces. The game's major chase scene (revealed at E3 last year) is even more thrilling to play than it is to watch. Undoubtedly the greatest chase scene in the history of games, the set piece, which has you racing through side streets, alleys and across rooftops(!) in an attempt to escape a bunch of armored vehicles is an exhilarating thrill ride, and that's before you start leaping from truck to truck. There's a sense of escalation to the chase that puts most Hollywood blockbusters to shame.

The jeep isn't the only vehicle you'll drive, either – you'll also put a speedboat to good use as your travel around from island to island in search of clues that will bring you one step closer in your quest to find Avery's lost treasure.

Stephen Lambrechts
Senior Journalist, Phones and Entertainment

Stephen primarily covers phones and entertainment for TechRadar's Australian team, and has written professionally across the categories of tech, film, television and gaming in both print and online for over a decade. He's obsessed with smartphones, televisions, consoles and gaming PCs, and has a deep-seated desire to consume all forms of media at the highest quality possible. 

He's also likely to talk a person’s ear off at the mere mention of Android, cats, retro sneaker releases, travelling and physical media, such as vinyl and boutique Blu-ray releases. Right now, he's most excited about QD-OLED technology, The Batman and Hellblade 2: Senua's Saga.