Today's the day that the "Uncharted" series finally gets its concluding entry, the bookend to an amazing ride and certainly a franchise that has helped redefine the benchmark of superior quality in the third-person action genre. This should come as no surprise given the top-notch production qualities that come from developer Naughty Dog.
This won't serve as much of a review, but if you're curious, "Uncharted 4: A Thief's End" would get a solid 9 out of 10. And while it's hard to determine whether this one's better than the previous best "Uncharted 2: Among Thieves," it's safe to say it's either an equal or a solid second place.
With these things in mind, here are the six standout features of the game -- spoiler-free, although you may find some of these points sort of spoilery.
Nolan North and Troy Baker are the rival kings of video game voiceover work, and here we get to hear them together as the brotherly duo in Nate and Sam. Sam is newly introduced, and as such, you never know when or if you can trust him. The conflict between your own skepticism as the player and the hopeful ignorance of Nate as he reconnects with his long-lost brother is palpable, and this wouldn't have been possible without amazing talent conveying these emotions. Of course, we'd be remiss not to mention Richard McGonagle as the incorrigible Sully, as well as Emily Rose as Elena and fellow newcomer Laura Bailey as Nadine.
Hands down, this is the best-looking game on the Playstation 4 at the time of this writing. Namely, the environments are lush, atmospheric and finely detailed, with art style and effects that look like a realist painting. Characters react in newer, deeper ways, although they still look like highly-detailed action figures.
Without giving any plot away, there is a definite spiritual connection between this game and one of the greatest kid films of the '80s. First, this adventure involves pirates, and moreover, we get actual flashbacks to the '80s in this game with Nate and Sam. Much like "Uncharted 3," we take control of adolescent Nate as he learns the ways of adventurin'.
This nice little Easter Egg is already all over the Internet, and it's a small detail, but you actually get to play the PS1 classic "Crash Bandicoot" in-game, on a virtual PS1. This is an awesome callback, and not the only homage you'll find to a beloved video game of old within "A Thief's End."
From the beginning, you can feel a real sense of saying goodbye to a good friend. The air of "Uncharted 4" is dense with that sense of finality, the uncertainty about who stays and who goes, and the hope that everything will work out just fine and fit perfectly into a box. Players are left guessing until the final moment, a true testament to the writing and direction of the game.
Naughty Dog, among less than a handful of other studios, is pushing the industry forward with great force toward a new standard of quality in the AAA space. With each release, the studio shows how refined their craft is. Video games as a medium could have serious heft in the narrative space, and we get glimpses of this with each Naughty Dog release. "Uncharted 4" is redemptive in every sense, and there's no question that this game (and this franchise) will have its place in history as a headwind toward the next evolution of video game storytelling.