I recently wrote a piece comparing and contrasting Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End and Quantum Break. While that might not have been an entirely fair comparison, my motive wasn’t to stir up fanboy controversy. I do think it’s a reasonable discussion about two console exclusives, in the same genre, released within a month of each other, and in between accusations of writing “click bait,” there was actually some back and forth about the highs and lows of each game’s narrative. Objectively, that’s really the only aspect where the two games are on a comparable footing, though I did get really tired of Uncharted 4’s climb, shoot, climb recipe, on more than a few occasions.
Cross-console comparisons aside, how does Uncharted 4’s narrative hold up? Personally, I found the whole tone of the game very reminiscent of The Last of Us. With Neil Druckmann taking over the helm, that was bound to happen, and prior to the game’s release I was really excited about it. I consider The Last of Us one of the Top 5 all-time great games, and besides that, I thought Uncharted 3’s narrative was a low for the franchise. Unfortunately, after playing A Thief’s End, I’m not sure I’m entirely a fan of the Druckmann-ization of Uncharted.
Uncharted 4 is without a doubt, the most serious game of the series. Considering the whole concept was a National Treasure/Indiana Jones mash-up, some amount of camp is actually required, and I don’t think there was quite enough of it to be found the finale. That being said, I am a fan of darker, more mature storytelling in games, hence my love of The Last of Us. Despite Uncharted 4’s more serious tone, I don’t think it ever quite found its voice. Pitting your brother, Sam up against your wife, Elena is a great set up, but the game doesn’t do the work to make you really invested in either of the supporting characters.
It’s somewhat understandable that since Elena is a returning character, that most of the screen time would be given to Sam as an introduction. The problem is that by doing that the narrative becomes awfully one dimensional. It’s two brothers against the world, until everyone else comes to their senses and decides to help the pair out. Apparently, Elena is cool with a husband who lies to her and abandons her, and just decides that she better hop back on the Nathan Drake train because he’s so awesome. She chastises him a bit once they’re reunited, but for the most part, she’s just a generic companion. Sam’s treatment really isn’t much better.
Going back to The Last of Us, what made that story so memorable was how authentic it was. Throughout the game, you actually experience the growth of the unlikely relationship between Joel and Ellie. In the beginning you’re forced to endure the same loss that Joel experiences, and his resulting amorality is understandable. Once Ellie is dumped in his lap Joel isn’t instantly transformed. It’s only through their shared experiences that he comes to care for and love Ellie. That journey is what’s absent in A Thief’s End. Though the trailers try to show something different, Nathan Drake is really the same person at the end of the game that he was at the beginning.
Before you say it, yes, they’re two different games, and Uncharted 4 is not supposed to be The Last of Us 2. That being the case, why does A Thief’s End try to be more serious than it is? I like James Bond movies. I also really loved Blade Runner, but I really don’t want those Bond movies to try to be more like the dystopian Blade Runner. Likewise, I’m not sure I wanted Uncharted 4 to try so hard to be The Last of Us, because if that was the goal, it failed miserably.
On the whole, I found Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End narrative much better than Drake’s Deception, but not quite as good as Among Thieves. Regardless, it’s still a pretty good finale and a PlayStation 4 essential.
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The opinions in this editorial are the author’s and do not represent OnlySP as an organization.
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