I’ve always enjoyed the Uncharted games. They have that right blend of adventure, story, action and platforming. They’ve never been some of my favourite games, but I finally got around to playing Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End and it totally blew me away. Plenty of games have tried to combine regular game mechanics and cinema, but Uncharted 4 is by far the best.
Let’s talk camera work first as I’m not saying it is cinematic just because of the graphical fidelity – which is awesome by the way. The way the camera follows Drake during action sequences, both ones you get to play and those that are done through cut-scenes, are like nothing I’ve ever seen. When an enemy gets within melee range and starts to throw punches the camera swings in like you are witnessing a fight scene in a film. Uncharted 4 is ‘filmed’ with such precision that it feels like an action film. And that is just one example, from wide angles that slowly zoom in on Nathan to slowed down side shots as a car whizzes past. So much time and attention has been given to ensuring players experience an epic story as well as compelling gameplay.
Plus there are never any button inputs on screen. I never realised how much displaying so many button inputs for a quick-time event type actions really ruins immersion until Uncharted 4 just didn’t use them. When you need to counter you know triangle is the button to press and being grab by a baddie is the give away to use it, rather than it constantly popping up on screen. The times when they do come up they are very subtle. This keeps your focus on experiencing a cinematic fight scene rather than fulfilling a button input because the game is telling you to.
Immersion, that is how Uncharted 4 really nails being cinematic. Players are completely immersed in the game world from start to finish. Naughty Dog has included parts where Nathan stumbles or the rocks break while he’s climbing that make the game world feel so much more real. It is in the imperfections that Uncharted 4 creates a believable and realistic world. These imperfections and times when you see Nate drop a few feet because the hand hold has given way pull you into the game world like nothing I’ve ever played before. I want him to survive because he feels real to me, more so than characters in plenty of films.
Nathan Drake feels so real because we have seen him go through numerous adventures. I want him to get his happy ending so badly. Uncharted 4 feels like they don’t need to make a film of it because it’s already better than a film – it’s a game and film combined. Meshing shooting sequences and cutscenes into a compelling story is something video games have been chasing for years. Heck, it is what Metal Gear Solid has always wanted to be. However, unlike Metal Gear, and plenty of other games, Uncharted 4 is easy to follow. You never feel lost as to what is happening. You always have a goal and the game keeps you moving from set piece to set piece. And when the game does slow down, you can enjoy the climbing and jumping parts. Although they are no less tense because some of the leaps Drake makes are truly spectacular.
There is a moment that Nathan and his brother share in the ruin of a house that is perfect. It’s entirely optional, yet should not be missed. They sit down with these empty old cups and just talk. Similar to how Life is Strange offered times where you could just sit and listen to the main character for a bit and just watch the world go by, Uncharted 4 offered something very similar. You see these brothers talking and joking like they are kids again and aren’t in fact in tremendous danger. The game just slows down for a minute and tells you to take your time. A film could never do that. Games rarely do this because they are constantly trying hold a players attention. Uncharted 4 throws it in so effortlessly and pulls it off in such an elegantly compelling way.
Uncharted 4 is definitely one of the best games I’ve ever played. It is an action-packed thrill ride, but also a deeply personal and emotional story. It seamlessly blends storytelling and combat. Uncharted 4 manages something we’ve seen games aspiring to for a very long time – it’s film that you can play.
This article was originally published on GamerTimeUK but unfortunately, that site no longer exists, so I’ve republished it here.