Uncharted 4 review
I first realised Uncharted 4 was something special as Nathan Drake tried to beat a man unconscious with his bare hands in the depths of a South American prison. I'd bested him earlier, in front of his friends, and now he'd come to jump me and my intrepid bunch of treasure hunters deep in the prison's bowels.
Fistfights in Uncharted 4: A Thief's End are a lot of fun. At first you start by just mashing square to throw out punches, but then you mix in some dodges with circle and the occasional triangle to break out of the enemy holds but then you realise something else - the animation is working around you. When you get caught by the gang, other brawlers will swing in to get in some quick punches, or your allies could barrel in to save you. It's just AI behaviours, but watching as the fight seems to shape around you makes you feel like a damn hero. Punching an enemy near a wall could see you bounce them off a wall or even lower your shoulder and barrel your entire body into them. Throughout the game you can use this melee system, and it feels like a really organic thing to barrel past someone and knock them into a wall or off a cliff during a shootout.
After the introduction, the fist-fights stop and Nathan Drake works for a salvage company in New York now, and The house Nathan and Elena share is a mess. The attic is full of artifacts from past adventures, some I remember and some I don't. It's cluttered. Towels hang over the curtain rail of the shower, a razor sits next to a grubby holder alongside the sink. Out of the window you can see a man walking his dog, we're in a picturesque version of suburbia. A brief moment of normality for the treasure hunter, and it shows so much about Drake and how comfortable he is with a fridge full of Spicy Dumpling takeaway leftovers and a table full of unread mail.
If Naughty Dog learnt anything from their successes with The Last of Us it's how to show normality. How to do the little details in a naturalistic way. You learn so much about Drake from the house he inhabits, but it's also just really sweet to see your normal video game protagonist just taking some time out - when Nathan sprawls out on the sofa to play through a level of the original Crash Bandicoot on the Playstation, you feel a real connection: I've been to New York, I've played through Crash Bandicoot.
It's an hour before I first pull a trigger, and I still haven't experienced any of the promised open world, I haven't gone to a far-off country to murder its inhabitants. But I've bought into it, Uncharted 4 has me entirely on board. The fact that everything looks amazing isn't hurting either - this is a theme that continues throughout the game, it's probably the best looking game I've seen on the PS4, and it's a host of little details that make it look so good.
After the slow start, the story progresses at a fair pace - Troy Baker and Nolan North are the biggest male voice talents in gaming and Uncharted 4 uses them extensively, letting them bicker and chatter between the shooting segments. Most of the time this works and adds a cinematic veneer to the whole thing, occasionally it wears thin and I find myself wishing they'd just hurry up and let me do something.