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Mini-movie inside a game
Uncharted 4: A Thief's End
HALF-AN-HOUR into playing Uncharted 4: A Thief's End, the latest instalment in the hit action game franchise from developer Naughty Dog, it started to feel like a gathering with old friends who had been absent for a while.
Adventurer Nathan Drake has finally settled down with Elena Fisher, but he is itching for some action. The long-time fortune hunter is out of place in his suburban home, is too good at his salvaging job and has a yearning for adventure.
And who better to test his resolve and promise to his wife than Sam, Nathan's brother who was thought to have died 13 years ago.
His return sets the brothers off on a quest to find the pirate republic of Libertalia, which, of course, leads to some lies to Nathan's wife. Long-time friend Sully, who has also been a staple in previous outings, returns to aid the brothers and if this sounds more like a movie than an action game, it is because Uncharted 4: A Thief's End continues to combine a strong balance of narrative, cinematic and gameplay elements in a video game.
Everything that happens in this game is played out as a mini-movie where players control Nathan as he scales walls, jumps across ancient buildings and shoots at his nemeses along the way.
The rich motion capture of voice actors Nolan North (Nathan), Emily Rose (Elena), Richard McGonagle (Sully) and Troy Baker (Sam) help players care about the characters and their motivations, and feel their fear when they are being hunted by mercenaries.
While this is not an open world game, Naughty Dog has expanded the terrain so that players have to explore the world a little more, before circling back to decide what they want to do.
The availability of multiple routes to a checkpoint gives the illusion of freedom, which is a welcome addition here.
Environments, such as long grass and shadows, can be used for hiding and silent takedowns - and enemies are much more alert to your presence.
The game also offers plenty of puzzles and like its predecessors, there are enough clues collected along the way, to help players solve them all.
The only thing that Naughty Dog has not changed, which it should, is the physics of the game. It does not matter how fit Nathan is, because some of the jumps, leaps and grabs that he pulls off are physically impossible. The game makes it look as if Nathan can conquer any course in American Ninja Warrior with his eyes closed.
Beautiful in its presentation, heartwarming in its narrative and immersive in its gameplay, the only downside is that towards the end, one cannot help but wonder when a game of this calibre will ever grace game consoles again.