With such strong systems at its disposal, then, it’s disappointing that Naughty Dog doesn’t build more theatrical context around them. Regarding the series’ trademark outrageously choreographed action sequences, Uncharted 4’s campaign suffers from a curious lack of imagination. There are bright spots: there’s a brilliant car chase in Madagascar and a vertigo-inducing section involving clambering up a clock tower that stands out. But otherwise the thrills here tend to be more predictable: lots of handholds breaking at the last minute, buildings coming down, an occasional easily solved puzzle in an opulent interior. It’s 2016, and after three Uncharteds (and two contemporary Tomb Raiders) we’ve seen it all before.
This becomes a big problem in Uncharted 4’s third act, where the pacing slows down to a crawl. This jungle section is repetitive, and Nate and friends do little in it but climb and shoot, rinse and repeat. After a while, every encounter blurred into one amorphous amalgamation of shootouts, cliff faces, and pushing crates off of ledges for your companion to clamber up. As it’s the longest section in Uncharted 4, it eventually became a slog.
Things pick up significantly by the end. The thoughtful exploration of these characters and their relationships with each other has a subtle payoff which bucks against the typical action coda, and it’s to Naughty Dog’s credit that it’s unafraid to stay true to its characters and their motivations, even if they aren’t as explosive as one might expect.
4’s visuals astound.
There’s not much to do in the main campaign once you’ve finished it, bar completing your treasure collection, but there’s extended life to be had in Uncharted 4’s confident 5v5 and 4v4 multiplayer. Though it’s still a sideshow to the main campaign in scope, its four modes – Team Deathmatch, Plunder, Command, and Ranked Team Deathmatch – embody the series’ most enjoyable qualities: camaraderie (your teammates can be revived when in a downed state), sheets of bullets, and a constant sense of momentum. On the latter point, it helps that the stages for play have been opened up from previous games thanks to the grappling hook: zipping around to high vantage points to get the drop on enemies lends itself to a dizzying sense of verticality.
Deathmatch is ranked, which lends competitive longevity and appropriate skill matchmaking to Uncharted 4’s multiplayer, but Plunder and Command are the most fun. Command is a map-domination variant that places greater emphasis on teamwork by putting a target on the back of the strongest player in each team – the ‘captain.’ As you try and capture territories and hunt the enemy’s captain, you also have to protect against the opposing team trying to kill yours. You’ve got to be even more alert than usual, even as you’re pursuing an objective.
Plunder works similarly to previous Uncharted s, where the goal is to carry an idol to a central point on the map before the other team reaches it with theirs. Slowly heaving an idol to your teammate across a giant ravine while being shot at on all sides makes for a hilarious contrast in pace.
A sense of chaos is further encouraged by the outrageous abilities you can now harness in all of Uncharted 4’s multiplayer modes. Spending earned points to temporarily wield supernatural powers like teleportation, which hurtles you across the map and summon a sarcophagus that attacks the enemy with flying evil spirits can interrupt the rhythms of what would otherwise be a normal firefight.