An in depth look at the top rated game of 2016: Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

Gaming / PC / PlayStation / Xbox
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In a year full of ups and downs, we certainly did have some amazing video games.

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2016 has been nothing if not a year full of ups and downs. We lost the impeccable talent that was Prince, David Bowie and most recently George Michael, but we also got to see the highly anticipated Rogue One, along with seeing Leonardo DiCaprio finally win himself a long overdue Oscar, and I also got myself a brand new puppy “Django” (this falls into the good and bad categories for obvious reasons), and yes, she is named after the incredible Quentin Tarantino film of the same name.

In the world of video gaming, things were no less different. We were gifted with amazing masterpieces like Overwatch (read my article here to learn more), Doom, and Dishonored 2 whilst also being dumped on with the over-promising No Man’s Sky and the god awful and shameless cash-in that it was Umbrella Corps.

Metacritic is a review aggregate site that combines both critic and user reviews into a single score out of 100 dubbed the “Metascore,” below are the 10 best-reviewed games of 2016 according to this method.

As you can see from the above table extracted from Metacritic’s site, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is the single top rated video game on any platform for 2016. Were there games released in 2016 that I have played for longer, or had more fun playing through over Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End? The answer is “yes,” but for varying reasons of course. While I may have had more fun playing Battlefield 1 or Overwatch online with my friends, or re-living my adventures through the Bioshock series remaster that was released, there is no denying the fact that Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End deserves the top spot.

Now before you start crying out “Sony fanboy,” just hear me out. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End was not just another video game. It was an artistic masterpiece, a shining example of what a talented studio is capable of accomplishing and pushed the medium to new heights for non-gamers. You see, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End can be labeled as just another video game, except it isn’t, it is far more than that.

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The pure beauty of this title is undeniable.

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End showed the world that video games can be so much more. It pushed the envelope of what a video game could be, of what we could expect from a video game. Firstly, the voice acting and motion captured performances are simply out of this world. You can see, feel, and hear every line of dialogue coupled with relative body language and eerily accurate facial expressions. I turned my sound off at one point during my play through and I could still gauge what the character was feeling purely from how well crafted the animation is on the character models.

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A screenshot which demonstrates Naughty Dog’s obvious attention to detail with Nathan deep in thought about the choice he has made, whilst Sam steers the boat towards their goal. A shot any film director would put heavy thought into.

However, all the well-crafted animation in the world would be worth nothing if the characters themselves were bland and uninteresting to follow because you wouldn’t care what they are feeling or saying, taking you out of the experience. Needless to say, however, the characters are all well fleshed out, and the way they interact and speak with each other gives you a real impression that this could be a real life person. The way Nathan (Nolan North) and his brother Sam (Troy Baker) interact and bounce off of each other’s actions and words would hit most siblings right at home, because as selfish and cocky as Sam is, he still cares deep down for Nathan and will not let anything hurt him once he sets aside his own greedy agenda. All the characters interact and play off of each other’s own unique personalities as they would in a real life situation, well, aside from the fact that no one is exactly going to live through a huge firefight with armed militia or a Jeep dangling over the edge of a cliff, but you get the drift.

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Times never change, Nathan and Sam when they were kids versus adults.

The story is just as important as the characters and their development, and this title absolutely nails the story. The game opens up on Nathan (now retired from his Indiana Jones days) working at a salvage company, trying to move on with his adult life. It is through small scenes and interactions that we see that while Nathan is content, he still longs for more. He is still very much a child with a thirst for adventure trapped in an adult’s body. He is now married to his longtime companion Elena (Emily Rose) and has settled down into their own house. A simple trip up to his attic to retrieve an item leads to Nathan spotting a Nerf gun which instantly prompts him to pick it up, and begin to pretend he is in the middle of a firefight just like his old days perfectly demonstrates and captures his longing to go back to this life one last time.

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Nathan and Elena look deep into each other’s eyes. The love they share for one another captured beautifully in a single screenshot.

Sam comes back into Nathan’s life after years of being assumed dead with a proposal too good to refuse. Nathan is hesitant at first due to the comfortable life he has now built, but we can see deep down he would love to be involved with another adventure, it is at this point he lies to Elena about going on a work trip to aid his brother and set off on one last globe-trotting adventure of high stakes action.

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Brothers in arms. Sam frantically tries to hold on to Nathan.

The story is well presented and written, with every event culminating to an end point and serves to progress the story further along its path whilst allowing for fantastic character development to occur. You get the sense that these characters are real people within their respective world and through their actions and reactions you learn to understand their personalities, traits, and place within this adventure. The way the story includes huge action set pieces, varying locations around the globe in search of ancient treasure rarely leads to moments of boredom, I found myself constantly engaged at all times.

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“I made a promise that I was done with this life.” The facial expression conveys all we need to know that Nathan is shocked that Elena has tracked him down and learned he is out on another adventure. A true testament to the attention to detail Naughty Dog strive for.

Now sure you could argue that the gameplay remains virtually the same as past titles, with some minor tweaks, the biggest of which being the new grappling hook mechanic, but there is one simple reason for this; the gameplay is absolutely superb. Why fix something that is not broken? Sure you can say the gameplay is pure generic 3rd-person fare, but it again is so meticulously crafted and well presented that it constantly engages the player and pushes them to progress through every encounter and firefight to see what awaits around the next corner as they duck, dive, and leap across the map.

To add to the already “Hollywood” style action, story, and cast, we even get an incredible score composed by Henry Jackman, who is best known for his work on Captain America: The Winter Soldier, X-Men: First Class, Big Hero 6, and much more.

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A moment of fisticuffs during gameplay.

Every single part of this title has been so intricately created and woven together that it is hard to fault the overall experience. Sure if you want to nitpick you can find faults, this game is by no means perfect but nothing in this world is. What this title presents is a huge step forward for the video game industry in terms of being able to tell a story through cutscenes, gameplay, performances, and writing that is on par, if not better than many major multi-million dollar films.

Naughty Dog is an incredible studio and should be commended for their work and commitment to the industry. Every title they release is a painstaking labor of love, a creation forged by blood, sweat, and tears. Every title is a piece they ensure they can be proud of, an experience they are confident players will enjoy.

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Nadine Ross and Rafe as they discuss their plans, the smirk and enjoyment plain to see on Rafe’s face.

It may still be a while before I am able to get my grubby little hands on The Last of Us 2 (the next project from Naughty Dog), but the wait will be well worth the guaranteed next level experience I am confident the title will prove to be once again.

In summary, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is a superb piece of entertainment, but as I explained it goes much further beyond simply being another video game. I can see myself playing this title 10 years from now and still being blown away by the intricately crafted characters, story, and overall presentation that went into creating this fine piece of art, because at the end of the day that is what Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is — a piece of art that will be cherished for generations to come. Well in my own personal opinion at least.

What are your thoughts on this title? Did you love it, or were you one of the few who did not like it? Let us know in the comments section below or on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

  Source: Metacritic
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