Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End Review

Uncharted 4

Uncharted 4 brings to an end one of my (now) favorite gaming series. Just two months ago I picked up the Nathan Drake Collection and fell completely in love with the first three games. Something about the adventure of pirates, treasure, and glory captured my heart and I was hooked. While the first three games were very much about the adventure, Uncharted 4 takes quite a spin focusing more on a mature (meaning grown up and serious) narrative.

Nathan and Elena are a little older now. Several years have passed since the events in Uncharted 3. They’re trying to retire and live normal lives. The game begins with the two in their home where Naughy Dog immediately showcases their story-telling finesse. Uncharted 4 definitely shows the effect The Last of Us had on Naughty Dog. You can feel the tension of two people living a life that neither are happy with. It was only a matter of time before Nathan sucked them back into an adventure — one that may be their last.


Uncharted 4 has superb graphics. You can see the dust in the air, the rocks sliding down a hill, etc., etc. It’s gorgeous. It’s 60fps on console. The engine is one of the best I’ve experienced. Underwater scenes are gorgeous. The world feels legitimate.

Uncharted 4 Graphics

General Gameplay

Gameplay is cinematic to say the least. Even the most intense combat scenarios where you’re under fire from all sides and making ridiculous decisions that no game developer should have been able to foresee end up feeling choreographed into the perfect scene. The parkour is crazier than ever with the introduction of sliding and grappling hooks that make Drake give Spider-man a run for his money. Traversing terrain still feels a little ridiculous for any human to accomplish, but the controls are such that you feel like you’re controlling Nathan’s arms and reaching for ledges.

Shooting mechanics vary game to game in this series. I tried using the assisted aim and while I’m a sucker for auto-aim on consoles, but version nearly got me killed. I quickly disabled it and found the standard gunplay very comfortable and I was making head shots without any form of assist.

Elena in Uncharted 4

The Campaign

Uncharted 4 returns to the idea of pirates. This time, Nathan is going after the pirate Captain Henry Avery’s long-lost treasure. From Monaco to the Scottish Highlands to Madagascar, there’s plenty of diversity in scenery.

The campaign itself has its ups and downs. While combat and various scenes are choreographed perfectly (the car chase in Monaco comes to mind), the game runs into several moments of rinse and repeat. Every time you find your way deeper into the adventure, suddenly the bad guys are already well established ahead of you and you have to take them all out again.

Stealth plays a larger role in this one. I almost felt like I was playing Assassin’s Creed during a few points. I like that a lot more than guns blazing all the time. Puzzle solving is also back better than it was in some of the previous games. I do wish there were even more puzzles, though.

Uncharted 4’s biggest issue is its second act. The pacing is so boring. People critique the third act, but I felt like that was Uncharted 4 getting back to its roots and rounding out that story they’ve been trying to tell over 4 games now. No spoilers will be given here, but the third act contains dialog necessary for building the emotional connection to what the characters are going through. Yes, the third act was a little slow, but I liked what it represented for the characters involved.

A  Thief’s End

The ending is perfect. I don’t want to spoil anything for those of you still playing through, or who one day will fix their mistake by not having played these games.  After the game seems to end, stick around. Play through until Game Over on the Crash Bandcioot scene. This ending was very fulfilling. I eat this stuff up. Both my wife and I thought that it was a very fitting end. There’s a reason people are calling this, “The greatest story ever played.”

Pokemon Go

Pokemon Go is all the craze lately. People everyone are playing. People who would never have even thought to play a Pokemon game are walking the streets hunting for Pokemon. I was at work and looked out the window down to the street and sure enough this lady was catching Pokemon. How do you know if someone is playing? Just watch. They’ll act really odd, aiming their phone around, spinning in circle, then suddenly stopping for no apparent reason to interact with their phone.

I went Pokemon hunting yesterday. I was on my way to a wedding with a little time to kill so my wife and I stopped off at the mall (Irvine Spectrum for people who know the area) when suddenly a wild Zubat appeared! I chased it into a Target. Then I had to take a detour into a jewelry store to catch an Ekans. Pics or it didn’t happen? Sure.

Throughout the mall I caught a dozen or so others. I went into a Sur la Table and found a Pidgey fluttering around some spatulas. Then wild Ratata appeared at the Starbucks, and a Crabby was just chillin on some lady’s purse. I had to stop and aim my phone at her — not awkward at all.

I saw several other people catching Pokemon around me. One guy in a Curse gaming shirt was having a grand ole time, and these two teenagers were running around clearly chasing Pokemon.

PokeStop Local Business

Brilliant marketing gimmicks.

An interesting feature are the PokeStops. Real world ‘places of interest’ are turned into PokeStops, or places that you can visit to get bonuses like PokeBalls. These have so far been everything from the water fountain at the mall to the tile art on the archway in my complex. The more populated the area, the more PokeStops — it’s like they want people to see you playing or something. ::Looks around nervously::

I’m more of a closet Poke Trainer… I get all shy and embarassed aiming my phone around. Bri gets excited and starts shouting “THERE’S ONE! CATCH IT!” and I’m like “SHHH” and I hide my phone and start examining the basting brushes like nothing is going on.

Pokemon Go lacks the “game” element for me. It’s a neat gimmick to use your phone camera to see pokemon in the world, but just flicking pokeballs and having it be nothing more than ‘collect’em all’ gets old. I want to battle them. I want to level them up. I want to do more of the actual Pokemon game. I get it — that’s not what Pokemon Go is about. Pokemon go is about getting random people out catching Pokemon

By the end of the afternoon I had walked just over three miles finding Pokemon. I’m already a bit bored with the whole experience. Come to think of it, that’s what Pokemon Go is all about. It’s not a game. It’s an experience. It’s a fun social experiment to see how new ways of engaging people beyond the usual gamer can catch on. Give it a shot — it’s free. Just don’t let your kids walk into the middle of the street chasing after a Pikachu.

Uncharted Collection: An Absolute Must Play

Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection Review

I sometimes feel silly reviewing these older games, especially when they’ve long been heralded as amazing and I was simply too oblivious or stupid not to try them when they came out. Even though the first game came out nine years ago, let me tell you now that it’s never too late to play these games — especially since they’ve been remastered and the newest game just came out.

I’m going to approach reviewing Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection by giving my brief thoughts on teach of the games, and my overall thoughts on the series so far.

Uncharted PS3 vs. PS4

Remastered for the PS4

Part of me rejoices in the fact that I waited so long, because playing all of them on one disc in the PS4 in HD looks a heck of a lot better than it would have back on the PS3. The graphics for all three games look great. I was telling Graev (who played them all originally when they came out) that if I didn’t know the original game came out in 2007, I would have pegged it more around 2012’ish. The graphics in Drake’s Deception are as good as many games released today on the PS4.

Drake' Fortune

Drake’s Fortune

The first in the series kicks things off strong by tickling that treasure hunter itch. You’re the descendent of Sir Francis Drake (one of my favorite historical figures since I was 7, btw) looking for his long lost treasure. This starts you down a journey that continues to unfold throughout the rest of the series.

Drake’s Fortune features a lot of puzzle solving, jumping puzzles/navigation scenes, but most of all lots of shooting scenes. Back in 2007, the cover mechanics and climbing would have been really quite a feat and were probably pioneered through this game. The story is intriguing, though definitely takes an Indiana Jones turn when it goes a bit sci-fi — a turn that manifests itself in many ways throughout the series.

Overall a very catch story that sucked me in right away.

Among Thieves

Among Thieves

The story continues, sort of. This time Drake is in a new setting. Instead of islands and pirate ships, Drake is navigating the snowy Himalayas and Asia while following the trail of Marco Polo. Unfortunately, there’s very little connection at all to the first game’s plot except for the characters and their relationships. These relationships, however, are a huge element of the game for me and kept me going.

Among Thieves featured waaaaay more puzzles and climbing with relatively less shooting than the original. The story was slightly less intriguing because my interest in Marco Polo’s adventures pales in comparison to Sir Francis Drake. Once again the series takes on a mystical plot twist that I actually feel is sometimes at odds with the rest of the game. Uncharted 2 had a weird resolution for me. With so much build up, I feel like it ends relatively short of the huge story it built up.

Drake's Deception

Drake’s Deception

Easily the best in the series so far, Drake’s Deception brings us back to the story of Nathan Drake’s ancestor and more about the treasure we may find at the end of this long adventure. We see a change of scenery once again. In fact, we see lots of scenery changes in Uncharted 3. The game begins in London and travels all over from France to Yemen to the Rub’ al Khali desert.

Uncharted 3 introduces a lot more fist fighting and a heck of a lot more emphasis on sneaky gameplay. There’s also a lot of quick time events which make for more cinematic gameplay, but aren’t necessarily my cup of tea. Gameplay overall finds a very healthy balance between puzzles, climbing scenes, and fighting. By the end, I did wish for more puzzles. Thankfully the mystical nature here ends up working a little bit better than Uncharted 2, but it still resolves too quickly to have built up for so long.

Uncharted 3 has so many breathtaking moments where the gameplay had me on the edge of my seat. Bri (who is watching me play the entire series) and I would often be like “OH CRAP!” and all sorts of exclamations at scenes where the game threw me into these perilous intense moments that somehow manages to transcend the feeling of a game. It’s crazy what they’re able to enact on the player; On more than one occasion I was awestruck by how the game was so fluid and seamless in its ability to make me feel like I was doing all of these amazing things on my own, when in reality I know that’s the course they meant for me to take.

An Amazing Journey

Playing all three games back to back in less than a month was a blast, and now I’m ready to start the newly released Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End (look for my review in a couple weeks tops). Uncharted is now among the top games on my all-time favorites list, right up there with Warcraft RTS and Assassin’s Creed.

The shooting, sneaking, climbing, jumping, cinematics, etc., all of the mechanics are all superb, and only a few times was I ever frustrated by the actual ‘playing’ part of the game. The story is top notch, yet predictable at times; Yet in its predictability it still manages to be told extremely well. All-around a near-perfect series. If you like shooters mixed with historical fiction, a little mysticism/scifi, and and puzzles… don’t make the same mistake I did by passing on these for so long. All 3 games with PS4 graphics at half the price of ONE game? Yeah, that’s a no-brainer.

TMNT: Mutants in Manhattan Review

Mutants in Manhattan Review

Graev and I have been TMNT fans since we were little tykes running around with plastic swords wailing on each other. We loved TMNT on the NES back in 89, Turtles on Time back in 91, and a few of the other games in the 92-93 years. But since those days the Turtles have had a rough go of things, and unfortunately that doesn’t really change with Mutants in Manhattan.

Reviews across the web have been pretty harsh. Graev and I both bought Mutants in Manhattan well before waiting to se what the scores would be, so we were a bit leery that we may have — in the words of Gob — made a huge mistake. Luckily things didn’t turn out quite so bad, but they’re still a long ways from great.

Mutants in Manhattan is developed by Platinum Games who brought us other titles like Bayonetta, Star Fox Zero, and the (hopefully) soon to release Scalebound. Pretty good lineup. Mutants in Manhattan (MiM from hereon out that’s just too many syllables) is a beat’em-up game similar to most TMNT titles. Art style is fantastic, animations are great, combat is excellent (if not a little repetitive), etc. Where the game falls completely flat is in its execution of story and flow.

TMNT Mutants in Manhattan Combat and Boss Fights

There really isn’t a story worth commenting on, as the narrative is completely nonexistent and skips around in an almost incomprehensible way. Levels are loosely based around completing randomized/serializes objectives such as beat up the foot, deliver the stolen cash, diffuse the bombs, or find the sewer hole. These little “side quests” become so mundane and linked together that it’s almost mind-numbing. But the have to be done because doing them spawns the boss of the level which is the only way to progress.

Boss fights are well done. Once you get the hang of each boss’ mechanics, the idea of having to eliminate 4-10 health bars isn’t so bad. All of your favorite bosses and then some are there.

As I mentioned earlier, combat is solid. For a beat’em-up style it has all of the combos I’m looking for, and even some multiplayer combos as well as special abilities to unlock. Each turtle feels appropriate to their fighting style.

I wish that the world was more open like a GTA game, and that I could just be a Turtle roaming the city stopping bad guys while following a cohesive story. That would have been a lot better than the fairly dead and lifeless world they toss you into.

Graev and I both agree that the game is fun enough to play together (co-op works great) and beat up some Foot. Go into expecting a whole lot more and you’ll be disappointed. Thankfully the game isn’t quite full price (Find it on Amazon and all over in the 40’s). Maybe this is a compliment… it’s the best Turtles game in a long time. I know that’s not saying much, but maybe a step in the right direction.

Overwatch: Proof Blizzard Can Sell Anything

My review and thoughts on Overwatch will be straight forward and to the point as many or most of you likely already own the game. Overwatch is a rather generic and mediocre shooter when you strip away the Blizzard logo and look at it critically for what it really is. If this were released as a brand new IP from an unknown company, Overwatch would have gone relatively unknown and stood no chance against its competition in the space; In fact I have a feeling most would have knocked it hard for its shortcomings.

Overwatch is a straight copy of TF2 from character mechanics to game modes and even down to the zany nature of its characters personalities. They innovated some on certain abilities and attacks, tossed in more characters, but left it very vanilla after that.

There’s not much to Overwatch, and unfortunately little room to evolve the model. I’m sure they’ll add hats and gimmicks to the cash shop over the years to keep things fresh. That should work.

Team composition matters too much — probably the only legitimate comparison to a moba that I’ll allow. Have a poor team comp and you’re done. There’s also too much cheese. For example, stack a bunch of Toblerones and it breaks certain maps. Certain heroes have abilities which just aren’t balanced — and no, I don’t count having to swap heroes to take them out as balance. I had this discussion with Graev tonight about playing what you want to play vs playing what you have to play or are compelled to play. I like Hanzo the most, but I simply can’t play him when the enemy team comp won’t allow it or my team refuses to play a comp that stands a chance. If you’re on a team where everyone only picks the one hero they love to play, you’re doomed.

People aren’t going to stick with Overwatch long, but they’ll get their money’s worth (the single biggest positive influence on my scoring). Overwatch is a ‘good’ game, but it simply rehashes what has already been seen and done before. If you look past the rage-inducing balance issues, cheese, team stacking, and overly formulaic design, chances are you’ll have a blast.