Look, I love Uncharted 4. I love Drake, Victor "!*$%" Sullivan and all the high-octane thrills n' spills that come from all four adventures. A Thief's End is not only the finest of the four games - right up there with Uncharted 2 - but it contains a story that completely reframes all three previous entries, giving depth and relatability to Nathan Drake in a way that's never been touched on before.
I say all this, because the shinier and more perfected the product, the more you'll notice even the smallest of scratches or blemishes. Uncharted 4 is by all means the 'landmark achievement' in game design you've been hearing about, but in playing through its campaign and drinking in what should be Drake's final adventure, I've gotta say, there were a few things that were still pretty jarring.
A crucial part of games criticism and being a fan of something overall is acknowledging flaws no matter what, so while I'm still going to include this as one of the site's 'Games of the Year (So Far)' next month, I have to address the aforementioned annoyances, as they're still worth talking about.
Don't invoke the curse of El Dorado just yet. Hear me out...
Note: Spoilers throughout.
You can totally argue that a key staple of every 'let's unearth the past and find the treasure' movies is beholden to fall back on 'find this, uncover the clue, go somewhere else, find another clue, rinse repeat', but by the time it's happened four consecutivetimes, it'll wear on you.
Even Sully notes that it's starting to feel like a wild goose chase, and I'll give writers Neil Druckmann and Bruce Straley the benefit of the doubt: Devoting this much time and effort to such a line of work should feel slightly aimless at times, it should feel like you're going out of your way and neglecting your 'real life' for a flight of fancy - but that doesn't make the game's structure any smoother on paper.
If you take a step back and look at the narrative, remove the introspective character moments (which yes, are integral overall) and you've got a story that places its characters in one given location, has them explore it, solve some puzzles and then leave to do the exact same thing again and again.
By contrast, Uncharted 2 had its train chase, Uncharted 3 the overturned ship escape - yes the overarching progression was still the pursuit of riches, but the masking of that gave those games a feeling of variety that Uncharted 4 simply lacks.