HASTY BULLET POINTS ON UNCHARTED 4

 

  • It’s hard to be excited when the majority of the game is set on the same island, comprising two different colours. It’s even harder to be excited when so much of the action involves climbing up flat, grey walls, which fill the screen. Uncharted 4 is a boring game to look at. A lot of the time, you are passively observing rock faces.
  • Bruce Straley and Neil Druckmann, praised out of all proportion by the ever-malnourished gaming press, seem to think themselves above Uncharted. In the entire game – and it’s a long one – there is one great action set piece and not one supernatural plot twist. It is so wonderful, in the first two games particularly, when the monsters show up. Ironic that Straley and Druckmann, who made their names with a monster game, should not only omit such a joyous moment but openly mock it. Drake makes constant jokes about the ludicrousness of “pirate ghosts.” I for one was disappointed, and all the more bored, when they didn’t arrive. I think a game-maker like Amy Hennig, who isn’t afraid to wear a smile from time to time, is much more adult and sophisticated than Straley or Druckmann, at least, if we’re using their work for evidence.
  • The sword fight ending between Drake and Rafe could have been something, if it weren’t limited to just one room of the pirate ship. Again, I was just wondering where the life had gone from this game. What could – should – have been an homage to Douglas Fairbanks’ swashbucklers was a po-faced, overwrought sequence that was clearly reluctant to be a videogame whatsoever. It sums up, I think, Straley and Druckmann’s approach to Uncharted 4 in general. Those two nauseating scenes around Crash Bandicoot feel like the writers trying to remind themselves exactly why they’re in videogames in the first place.
  • I don’t think I’ve played a game so self obsessed. Everything in Uncharted 4 feels cultivated and decided in order to propagate an image of Naughty Dog. “It is talky. It is plot-heavy. And by God, is it emotional!” This studio has started to believe, and pander to, its own press. The last thing it wants to be thought of, now, seemingly, is a competent videogame maker.
  • All the major conflicts experienced by Drake are addressed, with more vim, brio and articulation, in Uncharted 3. Uncharted 4, actually, is Uncharted 3 for people who didn’t get Uncharted 3 and need it spelled out for them. I wrote about that game in more detail here.
  • Don’t tell me Elena is a great character. She’s a whiny wife, in the same vein as Teri Garr in Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Lorraine Gary in Jaws. The only time Uncharted 4 threatens to get interesting is when it tricks you, for a moment, into thinking Elena has been killed off. My God, if they had actually had the courage to go through with that, what a game it could have turned into. But no. Uncharted 4 is perpetually uneventful. No-one dies, no-one loses or wins anything. The epilogue is nothing but a mawkish set-up for the Adventures of Drake’s Daughter, the first installment of which we can expect in the next five to ten years.
  • It’s hard to discuss that epilogue without lowering the quality of my own writing. It is the most desperate, hamstrung, sentimental, drawn out, pointless sequence Naughty Dog has ever produced. “Emotion” has perversely become a kind of feature in videogames, a optional extra, like thumb print verification on a smartphone. That epilogue is to reassure all the smug players who think they buy better games than anyone else, and all the insecure reviewers, who need to believe that games are getting better, in order to stop themselves worrying that their jobs might somehow not be respected in the adult world, that they are getting their fair amount of Emotion. But it’s empty emotion. It’s just, to quote a noxious internet term, which I think summarises to what extent emotion has become potted and commodified, “the feels.” It doesn’t matter if it’s entertaining or does anything for the plot, or whether it reads like a genuine family interaction. It’s just a bucket of hot soapy emotion, thrown over the audience to rinse them down before they leave.
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