Uncharted 4 is a good game. Let me say that right now. My experience with Uncharted 4, overall, was good. I only say this, because a lot of this post will be negativity about the game, and I want you to keep in mind that I do not regret playing Uncharted. I was happy with my experience overall and would give the game a 7/10. So with that out of the way:
Holy crap is there a lot of time in Uncharted 4 spent doing nothing.
I never had this feeling of boredom in the previous Uncharted games. I love Uncharted 2 and 3, and Uncharted and the franchise is one of my favourites. I really love these games, and I think they’re a blast to play through, and replay. But when I asked myself if I wanted to replay Uncharted 4…my answer was no. I didn’t want to wade through the endless climbing sections, the fake-out deaths, the beginning, and all of the other unnecessary fluff. Sure, the fluff in Uncharted is gorgeous, and I commend Naughty Dog for making the game as incredibly beautiful as it is, but visuals aren’t enough in a game for me. Uncharted 4 was too long. That sounds like a strange complaint to give a game, but I felt that many parts of the game could be cut. This post will try to outline what parts of the game I believe should be shortened, and ways to make the overall experience more concise and enjoyable. If I sound like an idiot trying to improve a game, let me know what you would rather do, or how much of an idiot I am in the comments. Anyways, onto this idiot’s suggestions:
The Divisive Beginning
I both love and hate the beginning hours of Uncharted 4. I feel that they are too boring and easily could have been shortened by 30 minutes. But I also love the fact that it establishes the tone of the game. The Uncharted games did their best to simulate a bombastic, action movie. The laziest way I can think of to describe Uncharted, is the Indiana Jones of video games. Uncharted 1-3 never truly took themselves seriously, and put player fun as its priority. They were action-packed, and had the player on the edge of their seats. But after The Last of Us, which was Naughty Dog’s game after the Uncharted trilogy, they learned some different storytelling and pacing methods and applied them to Uncharted 4. Uncharted 4’s main character Nathan Drake is reluctant to go adventuring, and he is nowhere near as energetic and excited as he used to be in the previous games. The opening serves to establish the mood of Nathan Drake’s life through boring play. Naughty Dog wants us to feel the boredom and mundanity of Natahn’s life now, and I’d say it works.
But it is still boring. Like, really boring. And that is why I’m ambivalent about this beginning, because it is 2 hours until the first, really fun and exciting gunfight, but it also showcases excellent storytelling through gameplay. I feel that certain parts could be slightly altered to reduce the time spent on this section, Firstly, I think the beginning in the boat should have been replaced with Nathan and Sam as children exploring their orphanage. BUT THAT PART’S MORE SLOW! You may chime, but I believe that the boat section is unessecary, and serves as a poor tutorial. The boat section is not representative of a majority of Uncharted 4’s gameplay. It was meant to be a one-off, exciting moment later on. Having that moment early spoils it later, and it is just jarring. Why is this how the game begins? It lasts 5 minutes, and just gives the player whiplash. It throws them right into a shootout tutorial for a section that happens only once, and the skills aren;t transferable for the rest of the experience.
Starting it right with Nathan and Sam escaping the orphanage establishes a serious, but playful tone, climbing and explorative themes, and establishes the relationship with Nathan and Sam immediately. These are all aspects of Uncharted 4 that last the entire game.
I don’t feel that the cutscenes should change in the beginning. I think they are all paced well, entertaining, and show the strength of the voice actors. Uncharted has pretty fantastic cutscenes. I even enjoy that bit with Crash Bandicoot. It’s a fun, nostalgic throwback while also providing Nathan and Elena with some witty banter.
What I definitely would have changed is the diving section. Just reduce the time that Nathan takes to look for it, and make coupling it much swifter. Make the boxes come out immediately, and it will reduce the length of this section by a few minutes, but it will make it more enjoyable overall.
The prison escape sequence is fine as it is. I think it’s a great, action packed chapter that showcases the pacing of Uncharted 4. Overall though, the climbing sections where Nathan is on his own don’t work well unless they act as a relaxation period. They work great if they’re followed by a great, exciting action piece, but the climbing section for the ross is just Nathan going up on his own for 20 minutes. That could have definitely been cut in half.
It’s also here where you notice Uncharted’s tricks. The feigned danger. Uncharted loves to fake you out with these collapsing ledges, but they never lead to any actual danger. They always just force you to fall slightly, and elongate your climbing time. They’re suspenseful for the first bit, but then they become annoying when you know that you are never in actual danger.
That’s all the criticism I have for Uncharted’s beginning. I feel that I could reduce the time of it while not changing its overall effect on the player.
Again, the open world sections like Madagascar are pretty divisive between people. I’ve heard some people praise Uncharted 4 for tackling exploration as opposed to its usual linearity, and I like that too. I like when a series mixes its usual format up. But these sections are way too long. The entire section where you drive up the hill in Madagascar peppered with small enemy encounters takes up so much of the game, that it certainly did not need to. An open world is nice when there are things to do, and Uncharted’s open world is just space. Very beautiful space, but still just empty space. This could have definitely been reduced in size. While the banter between the three characters is entertaining, it isn’t frequent enough. There are just too many periods of down time, and not enough highs in this section. I don’t think the open world aspect of Madagascar should be cut entirely, but that it should be condensed. You can probably shave 30 minutes off of this section by just reducing the amount of driving that you do.
It feels like climbing is 90% of Uncharted 4. I know it actually isn’t, but some of these sections drag on forever. Now, I don’t think climbing should be removed from Uncharted. Not at all. I kind of like climbing, as it provides down time from the hectic gunfights and breathtaking set pieces. Climbing provides something called “quiet time”. Quiet time is the down time in a game, where you just take in something ridiculous or intense that happened. These moments also exist to make the bombastic one’s more potent. The best action movies have the quietest talking scenes. I feel that Uncharted 2 and 3 have some of the best pacing for any video game. Good pacing in a game can allow a player to keep playing it for hours at a time, and never get bored. There is always variety to be found in the events of Uncharted 2 and 3, and it feels like no two gunfights are the same.
However, Uncharted 4 is longer than these games. You go to more locations, and you encounter more gunfights. These locations and gunfights are stellar, but with more length comes more climbing. Way too much climbing. The climbing isn’t interesting enough. It feels like every single one of these could be slightly shorter, and it would have given the game a much tighter feel. It would have encouraged me to replay the game more if it was a tighter experience, and that down time wasn’t too prominent. But as it stands, the climbing sections and down time in general are just too long.
Like, for example, there’s a section close to the end of the game where Nathan is going through a cave with Elena. This cave is full of mummy’s who explode when you get near them. It also has a room where there are skeletal feet hanging from the ceiling. It’s a foreboding moment, and Nathan and Elena express how crazy the person who did that must be. And then this happens 4 more times, and you get infuriated. It feels like the game is wasting your time. They see the legs “wow, Avery’s crazy”. They see the arms “Wow, Avery’s crazy.” They see the skulls, “wow, Avery’s crazy.” It’s unessecary filler for a game that didn’t need to pad out its length. The previous Uncharted’s never felt the need to lengthen themselves in an era where video games were shunned if they didn’t last at least 50 hours. So it’s strange that Uncharted 4 gives off a vibe that tries to elongate the experience.
Removing some of those fake-outs for climbing would be cool too. Reducing them actually makes them more believable, rather than having the player go “oh wow the ledge collapsed I wonder if there will be a perfect set of stones for me to climb on.”
So how would I improve Uncharted 4? Reduce pretty much every climbing section, decrease the fluff of the open world segments, and shorten the beginning portion of Uncharted 4, while still retaining its original intended effect. I want to reiterate that I do enjoy Uncharted 4. I was happy with my playthrough of it, but I feel it was paced poorly. Too many elongated moments of down time, and not enough exciting moments to counterract them.