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Uncharted 4: I'm a little surprised everyone is so far up this game's ass

So, I have a lot of thoughts about Uncharted 4 that I'd like to get out of my head, but I really don't want to spend a big chunk of my life writing a post about it. So, I'm going to shorthand it as much as I can. Sorry if it makes for lousy reading.

(Oh, modest spoilers.)

  • I had mixed feelings going into U4.
    • On the one hand, I feel very squicked about the way Amy Hennig left Naughty Dog during development (and was rumored to be forced out by the Last of Us guys).
    • On the other hand, I liked Last of Us and I had a modest hope that those guys might produce a slightly less racist Uncharted.
      • (U1-U3 are even more racist than the series's clear inspiration Indiana Jones.)
      • (Last of Us was still racist, but much less racist.)
  • My expectation going in was that I would probably have a great time playing it but might feel a little bad about it.
  • In actuality, I found it oddly underwhelming. Not bad, but not what I was expecting after the gushing critical response from both long-time fans and folks who hadn't been into the earlier games that much. (See also: Fury Road.)
  • It's weirdly derivative. I know that's a tricky criticism to make, in general (because nothing is created in a cultural vacuum), and specifically about something like Uncharted, which is a straight-up pulp pastiche. But to a much greater degree than U1-U3, this playing Uncharted 4 feels more like playing other games than it does like play ing Uncharted.
    • There are several climbing sections that seem to be straight out of Assassin's Creed -- I mean, everything except jumping into a cart full of hay at the end.
    • Midway through the game, and for no apparent reason, they introduce a "piton" climbing mechanic that is identical to the ice axe in the Tomb Raider reboot. What's weird about this is that it adds essentially nothing to the gameplay.
    • Instead of a traditional Uncharted supernatural endgame, Uncharted 4's historical mystery component feels lifted out of...of all things...Bioshock. (You're exploring the ruins of pirate utopia that collapsed in paranoid infighting.) Although unlike Bioshock, Uncharted 4 does not feature an especially well-developed world.
    • Many reviewers/games journos that I like have compared Uncharted 4 favorably to walking simulators, and/or described the home exploration segments that bookend the game as "Uncharted Gone Home." As far as this goes, I wouldn't necessarily characterize these segments as derivative of walking simulators, they're just not very good walking simulators. I enjoyed them, just because I like those characters a lot, but unlike Gone Home, which has a lot to say (even if some of it is, um, problematic), the home walking simulator parts of Uncharted 4 really just boil down to "middle-aged dude is bummed out with nostalgia and it's messing up his relationship with his awesome wife." And...just...the world did not need a mid-life crisis walking sim.
    • (Note that Naughty Dog already did a better job of ripping off Gone Home with the Last of Us DLC.)
  • It's weirdly petulant. Druckmann & co. have been very up-front about saying they want this to be the end of the series, and ending series with intent is good! But this is a game that feels like it was made by people who don't even necessarily like the series.
    • Why choose to make this the only series that breaks with the mythology & supernatural stuff? Demythologizing a series at the end is an odd choice for a series as pulpy as this, to the point that it feels almost self-condescending. It reminds me a bit of Asimov's End of Eternity, which is literally a time-travel novel about how Asimov thinks time travel is stupid. (It's a terrible read.) Or like a very, very, very lazy man's Foucault's Pendulum, perhaps.
    • See also: the derivative aspects of the game mentioned above. Uncharted 4 feels like it goes out of the way to not resemble an Uncharted Game, and in many places it suffers for it.
    • It's weird and telling that after Uncharted 3, which is about flashing back to Drake's youth and about dude frienship and family, the next game...features flashbacks to Drake's youth and is about dude friendship and family. Uncharted 3 had a lot of problems, but they were really with the mythology narrative, not with the flashbacks and relationships, which are actually better than Uncharted 4's.
    • I wonder if, to some degree, Uncharted 4 represents what some at Naughty Dog wanted out of Uncharted 3? At any rate, Uncharted 4 feels like half its own game and half a complaint about U3.
  • Misc. disappointments
    • It's a little less racist than U1-U3, but the only notable character of color is a villain, played by a white voice actor.
    • Oh, and the character is a WOC running a South African mercenary corp, the politics and history of which the game doesn't have anything to say about. Just...why bother putting something so fraught in?
    • The game doesn't do much with Elena. And it makes Nate a total dick, then doesn't really show him doing anything to get over that, but gives them a perfect marriage epilogue anyway. Again, why bother?
  • Good stuff
    • It's SO pretty
    • Stealth mechanics are much improved
    • Puzzles are a little less annoying
    • Vehicle segments are also less annoying (which is good, b/c there's a ton of 'em)