Words About Video Games

Uncharted 4 Would Have Been Better With Ghost Pirates

Need I say more? Okay, I'll try to explain.

Uncharted 4 is a sequel created by people who prefer The Last of Us to Uncharted for people who prefer The Last of Us to Uncharted.

Their checklist:

1. Brother drama - check
2. A scruffy male hero who lies to the closest female in his life - check
3. Replace all supernatural elements with mundane explanations - check
4. Stealth - check

All these things worked in The Last of Us. But Uncharted is supposed to be breezy and stupid; that's the key to getting past the so-called ludonarrative dissonance--the disconnect between what you actually do in the game (shooting lots of people) and how the story portrays your character (plucky rogue.)

People say Uncharted 4 "solved" this problem, but I say it exacerbated it, by pairing Nathan Drake with his least likeable partner to date, sidelining beloved characters for no good reason, and then failing to make the stakes actually justify all the murder.

The Nathan Drake of Uncharteds 1-3 kills hundreds of nameless mercenaries in order to stop their boss from getting to a magical treasure that would give them virtually limitless power to commit evil. It's a modern setting, so they're not quite Nazis, but the idea is the same.

The Nathan Drake of Uncharted 4 kills hundreds of nameless mercenaries in order to prevent nasty rich guy from getting even richer and to protect his sleezy brother who is also just after the treasure out of pure greed.

The game hangs lampshades on all kinds of gamey elements ("this elevator isn't going to work is it?") that the series used to just run with, out of love of the genre. Uncharted 4 doesn't share this love, and so it never passes up an opportunity to throw shade on the previous entries.

It could get away with it, if it were half as fun. But with lower stakes, a less likeable lead, and more grounded settings that fail to quite capture the bombast and excitement of the series' best setpieces, it just never reaches the heights of breathless intensity that the previous games, particularly Uncharted 2, did.

People have speculated whether Naughty Dog really wants to make a The Last of Us - Part II, or whether they've been cornered by the inevitable demand to capitalize off of IP and create more product. But I think they should have asked that question about Uncharted 4 --the only fourth entry in a series in the company's history, and one that feels like its creators wished it was a different game.