2016 has come to a close and while the new year ahead has plenty of games for us to look forward to, the beginning of the year is also the perfect time to reflect on the games that made the previous year so exceptional, with 2016 being no exceptional.
Earlier this year, DualShockers revealed our 2016 Game of the Year Awards from both our readers and staff, including the overall GOTY (which was Final Fantasy XV this year for both readers and staff), Biggest Shocker!, and many more.
However, now that the awards have been given out and games have been chosen, this week we’re diving into the staff’s selections for their top Game of the Year pick and favorite game of 2016. In this installment, staff writer Tyler Fischer makes the case for the bravado and epic action of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. You can also catch up on the previous features in our series on Darkest Dungeon and Firewatch for our Game of the Year titles.
El Goddamn Naughty Dog…Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is a victory lap if I’ve ever seen one. The last chapter, the last hoorah of Nathan Drake’s story is as superlative and exemplary as you would expect it to be. At this point, I shouldn’t be surprised, as Naughty Dog are perhaps the best in the business, but yet when I put my controller down upon the first time of beating it, I couldn’t help but be in a state of awe.
2016 was a superb year for games, at least for me. As I reflect, I realize I thoroughly enjoyed the year unlike any other in quite some time. Whether that enjoyment came in the form of gaming out with Junkrat and my friends over countless nights in Overwatch, spending absurd amounts of time and patience mastering each level in Dishonored 2, or re-creating the WWF Attitude Era in XCOM 2, I was always full engrossed in games this year.
However, my time with Uncharted 4 in the middle of May stands head and shoulders above everything else. It was a time where lachrymose feelings collided with jubilation. Uncharted 4 was one of the best games I’ve played in years, but it also marked the end of an era, and my time with a set of characters I grew to love over nearly a decade.
But that’s enough schmaltzy crap: let’s cut to why Uncharted 4 was my game of the year. As suggested above, Uncharted 4 is as grand and bar-setting as you would expect. Further, it tones back the numerous larger gun fights of the first three games, and maintains a more grounded narrative approach. It is a story that is slightly less Indiana Jones, and something more personal, and believable. I’ve always been invested in the characters in the series, but in A Thief’s End, everyone, especially Drake himself, feels more fleshed out and developed, deepening my investment in the cast and their relationships.
It is also the most beautiful looking game I’ve seen to date. More than just a technical powerhouse and an unrivaled motion capture showpiece, Uncharted 4 has scenes straight out of a National Geographic book. It’s the type of game you want to show everyone who doesn’t play video games and say “Hey, look how far games have come.” I genuinely lost track of how many times I stopped while playing to just take in the view, and soak in every piece of detail of every environment. It was the first game since The Witcher 3 where I found myself button-smashing that Share button on the controller.
Tying into the game’s aesthetic allure is its sense of spectacle. Virtually every moment in that game is a “moment.” Whether you’re scaling up the side of a cliff, or swinging from one vine to another, every moment in the game feels meticulously crafted and directed in order to create a constant inundation of awe and spectacle. You pair this with the constant “hit in the feels” gut punches, equally epic and personal cutscenes, and the neat/clever callbacks to previous events in the series, and this whole game is just one giant “moment” that haymakers you from start to finish.
Uncharted 4 dials it back on the mass murdering that the series has been known for and, rather, spreads out gunfights in a more thoughtful and less predictable way that improves the game’s pacing. Most of all, Uncharted 4 grounds the whole experience of combat into something more realistic and, in an odd way, something more charming. The gunplay and combat that is there feels like more Uncharted gameplay that we’ve come to know and love, but with four iterations of polish behind it.
There’s far better third-person shooters out there, but there is something about Uncharted’s gunplay that just sinks its teeth into me and doesn’t let go: I like it, and the multiplayer too. Despite the multiplayer being the series’ afterthought compared to the single-player campaigns, it is quite robust and addicting; further, it feels distinct from other multiplayer shooters. Not the best, but unique enough that I found myself wanting to dip my toes in it a few times through various different parts of the year.
At the end of the day, the neigh-sayers will say it’s just more Uncharted: and they’re right. It’s more Uncharted 3, which was more Uncharted 2, which was basically more of the first Uncharted. It’s the same formula, the same blueprint, but with a decade of refinement and experience behind it. It’s more Uncharted, but better…and yeah, that sounds like game of the year to me.
If you have a PS4, but don’t own a copy of Uncharted 4, return it right now, because you did this whole video games thing wrong. Oh, and never talk to me again.