The Uncharted video games may have been inspired by the likes of film and game characters Indiana Jones and Lara Croft, but this series is considered by many to be in a class of its own. Game reviewers have consistently applauded its cinematically rendered, story-based thrill rides; the beautiful graphics; and its easy to play run-jump-duck-and-shoot combat mechanics.
While all those things are true, there are always other elements to consider. So let’s map things out.
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is the (obviously) fourth and (reportedly) final entry in this franchise. The story this go-round focuses on the rough-and-tumble Nathan Drake and his older brother, Sam—orphaned siblings who were always thick as thieves in their younger days. That is, until Sam was lost during a Panamanian treasure hunt gone wrong.
Now, 15 years after that tragic event, Nate finds out that Sam … isn’t quite as dead as he thought. Sam suddenly shows up one day, ragged and on the run from a drug kingpin. And he needs Nate’s help in a hunt for famed pirate Henry Avery’s lost $400 million treasure.
The now much more level-headed Nate’s first instinct is to beg off. His new life with his wife, Elena, has made positive changes in his once reckless ways. But in addition to the fact that Sam’s life is on the line, the treasure itself is something the Drake brothers had been hunting for and researching for years. So Nate reluctantly decides to tell a few, uh, fibs to his loving spouse and sets off on a globetrotting adventure of epic proportions—running from baddies, setting up heists and following a winding trail of maps and clues.
The game ties together its many hours of dramatic cutscenes with many more hours of environmental puzzle-solving; leaping and climbing action choreography; and, of course, shoot-’em-up gun battles. Nate and Sam are positioned as the kind of guys who only kill in self-defense but, well, that’s truthfully a repeatedly smudged gray line as the pair spills the blood of some 650-plus mercenary lackeys through the course of things.
Players take third-person aim with pistols, rifles, shotguns and grenade launchers, and can slip up on enemies to choke them to death. Nate gets into hand-to-hand battles that feature some vicious pummeling. There’s also a duel with old pirate swords that results in seeping slash wounds. Blood splashes and pools, and people are smashed beneath large piles of rubble and crushing debris.
Other problematic content¬—you know, besides the fact that the brothers are generally lying, stealing, drinking and killing their way through several countries—includes quite a bit of foul language (uses of the s-word, “a–,” “d–n,” “b–ch” and “h—“). We hear abuses of God’s name. And we’re also “treated” to a smattering of sexual comments in the dialogue.
Now, I should note that there are some realistic positives in this T-rated game that you don’t always see in the course of your average shooter. Scenes between Nate and Elena suggest that healthy relationships require work—and that they’re worth the work. There are in-game moments that focus on the bonds of familial love. We see that tossed-about lies have consequences. And there’s some of the Christian story that’s mulled over as Nate and Sam explore clues tied to art pieces depicting the crucifixion of Jesus.
Those kinds of elements in the midst of a high-flying adventure tend to make Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End a bit more weighty than some of its predecessors. Unfortunately, the game’s messy bits still have quite a bit of heft as well.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.