It’s been a weird week, folks. That’s all I’ll say about that.
I was hoping to have already written up – if not a “review”, at least a summary of my experience with Uncharted 4. I finished the game last Sunday evening and then immediately went back and started it over again, this time playing it with the cel shader turned on (which also looks amazing, by the way – I mean, the vanilla U4 is already the best-looking game I’ve ever seen, and the cel shading isn’t a quick thing that Naughty Dog cobbled together; it changes the way you view the game, and somehow makes the violence refreshingly cartoonish).
I’d written on Twitter that it’s rare when a big-budget AAA game feels special. And what I mean by that is simply that for all the spectacle of U4 – and there is plenty – there’s also a great deal of heart and soul. There’s an attention to detail – not just in terms of environments, but also in terms of emotional storytelling. A pause in a conversation; a look passing over a character’s face. The Uncharted games are lauded for their conversational writing, but U4 also contains a great deal of words left unspoken.
Point being, in terms of blockbuster games feeling “special”, there aren’t many that I can think of. In recent years, Witcher 3 certainly qualifies (even as I wonder if it’s truly AAA – though the definition of AAA is something for another post); Bioshock, Red Dead Redemption and Portal 2 certainly come to my mind as well. I’m sure you can come up with your own examples of Big Games that went above and beyond the call of duty (pun intended) and tried to mean something.
Or maybe I feel this way simply because my expectations for Uncharted 4 were somewhat lower than I anticipated, considering how U3 felt very much like a big fat let-down after U2, and that I worried that U4 was just going to be one soul-less gunfight after another, with some technologically staggering but empty-feeling set-pieces staggered here and there. That U4 is very much NOT this game, when it just as easily could’ve been, is maybe why I’m so relieved.
I said in my last post that the game felt remarkably well-paced, and that remains the case through the finale. The gunfights are still my least favorite part of this franchise, but at least here they weren’t ever truly frustrating the way some of U2 and U3’s gauntlets were; you can anticipate when they’re coming in U4, and they’re over fairly quickly, and then the game just lets you take as much time as you want to explore. (And play with the camera mode, of course, because HOLY SHIT this game is really, really, really ridiculously good-looking.)
And so while U2 might still have the most exciting set-pieces (the train, the giant climbable dagger, the Nepalese village), I think Uncharted 4 might be the best overall experience. Certainly it has the most satisfying ending.
On that note, I’m reluctant to do a deep-dive because of spoilers, but I feel compelled to link to Carolyn Petit’s follow-up essay to her review – there are MAJOR SPOILERS in the essay, but it’s also incredibly insightful and well-written and speaks to a lot of the larger issues with the franchise as a whole. (Funnily enough, I read that follow-up essay as I was beginning my 2nd playthrough; at one point she writes about Nathan Drake’s casual relationship with violence, and immediately after I finished reading that and went back to the game itself I found myself in a prison fight – arguably one of the more brutally violent sequences in the entire franchise.)
I may also be participating in a write-up of the game elsewhere, so I’m going to save some of my thoughts for that piece. (And believe me, there’s at least 1000 more words I could write right now that I’m holding back on.) In any event, Uncharted 4 is, for whatever it’s worth, my current front-runner for Game of the Year, and if anything manages to knock it from the top spot, I’ll be very impressed.
It is exceedingly weird to go from U4 to Doom; the two games couldn’t possibly be more different. Maybe this is why I’m having trouble enjoying it.
Doom feels weird. I almost wish it was running at 30fps if only so that the graphics would look less… artificial. Again, it’s hard to come to Doom after spending nearly 20 hours with Uncharted 4, which is almost certainly the most dazzling graphical display I’ve ever seen.
I can appreciate the old-school feel it’s going for; it’s not slow and methodical, there’s no cover to duck behind. Standing still is instant death. You fly around the maps, blowing the shit out of everything you see, and even if I’m not necessarily in the mood for this type of thing at the moment, I can at least appreciate the endorphin rush as you melee staggered enemies and commit bloody atrocities in gleefully exciting ways.
To that end, I will agree with Polygon’s assessment that Doom has the best videogame shotgun in decades. I’m just not sure if that’s enough to get me through the next 8-10 hours.