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Uncharted 4: A Thief's End Review

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Graphics:

 

10.0

Gameplay:

 

9.8

Sound:

 

10.0

Control:

 

9.7

Replay Value:

 

10.0

Online Gameplay:

 

9.5

Overall Rating:       10.0

 

 

Publisher:

SCEA

Developer:

Naughty Dog

Number Of Players:

1-10

Genre:

Action/Adventure

Release Date:

May 10, 2016

Upon completing Uncharted 4: A Thief's End, I felt sad.

It wasn't because we wouldn't see this masterful IP for a while nor was it because the climax left me unsatisfied. It was a singular sensation, one I hadn't experienced in gaming before; simply put, I didn't want to let go. I would miss Nathan Drake and Elena and Sully. More than anything, I'd miss these characters that have been part of my gaming life for the past nine years. How often can we say that about a video game, even when we're talking about story-driven experiences? This feeling was a testament to what Naughty Dog had achieved and why Uncharted is a cut above.

Prior to the release of A Thief's End, I would say The Order: 1886 was the most impressive game of the generation from a visual standpoint. Driveclub is up there, too. But once again, Uncharted sets a new graphical bar. The set pieces are beautifully designed from top to bottom and everything, from the bombastic action sequences to the slower sections that really let us appreciate the mind-boggling level of visual beauty, is gorgeous. Try to find a flaw or inconsistency; you'll have a devil of a time. Any why bother desperately trying to find pinpricks of negativity when the production is this overwhelmingly incredible?

Look at a character's face when he or she speaks. See the slight pull of the lips, the narrowing of the eyes. These fictional individuals come to life in ways we never could've imagined decades ago and once again, Naughty Dog's motion-capture experts are front-and-center. The special effects will blow you away; the scenery is filled with endless beauty as the eye thirstily seeks another impressive detail. Appreciate the wide variety of exotic and compelling locales you're allowed to explore, and revel in the tiniest detail. There's no shortage of visual excellence here and in fact, there is no game that comes even remotely close in terms of technical prowess. Repeat: Not close.

Lifted by typically fantastic voice performances and driven forward by wonderfully selected orchestral pieces that punctuate every scene, the sound in Uncharted 4 is the cherry on the parfait. Actually, it's more like the cherry and this special sweet sauce poured all over it to make every bite that much more exquisite. Nolan North (Drake), Troy Baker (Sam), Emily Rose (Elena) and Richard McGonagle (Sully) lead the way, while Warren Kole (Rafe) and Laura Bailey (Nadine) pitch in with excellent performances. The sound effects are second-to-none, keeping the player riveted in every firefight and pushing us back in our seats when the action really heats up. Amazing the whole way ‘round.

One could argue that our genre labels are becoming increasingly insufficient. As most major games today contain elements of multiple genres, it seems just about everything could theoretically fit into the "action/adventure" category. And what separates straight "action" from "action/adventure," anyway? Then there's the whole role-playing debate, which is thornier than ever for the same reasons, and the pure platformers and adventure games are starting to disappear. It used to be easy to categorize games; hell, there was even a separate stealth, category, remember? But Uncharted 4 has just about everything (with the exception of RPG elements). There's platforming, third-person shooting, puzzles and even stealth.

Let's address the latter element first, because while there were a few opportunities to be stealthy in previous entries, it really wasn't a primary feature. But it is in the latest entry and wonder of wonders, it's fantastically done. The developers had to walk a mighty fine line here— they couldn't go too far down the Hitman path because it would turn off long-time Uncharted fans and in fact, anyone expecting an action/adventure title. They needed to make it a legit and worthwhile addition without making it too intricate and, as a result, restrictive. Well, they succeeded: While it's not essential, stealth is definitely encouraged and players are rewarded for their efforts. And no, it's not that hard.

You can hide in tall grass and underbrush and the enemy won't see you; you can also hang from ledges and rip foes from their perches. Coming up behind an enemy lets you perform a quick stealth takedown and if you're near one of those tall grass patches, Drake is smart enough to pull the downed foe into the covering vegetation. An indicator will appear over an opponent's head if he spots you; it goes from white to yellow to red. If you disappear again while the gauge is still in white or yellow, all guards won't be alerted, though if it gets to yellow they'll start to search. It's simple, straightforward, and works exceedingly well throughout. They react to sound and movement and of course, firing a weapon will just piss them all off.

All this time, your ally (or allies) scurry around with you and they can't mess things up. In other words, an enemy can't see Sam or Elena at all when you haven't alerted the guards, so you never have to worry about your partner. This brings me to the friendly AI, which is also great: They'll tackle guys who get too close, help you when a foe grabs you, and yup, Sam and Elena will even take out the occasional enemy with their weapons. They're actually useful but, at the same time, they never make you feel unimportant; you can't just sit and watch and expect them to handle everything for you. Then there are the super cool teammate takedowns; when a guard grabs an ally and you're close, you can tag-team and bring him down. Your allies will help you in kind as well.

The game just keeps surprising you, despite the fact that you think you know exactly what to expect. For instance, you can use the environment to your advantage more than ever. It's not just that the areas are bigger and more open (I'll get to that in a minute), but you can also use your surroundings to inflict pain. For instance, ramming a dude's head into a nearby wall is always effective, and those treacherous ledges can be deadly for your opponents if they get too close, and you just happen to be hanging around underneath. Toss in the grappling hook and you've got a hugely dynamic game that never seems to slow or stall. This title may have the best pacing of any piece of interactive entertainment in history and that's nothing to sneeze at.

Getting back to the grappling hook, this is another thing that concerned me. It's a great idea but if it's overused, the game starts to feel like something else, and the good idea becomes a gimmick. If it's underused, you just wonder why it was included at all. If it's poorly implemented, it taints the entire experience and again, we ask, "Why is it there?" Well, another set of stumbling blocks expertly cleared by Naughty Dog, because the grappling hook feels exactly right. It's not overused or underused, it never feels gimmicky at all, and it adds depth to the gameplay. It gives platforming a more action-oriented feel as we spend more time in the air, and being able to leap off the hook and slam down on unsuspecting enemies just never gets old. This thing works flawlessly and, like everything else in the game, it's wildly intuitive.

As for the more open spaces, I was concerned Naughty Dog would open them up too much, to the point where the narrative takes a back seat to the exploration. But that didn't happen; actually, it felt more like The Last Of Us, though not quite that expansive. You still have one goal; one spot in the area you need to reach, but you can tackle different paths to get there. They don't change the game much in terms of standard progression, but it really does change the combat. The areas are much wider, allowing you to approach from just about any angle you please. If you want to try and flank, you can do so; if you think it's a better idea to go over or under, that's often an option as well. It's simply the logical progression of the genre without actually altering the genre...other designers should take notes.

Lastly, the story. As most know, I'm a stickler for a decent script and great characters, both of which remain woefully lacking in video games, despite the obvious strides we've taken. I'm not here to tell you Uncharted 4 is our industry's "Citizen Kane." But I'm here to say it wasn't trying to be and for what it was trying to be, it's possibly one of the best stories ever. Everyone is quick to point to Uncharted 2 but that story had a few minor issues and I never though the whole supernatural beings/monsters thing fit the theme very well. That felt a trifle forced. The first Uncharted just didn't take enough storytelling risks and was too straightforward, while Uncharted 3 felt slightly disjointed.

Uncharted 4 is just about perfect because of two things: The aforementioned pacing and the layering. These characters are better defined this time around, with clearer and more identifiable motives. They're more human due to this layering because all humans have numerous reasons for doing what they do, and outside influences can only change who we are to a certain extent. As for the pacing, just about the time you start to tire of one particular segment, whether it's a partially scripted and massively satisfying chase sequence, a not-too-challenging but still rewarding puzzle, or a harrowing platforming sequence, the game switches gears. And whenever we see a piece of the story, we delve a little deeper into each character's mindset.

I finally did tackle the multiplayer, too, which I just love. It's a little weird playing against clones of the characters you've come to know so well, but it all works out in the end. Once again, the developers outdo themselves by shaking things up a bit; the Mysticals - special attacks that make use of those artifacts we find - are fantastic and add a whole new dimension to the action. Plus, we've got expertly designed levels and that rock solid control that never wavers. Playing with others is constantly rewarding and despite what you might think, this doesn't really play like any other online multiplayer out there. The Division is a third-person multiplayer shooter, of course, but these two games are eons apart. Toss in some AI snipers and medics, and a robust progression system, and you're good to go for months.

That being said, the multiplayer is hardly a focal point. The campaign, which should take you 16-18 hours to complete, is arguably the greatest single adventure a gamer will ever take. And when you're done, after you've viewed the epilogue (which features an older Nathan and Elena, though I won't spoil it further), you will likely feel it. You might feel what I felt: Saddened that it was over, that these characters are going off into the sunset, and that you will, wonder of wonders, miss them. This is the first game I've played in an extremely long time that made me want to restart the instant it was over, partly because I know there's nothing else in existence that can compete, and partly because I just didn't want to say goodbye.

I suppose some people are still hung up on the concept of a "perfect score." Of course, it doesn't mean "perfect" because no game is flawless. In this case, I suppose I could cite the ungodly precision of enemies with grenade launchers, or the fact that the camera can go just a tad loopy in certain parts. But I say a perfect score goes to the game that is, upon release, better than all the competition. If nothing on store shelves can compete, if you rack your brains and can't think of a better game to come along in the past year or so, it deserves the maximum score. I also believe in the subjective aspect, in that if the game didn't make an impact on a personal level, the critic shouldn't hand out the 10. I've almost never done it because clearly, my requirements are steep. But here, I can't imagine giving out anything less.

Side note: Though, with 36 perfect scores counted so far according to Metacritic (more than 1/3 of all 102 counted reviews), I'm hardly the only one to come to this conclusion.

No matter where Uncharted goes from here, this will go down in history as one of the finest achievements ever seen, not merely due to its obvious technical and creative merits, but because it can magically connect the player to this endlessly immersive world and its inhabitants. When you're done, Nathan Drake could feel more real to you than any fictional character you've encountered in games or movies. For me, that's what I'll miss most.

The Good: Industry-leading visual achievement, with some of the best design, animation and effects you'll ever see. Excellent voice performances on all fronts. Top-notch audio with a painfully gorgeous soundtrack. Expertly paced and produced throughout. Fluid, intuitive control that never fails. A wonderful and likable cast of characters. Refreshing, well-designed multiplayer.

The Bad: N/A

The Ugly: "Only that it's over for Nathan Drake. Tough to swallow, especially after this epic swan song."

5/28/2016 Ben Dutka

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New Comment System


Legacy Comment System (40 posts)


smileys_007
Saturday, May 28, 2016 @ 6:54:44 PM
Reply

excellent review Ben! I'm only at chapter 8 at the game and I'm taking my time to enjoy every moment of Drake's adventure. To honor this game, I'll platinumed it just like I did with Uncharted 1-3! hehe

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Banky A
Saturday, May 28, 2016 @ 6:57:24 PM
Reply

I've never clicked to read a review so fast. This is just great.

1 out of 2 to go. Final Fantasy XV??? :)

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Oxvial
Saturday, May 28, 2016 @ 7:11:23 PM
Reply

Game soo good that forced Ben to do a review :D, I'm not surprised with the scores Uncharted 4 got and imo losing Amy Hennig was actually for the best, I liked this history more than the ones of the past games.

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bigrailer19
Saturday, May 28, 2016 @ 7:22:55 PM

Losing Hennig was still undoudtebly notfor the best. You could see some differences in writing and while arguably the best in the series we will never know how her version would have turned out. Maybe better?

As far as the history goes, Drakes past is Drakes past, the difference was timeline is all. They did a good job of not making it confusing.

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bigrailer19
Saturday, May 28, 2016 @ 7:40:29 PM

Edit: I wanna make it clear I wouldn't have had the game turn out any other way. I loved it from start to finish.

I also am a huge Hennig fan and with out her the series wouldn't be where it's at regardless.

But this is just a solid reminder that ND is top notch. They have some of the best in the business and again Uncharted 4 proves that.

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mk ultra
Saturday, May 28, 2016 @ 8:06:35 PM

That's always going to be a big "what if" now. I loved, LOVED, this game, but I also really wanna know what Hennigs' plan was. Just by that one interview with Nolan North, it was clear he preferred Hennigs writing, but was quick to say the new stuff is great, just different. Hopefully one day Hennig reveals what her story was, but unlikely.

The best thing about Hennig leaving might be what she does with the new Star Wars game. Even though now it's open world, which does concern me a little. I would really love to see some original characters from her in that universe.

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bigrailer19
Sunday, May 29, 2016 @ 1:14:46 AM

I was just going to say after reading the first part of your post, that Hennig at least is working on a Star Wars game right now. She's my favorite writer and literally made Uncharted what it is.

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mk ultra
Saturday, May 28, 2016 @ 7:54:25 PM
Reply

Wow! You did it! A perfect score!

Very well deserved too. Uncharted 4 has done everything right. I thought the grappling hook was so flawlessly implemented and intuitive, that it felt like it had been there the whole time after the first couple times you use it. It would feel strange to go back and platform without it now.

After playing the open levels again, you realize just how brilliant they are. Allowing for multiple different exploration and attack strategies while keeping things on path and paced perfectly.

My one complaint comes from the multiplayer. Not from the control or structure, I love the elements they brought over from TLoU. I just wanted a little more. Something to complete besides the daily challenges. Something like the 12 week journeys in TLoU. Other than that, this game satisfies me in every conceivable way. And that's just a nitpick of something that I wanted included, not something the game does wrong.

A pleasure to read another great review. As these characters will be missed, but are going out on a swan song, so to will you. Thanks Ben. C'ya around.

Last edited by mk ultra on 5/28/2016 7:55:18 PM

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Banky A
Saturday, May 28, 2016 @ 9:01:12 PM

The Last of Us's 12 Week multiplayer was pure game specific genius. It's still part of the GOATs without multiplayer, but to have that as also embellished is just cherry.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Saturday, May 28, 2016 @ 10:54:21 PM
Reply

Wow the coveted 10 spot reached... and earned. A legend's end. Thanks for the memories Drake, and the review Ben.

If you'll indulge me in a very tiny "spoiler": I felt a very powerful emotional attachment being made by the writers and developers when they began the game with Drake having an "adventure" in what turned out to be his attic where all his things were stored and downstairs Elena and the real world was waiting for him.

We all find ourselves there. If not married, then in a legit job, some relationship, toeing the line but part of us holding desperately to the excitement of past adventures. Thinking one day things will just change, and you'll be able to ride free again. That sucked me right in and it's something I think Naughty Dog understands deeply.

Last edited by WorldEndsWithMe on 5/28/2016 11:02:02 PM

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bigrailer19
Sunday, May 29, 2016 @ 1:15:51 AM

That's why these games are so good. ND gets the relationship between gamers and characters.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Sunday, May 29, 2016 @ 12:27:50 PM

yup

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Godslim
Sunday, May 29, 2016 @ 8:45:54 PM

Yep the first was started as a cool action game with likeable characters and the series just progressed so much with great character development, I certainly felt especially with this new one that they learnt alot from making the last of us and really gave us some great scenes to round up the series.

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bigrailer19
Sunday, May 29, 2016 @ 8:59:06 PM

While they certainly took some cues from TLOU I don't think they *learned* anything really. These games have been critically acclaimed since the first ones arrival. Uncharted 2 has all but been crowned the best game of last generation with Uncharted 3 right on its heels as well as TLoU. Uncharted 2 might be the best game ever made to this point in my opinion, Uncharted 4 certainly gives it a run for its money.

So I'd argue that TLoU probably doesn't have a lot to do with Uncharted 4's success.

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Hexen
Saturday, May 28, 2016 @ 11:17:49 PM
Reply

Very nice read and I agree with everything.I always played Uncharted for the gameplay since the stories weren't for me, but this was perfectly executed and can't wait to see what's next for Naughty Dog.

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Kevin555
Sunday, May 29, 2016 @ 4:35:59 AM
Reply

The game is incredible, no doubt about it, one of the best of the current generation thus far but an N/A for The Bad?

C'mon.....

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Crabba
Sunday, May 29, 2016 @ 5:29:03 AM
Reply

Nice, I was wondering/hoping you would do a review of Uncharted 4. Great review as usual Ben!

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xenris
Sunday, May 29, 2016 @ 11:21:26 AM
Reply

I enjoyed the game I truly did, but I guess I'm missing something that a lot of people are.

The gameplay feels a little shallow to me, and I think that isn't the games fault just I have played SO many games, so many early access games so many times that I'm just not easily impressed. Also I might just be burning out on games like I mentioned to bigrailer before.

One thing I was hoping for was more variety in the platforming, more timing based platforming, and more environmental platforming puzzles.

I guess they did it for pacing reasons, but getting the same looking crate on wheels to boost up to a ledge got tiring after a while. Why not make it different, like you have to stack a bunch of crates, or use TNT to blast a whole through a wall, set up a plank to walk across. Just some more variety would have been nice.

They could have used the grapple hook for more environmental puzzles as well, other than just winching now and again.

I think that is the main thing that this game made me feel. I wanted more variety, and more of a challenge outside of the combat. The platforming return was great but it was mostly just mash jump, shimmy, mash jump shimmy. Never was I like how do I get up there, or did I climb the wrong way.

Again most likely they wanted to keep the pace moving BUT considering there are a lot of sections where nothing is happening just walking and talking and taking in the environments and conversations I don't think that is a very good excuse.

These are all minor complaints for a game that I consider a solid 9.



Last edited by xenris on 5/29/2016 11:22:20 AM

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Godslim
Sunday, May 29, 2016 @ 8:43:51 PM
Reply

Nice! The bad N/A!
Loved the game and I certainly felt the last of us style focus on story at the end and during nates house scenes. Love the game and cant wait to see what nd do next!

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dillonthebunny
Sunday, May 29, 2016 @ 11:58:44 PM
Reply

"and when you're done, after you've viewed the epilogue (which features an older Nathan and Elena, though I won't spoil it further)"

Seriously dude, wtf... thanks.

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frostface
Monday, May 30, 2016 @ 9:46:09 AM

That's a massive spoiler considering we've had news articles before the game came out talking about the possibility Nathan might not live to the end of the game, killing off any chance of another Uncharted with Nathan.

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Underdog15
Monday, May 30, 2016 @ 11:20:06 AM

It wouldn't be PSXExtreme if Ben didn't piss you two off just one last time.

Bittersweet!

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frostface
Monday, May 30, 2016 @ 11:31:48 AM

Underdog, it didn't add anything of value to the review which up to that point I didn't have an issue with. But that is pretty spoilerish. No offense mate but you and Ben got a thing going on that you need to constantly defend him? I'm sure looking back, even Ben might question the inclusion in his review. Or maybe he won't. I won't pretend to know. But I've already beaten the game and coming up to the end I personally was thinking back to the rumors that Drake might not live to the end of the game and it did add to the experience.

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Underdog15
Monday, May 30, 2016 @ 1:17:50 PM

If I was defending him, I would have said it wasn't a spoiler or at least isn't a big deal. Or I could have pointed out that no one else seemed to notice or care. You know... like an actual defense. I could posture the same question to you, as well. Why do you care enough to criticize when you know as well as I do it won't make a lick of difference? Did you used to have a thing going on that left you jaded?

In truth, I don't know if it's a spoiler because I didn't ever read any of the stuff you mentioned.

Since Uncharted is dripping with textbook melodrama, you can basically guarantee it's a happy ending. Based on what you two have said, I suppose it could be a spoiler for those who risk reading tons of info about it before it comes out... But really, those types are always at risk of having the story spoiled, anyways. In terms of my personal spoiler-risk, it went entirely unnoticed by me. I just expected it to be a happy ending, because like I said... melodrama. The writing has quick wit, but it's hardly unpredictable. I personally try to avoid saying anything about a story beyond generic observations, so I get the complaint I guess.

In the end, I was just making an observation. It's no secret you guys don't like him. You've said as much, yourself, afterall. Call it old time PSXE nostalgia, if you will. It wouldn't be like the old days if you didn't have some kind of abrasive bone to pick, right?

Last edited by Underdog15 on 5/30/2016 1:23:33 PM

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xenris
Monday, May 30, 2016 @ 1:54:51 PM

Underdog it was a spoiler. The game is called a Thiefs end, and while that doesn't need to mean death, it could just mean you are done with thieving still, the title had an air to it that Nathan might die.

I think it shouldn't have been included in the review, it doesn't add to it, and in fact takes away the nice surprise that we got.

I think he should edit it out of the review.

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Hexen
Monday, May 30, 2016 @ 9:20:54 PM

I agree that it shouldn't have been in the review but at the same time it doesn't say anywhere that it's a spoiler free review.I've seen a couple reviews and thats the first thing thats mentioned at the very top.

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Monday, May 30, 2016 @ 9:32:34 PM

Leave it up to certain people to pick at one goddamn thing. No, I'm not editing anything.

Hours and hours of work for accusations and whining...Jesus Christ, in a lot of ways I'm really glad to be out of here.

Last edited by Ben Dutka PSXE on 5/30/2016 9:35:58 PM

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frostface
Tuesday, May 31, 2016 @ 1:56:43 AM

Ben of all the arguments we've had, this wasn't intended as another one. This was a constructive observation that you placed a pretty big spoiler into your review which up to that point was doing fine. What did the review gain from you telling people about an older Nate? You really don't see how that could be seen as a spoiler? Just because you withhold something else that happens at the end of the game does not get you off the hook for that.


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dillonthebunny
Monday, May 30, 2016 @ 2:46:16 PM
Reply

Yeah, I was avoiding spoilers because I didn't know if he would die or not. But that's pretty much tainted the end game.

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Monday, May 30, 2016 @ 9:37:25 PM

Then don't fu***** play it.

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mike rlz
Monday, May 30, 2016 @ 9:43:07 PM

haha. bye ben.

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dillonthebunny
Tuesday, May 31, 2016 @ 2:32:45 AM

Yeah, bye Ben!

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dillonthebunny
Monday, May 30, 2016 @ 2:47:30 PM
Reply

Oh and as for your bittersweet comment underdog, grow up.

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ethird1
Tuesday, May 31, 2016 @ 12:12:47 AM
Reply

Game is seriously overrated, as Ben always does this crappy series. Nothing to see here. Not really. Now move along.

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Temjin001
Wednesday, June 01, 2016 @ 12:00:59 PM
Reply

I loved the whole thing too.

SPOILER
Except for one thing.
As the feel good trio goes marching off to save Sam a wagon breaks and they can't all get up a wall. Trio ends.
I know they could've thought of something more buyable and less insulting to their abilities.

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xenris
Wednesday, June 01, 2016 @ 12:13:05 PM




************Spoiler






Like the grappling hook around Nathans waist :P

Yeah that part REAAAAALLLY bugged me. One of them should have been shot and wounded, and the other say Elaina was left to look after Sullys wound.

This would have done two things, made you think it might be Sully who dies, and amped the suspense and would have made Drake more invested than just chasing his brother.

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Temjin001
Wednesday, June 01, 2016 @ 1:52:22 PM

Even something as simple as them over hearing a radio conversation on some dead soldier about Shorline having spotted some unidentified airplane docked on the water. This would've made them split to go protect their getaway vehicle while Drake went to go get Sam. I would've bought that.

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xenris
Wednesday, June 01, 2016 @ 11:00:47 PM

Great idea as well!

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duomaxwell007
Wednesday, June 01, 2016 @ 12:59:58 PM
Reply

Hey Ben I think you should "come out of retirement" temporarily and review Final Fantasy XV when it comes out, I mean with all the posts with you saying things like "no one asked for this" or open world games cant have good stories due to their non linear nature, its a simplistic action RPG etc etc. It would be wonderful to see what you actually think when youve played and completed the finished product.

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xenris
Wednesday, June 01, 2016 @ 1:37:43 PM
Reply

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SPG_1wbSILI

This guy raises some interesting points, and made me realize why I might have felt empty after UC4.

I don't agree with all of his points but he raises some very valid ones, as well as some terrible points that he doesn't elaborate on.

Wonder what people who love this game think of his analysis. Give it an honest watch without judgment I would like to hear what people think.

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