Game Review: Uncharted 4

“Greatness from small beginnings…”

I spent the week before the release of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, replaying the original trilogy. I must have played these games at least a half dozen times each by now and I can’t help but be in awe of them yet again. The Uncharted series are arguably  among the greatest games ever created.

Nathan Drake’s adventures are like being part of an Indiana Jones film that goes on for 15 hours. These are beautiful, well written games, filled with characters who you immediately fall in love with and root for. This series always has it’s small share of minor annoyances…and after playing all of them consecutively, I can say that the first Uncharted can be a bit jerky control wise, sometimes making finding cover a chore. Uncharted 2 is rather flawless and EASILY my favorite of the series, with some of the most amazing action set pieces and well balanced gameplay. Uncharted 3 while smooth playing and filled with great moments, is very clunky in the shooting aspect of things, with a rigid cross-hair that you never quite get used to, making combat a genuine chore. These are very minor grievances however, as the pros of this magnificent series far outweigh the cons, making Uncharted an absolute delight to revisit over and over.

Which brings us to Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End…Naughty Dogs final adventure with Nathan Drake. And what an adventure it is.

Let’s just get the most noticeable aspect of this game out of the way first, it is absolutely breathtaking visually. Never have I seen visuals on any platform that come close to the level of detail and beauty on display here. This is one gorgeous video game. The sheer amount of time it must have taken to bring this creation to life is unfathomable. This is truly the first “next gen” game to truly showcase what is possible with the power of the Playstation 4. Lush jungles, sandy beaches, ancient castles, all stunningly created and interactive. On more than one occasion, I would stop just to take in the scenery around me and marvel at it’s beauty. It’s that gorgeous.

Uncharted 4 is also the best the series has ever played. Never before has taking cover, shooting and scaling walls felt this good. Some minor button placement changes took a little adjusting, but after a while it truly felt how this series should have played this entire time. New elements such as the grappling hook and sliding down steep hills are a welcome addition and handle wonderfully as well.

My only real problem with Uncharted 4, is a bit hard to put into words without coming across as too critical…and that’s with the pacing. This adventure (like all Uncharted games) is very story driven, but there were times where I felt I was doing a bit too much cut scene watching and not enough playing, a first in this series. Action set pieces, while spectacular as always, do feel a bit few and far between here. There are also some gameplay elements that feel repetitive and tedious…I mean, how many times do I really need to push a crate? I felt myself being taken out of the game quite a few times due to some very oddly placed elements. I also feel that the story being told here, while engaging, well written and furthering the story of young Nathan Drake is kind of a wimpy Macguffin for a final adventure. Nathans brother Sam is a great addition and the chemistry is really great. I also enjoyed the villainous Nadine, who is an absolute badass. Also returning are Sully (who has less of a part to play here) and Elena, who now married to Drake brings a whole other level of complexity and understanding to their already great relationship.

Beautiful, perfectly controlled, wonderfully acted and as marvelous a game as they come, Uncharted 4 stalls a bit here and there, but a bittersweet, yet satisfying ending really wrap things up nicely for this now decade old series.

As much as it makes me sad that there will not be another Uncharted game to look forward to, I am feverishly waiting to see what developer Naughty Dog creates next. After the success of Uncharted and The Last of Us, they have proven they understand that gaming is a medium that can transcend a narrative driven experience in ways that books and cinema cannot.

Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune 4/5
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves 5/5
Uncharted 3: Drakes Deception 3.5/5
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End 4.5/5

-Sock Talk Jon-

Sock Talk Podcast Episode 60: Louie!!!

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Episode Runtime: 2:02:27
Episode Summary:

Welcome back to Sock Talk! This week Phil Caron and Jon Healy, the producers of the documentary  “My Name Is Jonah”, talk to their good friend and delightful online curmudgeon, Louie Falcetti. No subject is too taboo: Religion, depression, life’s failures, Babbages. The list goes on.

It’s been a while, but it’s kind of been worth the wait. Listen, won’t you?

Also, if you’d like to donate to Sock Talk Jon’s animated project you can do so here:

Music intro and outro: Provided by Lugubrious Moron

Phil Healy Website: I Hunger Productions
Jon Caron Website: Asylum Studios Photography + Design

Sock Talk Podcast Episode 58: The Tangential Tango

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Episode Runtime: 2:31:04
Episode Summary:

Welcome back to Sock Talk! This week Phil Caron and Jon Healy, the producers of the documentary  “My Name Is Jonah” , get down to brass tax with the award-winning filmmaker Jim McDonough of ‘Manicorn’ fame. Both Phil and Jim are rampant tangent turners so be prepared to hang on for dear life as they try to figure out what they were originally talking about. It’s podcast magic! Meanwhile, Jon continues to rant about the modern nerd. Listen, won’t you?

Music intro and outro: Provided by Ross LaFond

Phil Healy Website: I Hunger Productions
Jon Caron Website: Asylum Studios Photography + Design

Sock Talk Podcast Episode 56: Ethan Entertainment Expo

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Episode Runtime:
Episode Summary:

Welcome back to Sock Talk! This week Phil Healy and Jon Caron, the producers of the documentary  “My Name Is Jonah” bring “Opportunist Ethan” back to the show! We discuss E3, Jurassic World, Final Fantasy 7, love, life and nerdery galore!

Music intro and outro: Provided by Consider the Source

Phil Healy Website: I Hunger Productions
Jon Caron Website: Asylum Studios Photography + Design

Sock Talk Jon’s 2013 Video Game 1UP Winners

With some especially strong titles from Nintendo and a completely new set of consoles from Microsoft and Sony, 2013 was a pretty good year for gaming.

1) The Last of Us (PS3)

The Last of Us seamlessly melds the mediums of cinema and video game to create an experience unlike any other. Utilizing the survival horror genre like you have never played it before, The Last of Us keeps you feeling frightened and alone in a world that is every bit as terrifying as it is beautiful. Easily the best game of 2013 and one of the best I have ever played in over 27 years of gaming.

2) Fire Emblem Awakening (3DS)

The Nintendo 3DS is fast becoming one of my favorite gaming systems ever and games like Fire Emblem: Awakening are why. Crushingly difficult, well plotted and with more optimization than your standard strategy/RPG fare, this is an absolute must for any fan of this genre.

3) Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (3DS)

Just…wonderful and one of the best reasons to go out and buy a 3DS.

4) Diablo III (XBOX 360/PS3)

I love the Diablo series, but the PC iteration of Diablo 3 felt very lackluster to me…it was unbalanced and just didn’t give me the desire to play it as intently as I did the others. Blizzard released a console version of the game in late 2013 and completely fixed everything that was wrong in the PC version, (including the terrible auction house) making this the infinite time suck it was truly meant to be. You could legitimately play this game forever.

5) Tomb Raider (XBOX 360/PS3/PC)

I was never much of a Tomb Raider fan, but with the reboot of this now classic series, Square-Enix has managed to get it right. Borrowing heavily from the Uncharted series, Tomb Raider is perfect in its execution. A gripping narrative and constant sense of foreboding helps to keep you enthralled the entire time.

6) Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon (3DS)

Not quite as good as the 2001 original for the Gamecube, Luigis Mansion: Dark Moon still manages to be a fun adventure title nonetheless. Gorgeous graphics, challenging puzzles and plenty of side quests kept me hooked.

7) Mario and Luigi: Dream Team (3DS)

Yet ANOTHER 3DS title makes my favorite list with Mario and Luigi: Dream Team. Visually stunning, perfectly balanced and full of all these great little Nintendo fanboy jokes, make this one of the most enjoyable RPG’s I’ve played in a long time.

8) Batman: Arkham Origins (XBOX 360/PS3/PC)

Batman’s third outing takes form as a prequel, with a new developer, and new voice actors for both Batman (Roger Craig Smith replaces Kevin Conroy) and the Joker (Troy Baker replaces Mark Hammil). The result is pretty damn good actually. I really couldn’t even tell the difference with the voice actors, especially Troy Baker who nails Hamill’s now classic Joker voice. A great narrative combines with equally great visuals, but I still couldn’t help but feel that maybe it might time for this series to take just a couple years off…as the formula is now starting to get that “I’ve played this same exact thing” feeling to it.

9) Crysis 3 (XBOX 360/PS3/PC)

The 3rd entry in developer Crytek’s visually beautiful, original sci-fi shooter series, Crysis 3, is just as solid as Crysis 1 and 2. These games (while decent story wise) were never narrative powerhouses, but the gameplay/difficulty level remains just as fun as ever.

10) Grand Theft Auto V (XBOX 360/PS3/PC)

If you’ve ever played a GTA game before, you know what to expect…hookers, guns, car chases, shootouts, etc…but with Grand Theft Auto V, all of that is elevated to an entirely new level of interactivity. It is flat out scary how large and alive the world in this game is. As tired of this series as I might be, I can’t deny its level of brilliance and narrative wonderment.

The stinkers

God of War: Ascension
An absolute travesty of a game, God of War: Ascension manages to take what isn’t broken, try to fix it, and as a result, smash it to bits. This once flawless franchise gets it’s first ever stinker.

Resident Evil 6
Now, I only played the demo for this, but that was MORE than enough…terrible on so many fronts.

Bioshock Infinite
Someone over at Irrational Games must have forgotten that games are supposed to be, well, FUN. I cannot argue the fact that this game as a narrative, is fantastic. It is. But as a game, it is a repetitive, dull, predictable hunk of garbage.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows
A clunky, boring beat em’ up that had so much more promise than the final product delivered…10 back flips now!

With 2014 already here, it’s time to look at what newcomers XBOX One and PS4 have to offer, which as of right now, isn’t much. In fact this year as a whole, seems rather dull gaming wise. However, it’s still early and the bigger announcements usually come out around E3 time, so we’ll just have to wait and see. What say you?

-Sock Talk Jon-