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Uncharted 4: A Thief's End is a third-person action-adventure game, with an over-the-shoulder free camera. The game builds on much of the previous gameplay elements featured in the previous Uncharted titles, which can be broken up into the following sub-categories: platforming, combat, and puzzles. With the exception of two chapters, the sole playable character is Nathan Drake.
Platforming makes up a large element of the game environment. The player can jump, sprint, scale vertical surfaces (provided a handhold is available), swim, and swing using ropes. Uncharted 4 adds a grappling hook, with the player can attach to secure anchor points for climbing and/or swinging, and a piton which the player can embed into porous rock faces to create a temporary handhold. Compared to previous entries in the series, the environments are noticeably larger and more open, expanding opportunities for exploration.
Gun combat makes up the majority of the combat, with melee elements included. Drake can hold up to two firearms (one single-handed and one double-handed) and four grenades at a time. Additional ammo and alternate guns can be picked up from downed enemies or supply crates, which will replace the weapon currently being used. Stealth mechanics are included, such as tall grass or lower surfaces in which the player can hide from enemies. Enemies now have meters indicating whether they have detected the player, and the player can tag enemies for reference. Melee combat has been reworked to remove quick-time events, and companion/enemy AI has been improved and expanded upon.
As the player explores ancient ruins, they will often find puzzles that they must solve before progressing further. Nathan keeps a journal, which the players can reference to help solve puzzles, or simply take note of the environment and plot. Journal entries also serve as one of the collectibles scattered throughout the game.
The game features a competitive multi-player mode, in which players can take control of characters across the Uncharted series to compete against other players.
Years before the events of the first game, Nathan Drake and his brother Sam are searching for the treasure of infamous pirate captain William Avery. The brothers, along with their financier Rafe Adler, break into a Panamanian prison in order to access the cell of Avery's first mate. Inside, Nathan finds a hollow statue of Saint Dismas, which he and Sam link to a cathedral in Scotland. However, Vargas, the corrupt warden, discovers their goal and demands a portion. Rafe kills Vargas, forcing the three to escape. During the intense chase, Sam is shot by guards, and Rafe forces Nathan to leave him for dead in order to escape.
Fifteen years later, Nathan has retired from adventure hunting and now works at a salvage company in New Orleans. While he is insistent on living a peaceful life with his wife Elena and putting his treasure hunting days behind him, Nathan can't help but miss the thrill of his adventures. One day, much to his shock, Sam arrives at his work, having survived his wounds and escaped from prison. While reconnecting, Sam tells Nathan that he was broken out of prison by Hector Alcazár, an infamous drug lord, who is demanding half of Avery's treasure in three months in exchange for Sam's life. While initially hesitant, Nathan agrees to help, lying to Elena that he will be in Malaysia for a salvaging job. Having tracked down another Saint Dismas statue, this time fully intact, Sam leads Nathan to its auction in Italy.
Getting the help of Victor "Sully" Sullivan, Sam and Nathan sneak into the mansion where the auction is being held. Seeing that the cross is mere feet away from the auction stand, they decide to cause a blackout to swipe it without detection. While Nathan sneaks to the power room and Sam disguises himself as a waiter, Sully encounters Rafe, who aims to buy the cross himself, and his partner Nadine Ross, leader of South African-based PMC Shoreline. Sam steals the cross as planned, but Nathan runs into Nadine on his way to the getaway spot. Nadine assumes he has the cross and attacks him. Only escaping when Nadine throws him out the window, Nathan accidentally alerts the mansion's guards. He and Sam manage to fight their way to the getaway car and escape with Sully. Cracking open the cross, the three find a drawing of Avery's gravestone. The three realize that Avery's cross was not pointing to the cathedral in Scotland itself, but its nearby graveyard.
Once in Scotland, Nathan and Sam head to the graveyard, running into Shoreline along the way. Finding their way through a series of caves, many of which are tests of some sort, the two find a map pointing to King's Bay in Madagascar. While the two are apprehended by Nadine and Shoreline, the Drake brothers trick them into triggering a trap and escape in the resulting chaos. After exploring numerous pirate outposts around King's Bay with Sully, and surviving numerous run-ins with Shoreline (during which Rafe steals a clue by hacking into their phones), Nathan and Sam realize that Avery was one of the founders of the legendary pirate colony Libertalia, the location of which is on an island northeast of King's Bay. However, as they return to their hotel room, they find a visibly upset Elena waiting for them. After confronting Nathan about his deception, she storms off, and a frustrated Nathan snaps at Sully to go after her.
The next day, the Drake brothers head off to the location in the clue, which turns out to be another set of puzzles pointing them to Libertalia's direction. However, they are ambushed by Shoreline along the way to the island, causing them to lose their boat and get separated. Washing up on shore, Nathan eventually finds Sam. The two briefly argue about how to move forward, but that stops quickly when they stumble across the ruins of Libertalia. Venturing inside, they find the colony's treasury looted, with signs of a civil war outside. They deduce that the founders stole Libertalia's riches and took it to their home, another settlement named New Devon, on the other end of the island. As they begin venturing to New Devon, they are ambushed by Shoreline, leading to a fistfight with Nadine, which ends in them being cornered by Rafe. When Nathan attempts to bargain, Rafe reveals that Sam has been lying: not only has Alcázar been dead for six months, but Rafe got Sam out of prison two years ago, and the two worked together to find another St. Dismas cross until Sam turned on him. Acknowledging that he can't find the treasure on his own, Rafe takes Sam captive and tries to shoot Nathan. While Sam takes the bullet for his brother, Nathan is knocked off a cliff and falls into a river.
Nathan is rescued by Elena, who was convinced by Sully to come back for him. As she tends to his wounds, Nathan reveals his past: when they were teenagers, he and Sam broke into a house to steal back a research journal belonging to their late mother, historian Cassandra Morgan. When they found the journal, they were confronted by its new owner, an elderly archeologist named Evelyn, who held them at gunpoint until she realized their identities. Evelyn revealed she was once their mother's employer, and that Morgan had been researching Libertalia at the time of her death. She gave them their mother's journal, but before she could send away the police she had called, she suffered a fatal heart attack, forcing Nathan and Sam to escape from the police. The two changed their surnames from Morgan to Drake, both to conceal their identities and to honor their mother's theory about Sir Francis Drake having descendants.
Nathan and Elena make their way to New Devon in order to save Sam, reconciling along the way. Upon reaching the settlement, they discover that Libertalia's founders descended into war over the treasure. Avery and his right hand man, Thomas Tew, poisoned the other ten founders before turning on each other. Navigating a series of caves underneath Avery's mansion and fighting their way through Shoreline, Nathan and Elena reunite with Sam before meeting up with Sully. While Sam has finally discovered the treasure's locates, he is unable to convince the others to go after it, and he reluctantly agrees to come back home. However, on the way back, Sam gets separated from the group, and he chooses to go after the treasure. The others attempt to follow, but Elena and Sully are unable to continue, forcing Nathan to go alone.
Nathan eventually reaches the cavern where the treasure is located. By this point, Shoreline has reached the cavern and has taken a portion of the treasure, the rest of which remains on Avery's ship. When Sam steals a Shoreline boat to reach the ship, Rafe forces the reluctant Nadine to chase after him. Nathan eventually finds Sam, who is pinned under debris after triggering a trap, Rafe and Nadine, and the skeletons of Tew and Avery, the latter two having killed themselves over the treasure. The exhausted Nadine turns on Rafe, leaving him and the Drake brothers to die in the burning ship. Tried of the Drakes and wanting to prove himself better, Rafe engages Nathan in a duel. Nathan ends the fight by crushing Rafe under a pile of treasure, frees Sam, and escapes from the cavern before it collapses.
Reuniting with Elena and Sully, the four get back to the mainland before parting ways: Elena and Nate return home, and Sam joins Sully for a new job. With treasure that Sam salvaged from the ship, Elena buys the salvage company, and she and Nate decide to become adventurers again.
Years later, Nathan and Elena have made a career as salvagers and have a daughter named Cassie. When Cassie stumbles upon relics from their past, the two decide to share their stories with her.
The first teaser for what would become Uncharted 4 was released on November 14, 2013. Ann Hennig, the writer and director of the first three Uncharted titles, was planned to be the writer, with Uncharted 3 Justin Richmond serving as the director. Todd Stashwick was signed on to play the role of Sam Drake, who was intended to be the game's main antagonist.
However, in March 2014, Hennig and Richmond left Naughty Dog. By June of that year, the two were replaced by Neil Druckmann and Bruce Straley, who had previously worked on The Last of Us. Following the change in leadership, the game's story underwent several changes, and Sam's character was recast by April. The game's title was announced at E3 2014, as well as the planned release date of 2016. The first gameplay demo, as well as confirmation of Sam Drake being recast to Troy Baker, was confirmed at the PlayStation experience in December 2014.
Uncharted 4 received critical acclaim, currently holding a score of 93 on Metacritic.