PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

'Uncharted 4' Still Lets You Play the Way You Want to Play

When I play Uncharted, I don’t want to play efficiently. I want to throw caution to the wind and be irresponsible.

Uncharted 4

Developer: Naughty Dog
Release Date: 2016-05-10

Stealth has never been a word associated with the Uncharted series. When I think about Nathan Drake's adventures, I think more about spectacle and swashbuckling and stunning scenery. Yet Uncharted 4: A Thief's End makes stealth combat just as viable, if not more so, than the typical running and gunning action of past games. It's a surprising addition to the game, and it's a surprisingly fun addition to the game, but it's also, for me personally, kind of an unwelcome addition to the game.

When I play Uncharted, I don’t want to play efficiently, to strategize, to plan, or to be smart about things. I want to throw caution to the wind and be irresponsible: to fire wildly at a bad guy before leaping across a chasm, to get into an unwise fistfight with another guy, or to get myself into trouble and then improvise or just luck my way out of that trouble. Because that's what Nathan Drake does. He's the quintessential rogue, cocky and charming and just skilled enough to not get himself killed when he inevitably screws up. Stealth just isn't befitting a character like that, but I find myself gravitating towards it in every combat encounter in the most recent game -- almost involuntarily.

I blame Dark Souls 3, a game that encourages methodical calm in the face of monstrous spectacle. I've been playing that game so much over the past several months that I've gotten too used to being careful. I think I've forgotten how to go rogue! That's fun to think about, but it's not really the whole truth. The truth is that I like slow, methodical games. I don’t mind watching enemies walk their routes, moving into an ambush position, and then waiting for them to come back around several minutes later. All that time spent on one kill. I find that kind of waiting and planning and waiting to be both relaxing and exciting at the same time. Much like Dark Souls.

And then sometimes I just want to shoot things. Uncharted was supposed to be that game that broke me out of my routine (should have played Doom, apparently), but it wasn't because it decided to give me a choice in the matter.

I finally had enough of the stealth after quietly killing my way through a multi-tiered forest arena. Afterwards, as I ran around after looking for the path forward, I noticed all the obstacles in the environment that could have made for a wonderfully dynamic fight: a dirt slide through the center of the battlefield, various spires to climb and hide behind, grappling hook points that would let me swing around the area. I felt like I had missed out on something awesome, so I made a vow to be reckless. To take a pot shot at the first guy I saw next, starting the fight without even that first kill advantage.

The result was a harder fight, but also one more along the lines of what I expect from Uncharted. This continued to the end of the game. Admittedly, many of the fights started automatically, taking away the option for stealth, and this felt like a natural extension of the story as it built to its climax. Regardless of why, however, I got the action that I wanted.

For as much as I complain about the stealth being too good, the truth is that how I play is entirely on me, not the game. Sure, the game can encourage certain kinds of play, but I have no obligation to follow along. Just a few weeks ago, I was at a convention and watched some guys play Dark Souls 3 as reckless fools. They ran past enemies, picked fights with those damn giant crabs, ignored bonfires, and went into boss fights with a wealth of souls instead of going back to the shrine to level up. It was a foolhardy endeavor, but damned entertaining, which was their main goal. They were playing for the audience, not for themselves. I may love how Dark Souls encourages me to play into my natural methodical tendencies, but that game still gives us a choice in how to play. It still allows the player to go their own way if they really want to.

Uncharted 4 lets you play in a variety of ways. When I started playing like a reckless fool it got harder, but also more fun, more in tune with the adventurous spirit of the story. That change didn't come from the game. I didn't turn off any option or setting. That change had to come from me.

The stealth in the game is very well done, but the best thing about it is that it’s optional. I can play like the reckless rogue of the earlier games or like a more mature adult, like a man with something to lose. Either way is fine. Play the way you want to play.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.


Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.


Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.


Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.


The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.


​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.


The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.


Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.


How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.