Wednesday 7 December 2016

Games: Drake's retiring in handsome style

Uncharted 4: A Thief's End (PS4), 5 Stars - Age: 18+

Published 15/05/2016 | 02:30

Uncharted 4
Uncharted 4

So farewell, Nathan Drake. We've held our breath as you've made countless death-defying jumps. We've paused regularly to take in the sumptuous scenery you call home. We've chuckled frequently at your laconic humour.

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Uncharted is the series you'd most proudly show to your game-allergic friends - full of Indiana Jones-esque cinematic flourishes, Bond-style globe-trotting and sharp, believable dialogue. And U4 is where it climaxes, a swashbuckling third-person adventure going out at the top of its game.

Much of Uncharted's underlying weakness goes unaddressed - such as the linearity, the woolly shooting or the discord between wise-cracking lead Drake and his endless murder of a parade of dumb cannon-fodder enemies.

But U4 dampens scepticism with a multi-strand storyline resurrecting a long-lost (if strangely unlikeable) brother and introducing the domestic bliss of home life with series favourite Elena. Paired with a PS4-powered backdrop of unprecedented beauty and detail, A Thief's End leaps confidently from South America to Scotland to Italy and beyond in pursuit of (what else?) piratical treasure.

New emphasis on stealth and the addition of a grapple hook shake up the gameplay yet U4 still leans heavily on the familiar props of cover-based shooting and acrobatic exploration.

Multiplayer servers weren't available in time for review but the single-player story easily justifies itself. Scarcely missing a beat, save for a lethargic opening few chapters, A Thief's End feels like an exhilarating ride, one you'll never want to get off.

Star Fox Zero

(Wii U) HHH Age: 7+

Familiarity breeds contempt, they say. But so does a wilfully contrary control system. Star Fox Zero saddles itself with both blunders, a remake/greatest hits of past instalments weighed down by an unconscionably awkward dual-screen aiming scheme.

A collaboration between hot studio Platinum and Nintendo's genius Shigeru Miyamoto, Zero bursts with potential, resurrecting a much-loved franchise with its endearing cast of furry fighter pilots and gameplay echoing the aerial dogfights of Star Wars. A fresh crop of vehicles helps soften the sting of rehashing old glories (levels, script, bosses). A short running time can be excused by the replay value in the multi-path missions.

But it's all sabotaged by the patting head/rubbing tummy juggling act that is the controls, requiring glancing from TV screen to Gamepad in frustrating succession.


PS Vita HHHH Age: 12+

Engagingly eerie and a rare gem in PS Vita's ebbing release schedule, Severed forces you to wander monster-filled Zelda-esque dungeons with only a sword for protection.

Its gorgeous art style and deceptively deep Infinity Blade-style touchscreen combat system prove a delightful combination, one that demands you pull your PS Vita out of its dusty drawer and play now.

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