Games: Drake's retiring in handsome style
Uncharted 4: A Thief's End (PS4), 5 Stars - Age: 18+
Published 15/05/2016 | 02:30
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.
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.