Last warning. This train is heading to Spoiler Town. Fast. This is your last stop before we pull into Uncharted Finale-ville.
If you’re still here, it means you’ve blasted your way through A Thief’s End and already know what awaits at the end of the line. I’m doing this because – in my review of Drake’s final adventure in OPM – I described Uncharted 4 as having an uneven end to the story, while still being my all-time favourite Naughty Dog conclusion. It’s time to explain myself.
The inconsistency comes from Uncharted 4’s twin endings. There’s the finale that rounds off the journey. And then there’s the one that provides a grace note. The story climaxes with Drake confronting Rafe on Henry Avery’s ship, with Sam trapped perilously under a broken beam. In a refreshing twist, the supernatural grandstand finish is dumped for a more personal attack on Drake, as the sneering Adler spits venom while duelling Nate with old pirate swords.
As final fights go, it’s more muted than I was expecting. Sure, the understated scrap makes sense in context – and I adore the way it’s set up by Nadine dropping the mic and locking them in the treasury of the good ship MacGuffin – but it’s surprisingly underwhelming when Drake defeats Rafe and saves Sam double-fast. It’s not so much a sprint to the finish as a teleport, with Sam, Sully, Elena and Drake all coming through with their happy endings.
At this point, I’m craving more catharsis. Uncharted 4 consistently asks what price we should pay for our fortune. How many people need to die for the treasure? It feels like the answer is plenty, as long as they’re not the people we’re emotionally invested in.
As these questions swirl, we see the screen fade into Crash Bandicoot, plus the reveal of Cassie Drake. It’s at this point that – like a Madagascan clock tower – all my doubts come tumbling down.
Naughty Dog has slyly set up a much bigger pay-off. Back in Chapter 16, as we creep around the house of Eve, the old lady looking after the work of Nate and Sam’s mum, there are clues to the personal cost of being an adventurer. Eve isolates the people she loves, to the point at which her own son no longer has anything to do with her. As her story fleshes out, we see that, despite featuring on the covers of magazines, she’s unwilling to let her family share her adventures. It’s a melancholic wander through a life wasted, and it seems to make an impression on the young Drake.
Going back to Elena and Drake’s sprog, Cassie, it becomes obvious that after the hunt for Avery’s treasure, Drake puts his family front and centre. Exploring their beachside abode, every memento we discover hints at a life shared as a family. In case there’s any doubt that it wasn’t Nate’s encounter with his mum’s employer that shaped this outlook, Cassie discovers the keys to his past life under a magazine that has herself as the cover star – it’s the same mag that had also featured Eve.
This is why Uncharted 4 is my favourite ending to a Naughty Dog game. In the build-up, I’d assumed that for Drake to learn his lesson, he had to die. What this unpredictable flash-forward does is subvert our grisly expectations while still providing weight to its themes. For a series that celebrates charm and character, there’s no better way to tie things up.
This article originally appeared in Official PlayStation Magazine. For more great PlayStation coverage, you can subscribe here.