Uncharted 4: A Thief's End is a Hollywood blockbuster in video game form

How many people has Indiana Jones killed?

One YouTube video that tracks the irascible archeologist's body count over four films puts the number at 67. Other discussions, taking into account deaths that happen indirectly as a result of his misadventures, peg it closer to 150.

In my playthrough of Uncharted 4: A Thief's End, starring video games' closest Jones analogue Nathan Drake, I killed 527 people, of whom 264 were gunned down, 94 of them with a shot in the head. A further 65 were killed via stealth — sneaking up on unsuspecting mercenaries and either kicking them off a cliff or snapping their necks.

It's a grim tally that runs in stark contrast to everything else we see of Drake, a grounded and likable character with a love of history and roguish sense of humour.

Uncharted 4 nate and sam

Nathan Drake (left) is played by Nolan North, while his brother, Sam, is played by Troy Baker. (Naughty Dog/Sony Computer Entertainment America)

It feels like a necessary evil — there's no way a triple-A budget game with a 15- to 20-hour playtime could exist without busting some heads.

But this narrative dissonance feels worth it. Uncharted 4 is an expertly crafted adventure with an endearing cast, even though its main plot follows the tropes of the film genres it draws inspiration from a little too closely.

The thief's life beckons

Uncharted 4's plot is as old-fashioned as you can get. Nathan Drake, after years of dangerous adventures around the world, has settled down to live a normal life with his wife, Elena Fisher. His past life comes back to haunt him when his older brother, Sam, returns after his supposed death 15 years ago.

Sam's in trouble, and only the biggest score of them all — the legendary pirate captain Henry Avery's lost treasure — can save him.

Uncharted 4 action

Explosive set pieces are another staple of the Uncharted series, but you won't have to do much to survive what are essentially playable cut scenes. (Naughty Dog/Sony Computer Entertainment America)

Their relationship isn't anything new, but the voice actors' performances, led by the industry everywhere-men Nolan North as Drake and Troy Baker as Sam keep it afloat. They have a playful banter, but run into typical sibling dust-ups, thanks to Sam's harder edge and looser moral compass.

Drake's wife, Elena, played by Emily Rose in both voice and motion-captured visage, is the more compelling partner in the relationship, examining the marriage of two people who lived far more exciting lives than they are at the story's outset, not sure whether they're ready to "retire." Their rapport over the series has evolved into something believable, and refreshingly grown up, in A Thief's End.

High-definition digital tourism

Familial interplay aside, this is still an action game, so Nathan and his companions travel to the usual stops on a treasure hunter's journey, from cavernous crypts to a secret city on a tropical island, to find out what happened to Captain Avery and his pile of gold coins.

On paper it's nothing special, but thanks to the PlayStation 4's technical prowess and developer Naughty Dog's art design, Uncharted 4 is a series of postcards featuring some of the most sumptuous scenery in console gaming.

Moss and flowers sway in the wind as you walk across overgrown ruins. Your 4x4 jeep cuts through rivers in the wide-open plains of Madagascar, splattering mud that gums up your tires and glistens under the sunlight.

Uncharted 4 screen 01

Elena Fisher (Emily Rose) and Nathan Drake have settled into a relatively normal life, but both feel the pull of their former careers in adventuring at the outset of Uncharted 4. (Naughty Dog/Sony Computer Entertainment America)

Despite its obvious Hollywood inspirations, Uncharted 4 might be at its best when the player pauses the action and takes a moment to breathe in the landscape like a digital tourist.

The ways you'll navigate the meticulously constructed world aren't new, but are executed with considerable technical prowess. Nathan reaches his hands out for graspable ledges on a rock face or building exterior wherever you point the left analog stick on the controller. It both looks natural and gives the player a good indication of when it's safe to leap to the next point without a blinking pointer.

The rope, a new addition to the series, handles beautifully, and you'll be leaping between giant chasms with ease before long. The jeep also feels great, and handles far better in the rocky off road terrain than on the paved streets of a bustling city, as it should be.

Combat, shooting is only OK

The game falters slightly with the combat, which will become a speed bump for more casual-minded players. It starts out well enough; you've got a handful of guns and tactics to sneak up on unsuspecting mercenary guards, but one wrong move and you'll find yourself outnumbered, outgunned and surrounded.

Drake never feels as well-equipped for combat as his action-game counterparts such as in Metal Gear Solid or Splinter Cell. Thankfully you can turn the difficulty down to the forgiving "explorer mode" if you're more interested in sightseeing than sharpshooting.

The creators at Naughty Dog have suggested that A Thief's End ($79.99) might be the final game in the series — or at least the last game to star Drake. The ending gives a satisfying sense of closure, while leaving the door open for a few new directions, should the franchise prove too profitable to abandon.

But if it is indeed the last chapter, it's ended off on a fantastic note that players of all skill levels should enjoy.

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