On its own, Uncharted 4 is easily one of the best games in recent memory. Several standout moments, a mind-blowing presentation and characters who finally feel grounded in their own world provided fans with one of the adventure games of all time. One chapter in particular stood out to me when I played through the game for the first time, and even more so with subsequent playthroughs was Chapter 21; Brother’s Keeper. Despite every game in the series having its own set piece that defines it, Chapter 21 embodies the best parts of the whole series without resorting to spectacle. It manages to combine everything that already made Uncharted great, perfect the use of the new mechanics and stand as the penultimate chapter in the game. Brother’s Keeper is one of the best chapters in gaming.
The presentation in Uncharted 4 has several highlights throughout Nathan Drake’s adventure. The lengthy climb on the clock tower, the urban environment of Madagascar and the modern beauty of Italy are all made to stand out in a way like no other game before it. The first half of the game already defies expectations in terms of graphics but the true capability of the presentation is fully realised in this chapter with the lush jungle environment and underground caverns taking centre stage. The lighting effects are particularly impressive in this section, sunlight powering through and illuminating Nate. The cave water ripples slightly as Nate travels through it and the light splits each wave. No section of this chapter doesn’t look beautiful and each section proves Naughty Dog as being able to make the most out of each game they work on. By this point in the story, Drake has been through so much that he’s torn up and you can really tell it here with each movement seeming like Drake is one step closer to giving up. Some moments in the chapter are especially beautiful, from seeing Avery’s ship for the first time to using the rope for some of the biggest leaps in the series, coming as close as this chapter gets to set pieces. The presentation and lighting really shine through in each section of the chapter, making it one of the most impressive in the whole series.
In terms of story, this chapter manages to ramp up the tension whilst also keeping Drake on his own for one of the quieter moments in the whole game. Taking the role as the penultimate chapter, ‘Brother’s Keeper’ obviously has a lot riding on it, particularly the fate of Nathan Drake. By this point, it’s very unclear whether or not Nate will make it out of the story alive, filling this section of the game with tension and mystery. Each jump that Drake makes could very well be his last and this sense of finality really matches with the rest of the game. Despite the tension, this chapter also provides one of the game’s quieter moments. Nate is all alone throughout the chapter, only commenting on the precarious jumps and chasms to himself, a stark difference to the rest of the game where Sam, Sully or Elena are present. This gives the player what could potentially be the last moments with Nate and really lets you reflect on the events that have transpired. Every other chapter of the game serves a purpose; whether it be action, story, consequence or love. The purpose of ‘Brother’s Keeper’ is respite. A respite from the action, a respite from the story and a respite for the player. This is the calm before the storm and really pushes Nathan Drake to the limits of his climbing capabilities.
One of the most surprising things about Uncharted 4 is the renewed focus on the climbing and traversal. Many sections of the game actually focus on getting to a certain place through climbing, something that Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune really focused on but the other titles did not. The climbing really feels like a return to form for Uncharted and it features fully in this chapter. At no point in the chapter do you ever have to fire a weapon and this really works to its favour. The rope and sliding sections, the two best new features of the game, also feature heavily here with both Nate and the player being fully pushed to the limit. Playing through the first time is exhilarating enough but even on subsequent playthroughs the gameplay remains fun and fast paced. Some of the later death defying leaps that Nate makes are truly jaw dropping and really combine the beauty of the environment with the entertainment that the series has consistently provided.
Through its combination of tension, beauty and a return to the climbing greatness that Uncharted really needed, Uncharted 4’s ‘Brother’s Keeper’ chapter is one of the best in gaming. Playing it the first time, replaying it and knowing what will happen and even just watching it is a sight to behold and really shows just how much effort and love Naughty Dog put into the last (and greatest) Uncharted. Every penultimate chapter or section in gaming should put as much care and attention as Naughty Dog did with their masterpiece.