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Avant Garde Influences The Blockbuster In 'Uncharted 4'

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Tomorrow comes what is billed as the final chapter of one of the most popular videogame franchises. The "Uncharted" series has sold tens of millions of copies. A movie adaptation is in the works. Players hunt for hidden treasure as Nathan Drake, an Indiana Jones-like fortune hunter who never quite seems to get the fortune.

J.J. Sutherland and Chris Suellentrop of the podcast Shall We Play a Game have our review of "Uncharted 4: A Thief's End."

J.J. SUTHERLAND, BYLINE: "Uncharted" is "Raiders Of The Lost Ark" hopped up on speed and spoiling for a fight.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO GAME, "UNCHARTED 4: A THIEF'S END")

NOLAN NORTH: (As Nathan Drake) Coming through.

RICHARD MCGONAGLE: (As Victor Sullivan) Oh, this was really a great idea, Nate.

NORTH: (As Nathan Drake) Do you want to drive?

MCGONAGLE: (As Victor Sullivan) No, you're doing just fine.

CHRIS SUELLENTROP, BYLINE: One scene in the game in particular is what "Uncharted" fans have come to expect, a car chase in which you, as Drake, leap among cars, trucks, jeeps and motorcycles full of mercenaries. You're fighting, dodging, slipping, falling, shooting, escaping near-death.

SUTHERLAND: It's exhilarating, an homage to the famous Indiana Jones scene where Indy chases the Nazis and at one moment is being pulled behind a car by his bullwhip, but bigger, faster and kind of better.

SUELLENTROP: It's the kind of set piece that makes "Uncharted," well, uncharted. It's a high-stakes, high-action game.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO GAME, "UNCHARTED 4: A THIEF'S END")

TROY BAKER: (As Samuel Drake) So Nathan - and be honest with me - how does this stack up, you know, compared to your other adventures?

NORTH: (As Nathan Drake) Ask me again when we finish.

SUTHERLAND: There is always a fear when you get to number four in a franchise - "Rocky IV."

SUELLENTROP: "Star Wars: The Phantom Menace."

SUTHERLAND: "Police Academy 4."

SUELLENTROP: "Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull."

SUTHERLAND: (Laughter).

SUELLENTROP: It seems like creators just run out of ideas and start going through the motions, but video games are not always like that. "Grand Theft Auto IV" and "Call Of Duty 4" may be the best games for those blockbuster franchises.

SUTHERLAND: And the same thing is true here for "Uncharted 4." It's this iterative nature. They've really mastered their craft, you know - the kinks have been worked out, the mechanics are elegant and the timing is perfect.

SUELLENTROP: And don't be put off by jumping in at the fourth installment. The other games are great, but you won't miss a thing if this is your first foray with Nathan Drake.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO GAME, "UNCHARTED 4: A THIEF'S END")

EMILY ROSE: (As Elena Fisher) Turn around. We're heading for the falls.

NORTH: (As Nathan Drake) I can't. Current's too strong. Brace yourself.

ROSE: (As Elena Fisher) Nate, Nate, there - we can climb up those rocks.

NORTH: (As Nathan Drake) On it.

SUTHERLAND: But, Chris, this game is different. It does have a new creative team in charge, the makers of the acclaimed "Last Of Us." And they've obviously been taken in by your favorite type of game, the walking simulator.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO GAME, "UNCHARTED 4: A THIEF'S END")

ROSE: (As Elena Fisher) You were out there a long time.

NORTH: (As Nathan Drake) Well, I was researching something.

ROSE: (As Elena Fisher) Oh, is that what we're calling it these days?

NORTH: (As Nathan Drake) I was.

ROSE: (As Elena Fisher) Hey, would you mind grabbing the food? I'm just wrapping up here.

NORTH: (As Nathan Drake) Oh, yeah, sure thing.

ROSE: (As Elena Fisher) Thanks.

SUELLENTROP: What J.J. means by walking simulator is a huge Indy improvement using games to tell stories that don't include challenges like shooting or jumping or puzzles.

SUTHERLAND: Really boring stories.

SUELLENTROP: I like those scenes. There's a few chapters in the game where the action slows down, and it becomes a character study.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO GAME, "UNCHARTED 4: A THIEF'S END")

NORTH: (As Nathan Drake) Finish it?

ROSE: (As Elena Fisher) Yeah.

NORTH: (As Nathan Drake) Oh.

ROSE: (As Elena Fisher) You know, it's probably too long and full of typos, but that's what editors are for, right?

SUELLENTROP: It's the avant-garde influencing the blockbuster.

SUTHERLAND: Listen, just because a bunch of hipsters are smoking gawas (ph) and they think boredom gives us insight into the human condition...

SUELLENTROP: There are a couple of fantastic sections that explore Nathan's relationship with his brother. There's a meditation on marriage. This isn't Updike, but come on.

SUTHERLAND: Also hidden treasure, mysterious traps and lots of exploding zombies.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO GAME, "UNCHARTED 4: A THIEF'S END")

ROSE: (As Elena Fisher) Got one.

SUTHERLAND: And lots and lots of expendable mercenaries who add little to the plot, but do add to the challenge as you slaughter them in their scores. This is a great game.

SUELLENTROP: It is a great game, philistine.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE KNIFE SONG, "HEARTBEATS")

SHAPIRO: J.J. Sutherland and Chris Suellentrop host the podcast Shall We Play a Game. They reviewed "Uncharted 4: A Thief's End." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.