Monthly Soundtrack Reviews: Uncharted 4 - A Thief's End

Soundtrack: Uncharted 4 - A Thief's End
Album Art Source
Year: 2016
Composer: Henry Jackman, Alex Belcher (with a few hints of Greg Edmonson's scores peeking through) 
Stand Out Track: For Better or Worse
Works Well With: Big adventures,  relationship drama.

This review is spoiler free!

For the record, I am still sad that Greg Edmonson, for whatever reason, didn't return to score this game. The Uncharted 3 soundtrack is one of my all time favourites. But Henry Jackman isn't slacking here. The music for Uncharted 4 is fantastic. Well, okay, I'll be honest, it grew on me. A lot of music needs a few plays to be really appreciated. It's alright to not like something the first time. 

So, a couple of things hit me the first time I heard this score in game:

1) I love the arrangement of Nate's Theme (called A Thief's End this time around). The use of strings and drums added weight to an already brilliant piece of music. It was nearly my stand out track, but I wanted to go with something Jackman composed himself.
2) It does, at times, sound too much like Jackman's score to Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It's the brass/drum/string combination in tracks like Meet Me In Paradise that really sound similar. I'd say that's Jackman's musical signature. It does sound intense for sure!
3) The mellower pieces really capture the game's quieter, more thoughtful mood.
4) It sounds a bit generic action movieish at times.

So, first impressions were good but not as memorable as previous soundtracks in the series. When I bought the album and proceeded to listen to it several times without gunfire/talking/sound effects running over it, I definitely gained more appreciation for it. There's a distinct lack of musical diversity that I really love in the previous soundtracks, hence my feeling that it was a tad generic. There's no attempt to fit the music to the location like in the other games. Personally, I think it's because the story being told is less about where Nate's going, and more about what's happening in his own life. The music definitely reflects a personal journey. The Brothers Drake is full of promise, like adventure is just around the corner. I really love that quieter feel. For me, the soundtrack's strength is in its calmer pieces, and in the build up to the big battles - One Last Time is a great example of that. You can sense the journey Nathan Drake has been on - and not just in the game but over the course of his whole life. And my stand out track, For Better or Worse, captures his and Elena's relationship in such a thoughtful way. There's an ache to it, which I really can't go into without epic spoilers. But if you've got characters who love each other dearly, you have to listen to it. When I first played the game, this is the piece of music that really stood out to me. It's just so effortlessly beautiful. I really love it.

The ominous undertones of Avery's Descent work so well, too. There's an undercurrent of noise, a hum and a buzz the melody can't escape from. It's from one of my favourite sections of the game, and the music really captures the sinister atmosphere. Again, I don't want to spoil anything, so I won't say more.

When this soundtrack does get louder, it is every bit as bombastic as you'd expect an Uncharted score to be. Give Cut to the Chase a listen. It thumps with excitement and action. Perfect if you're writing a chase or a fight. Nearer the end of the album, you've got the brilliant No Escape. For me, it certainly inspires a feeling that maybe these characters aren't going to make it. Perfect for when you need to add tension.

If you like your videogame scores to sound like they'd slot right into a film, A Thief's End is absolutely perfect for you. And if you like Jackman's other work, this is a fantastic album to buy. For Uncharted fans, this is absolutely what the end of this series needed. It might not be as varied as the albums from the previous games in terms of instruments and styles, but it is exactly what the game's story needed.


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