The original Uncharted was the Tomb Raider game we'd never really received.
A shameless rip-off of Lara Croft's adventures - climbing, shooting, looking for treasure in all the wrong temples - it nevertheless got right what the Tomb Raider series had been failing to achieve for the best part of ten years.
It was inevitable, then - if somewhat ironic - that Uncharted influenced Tomb Raider, when that series finally made a return that would capitalise on its existing brand-awareness.
There's much to like in the two TR reboots - certainly, I'd argue that they're better looking games than Uncharted 4, that the puzzles are more devious and clever - but I find it hard to love them.
And that's all about the central character, and her story. There's something chilly and unappealing about Lara Croft. She's so serious, so tortured, so clipped and humourless. By the second game, she's wracked with PTSD, thrusting ice axes into people's brains.
Nathan Drake shoots plenty of people, but he does it with a wink and a smile, and we love him for it. Mass murderers could learn a lot from him.
"Yes, I know he killed a lot of people in that train station, but he was just so charming about it..."
So we come to the fourth and reportedly final adventure in the life of Nathan Drake.
What's new? What's new feels weirdly familiar, as if the new gameplay elements had been there all along. This isn't reinventing a wheel, so much as it's clipping a playing card to the spokes.
There's a grappling hook - hardly revolutionary, but it opens up the levels in interesting ways - you can take down your enemies by stealth... and most of what would've once been shooting gallery-like encounters with pockets of enemies now take place in more open-world environments. There's also a slightly drawn-out driving section somewhere in the middle.
What's curious is that these additions aren't game-changers in the way they might be in other series. Yes, you can kill by stealth... but you can't hide the bodies. The ideas are sort of reheated from other games, and chucked in as a way to serve the story and the characters.
That story stumbles in a disappointing opening act - with a dodgy speedboat-based cold open, low-energy Young Nathan flashback, a lot of being led around a prison, and Nathan getting to explore his new domestic existence as if he hadn't already been living in his house for years.
Isn't it weird how characters in games do that? How often do you ever wander around the house, looking at random things that you own?
"What are you doing, dear?"
"I'm looking at some of the things I own."
"So that I can remember where I got them."
It's all about building character of course - establishing Nathan's previously unheard-of older brother - and setting up the emotional underpinning of the story. Which is fine, it just seems to take forever before the action really gets underway, as if Naughty Dog has become more focused on the story over the video game parts.
It also doesn't help that it takes a good few missions before the game starts looking proper next-gen. There's something oddly underwhelming about so much of the opening couple of hours.
Fortunately, once it gets going, Uncharted 4 is spectacular, and rarely lets up. Indeed, the final act is an almost too relentless, with its percussive mix of shoot-clamber-shoot-clamber-whoops-a-crumbly-ledge-shoot-clamber-whoops.
This might sound like a litany of issues, but Uncharted 4 once again manages to do what no other game series achieves: it makes its characters feel real.
Whether it's Nathan stopping to take in the smell of market food, or the simple way he grunts and strains as he hefts himself up yet another ledge, the characters feel as if they're aware of the world around them.
You don't get that in any other franchise - typically, game characters are like ghosts, until there's somebody who needs murdering.
There's also so much wit and humour on display in both the writing and the gameplay - undermining the tropes of the genre, while not being afraid to embrace them. A mid-game set piece in a clock tower ends in such an audacious and ridiculous way that it's hard not to admire the sheer cheek on display.
Even the in-game dialogue feels natural. In other games, if you were having a chat while you were driving a jeep, the conversation would either be cut short or cycle back round if you hit a rock - while the characters all went "Oof". In Uncharted, the characters ask "What were you saying before?".
So light is that touch that it does pull some of the drama out of what is, at its core, a darker tale than the series has tackled before. The stakes are higher, more personal - but the relationships, at least, feel believable.
And that's what I've always loved about Uncharted. It feels natural. Though they're performing feats that nobody could achieve in the real world, the characters nevertheless feel human. It's just a joy to spend time with these games, and Uncharted 4 is no exception. If this really is the end for Drake, Sully, Sam and Elena, I'm going to miss them.
SUMMARY: Uncharted 2 remains the high point of the series, but A Thief's End comes a close second.
SCORE: 8.89931199 out of 9.999123123