Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, “I’ll see you in another life, brother” - Games Weekly

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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, “I’ll see you in another life, brother”

When The Studio behind the Uncharted series and The Last Of Us rocks up to show off gameplay of its next huge PS4 exclusive, there is certainly going to be a lot of pressure on it to deliver. Did Naughty Dog manage to do that with the fifteen minutes of Uncharted 4 footage that appeared at PlayStation Experience? Yes. Absolutely.

The first thing that’s evident as the game slips seamlessly from cutscene into gameplay is that this should be a real showcase for the power of the PS4. We’re treated to some stunning views of the coast, with jagged rocks piercing a sea painted with hues of dark blue and turquoise, a cloudy dawn sky overhead. Off in the distance is an eye-catching mountain to which Drake is heading throughout the course of the demo. As he moves ever closer to his destination, the sun rises and we find ourselves overlooking a dense, lush rainforest, mist rising in the distance as the landscape rises to meet the mountain that cuts through the forest canopy. What we’re getting at is that this is an insanely detailed and good-looking game. Sceptics might argue that we’ve seen gameplay demos in the past that exceed what we actually get from the final release. That’s a fair point and one that’s worth bearing in mind, but, given Naughty Dog’s track record, we’re pretty confident that Uncharted 4 will look nothing short of outstanding on release.

It’s not only the attention to detail that’s evident in the construction of the environment in the Uncharted 4 demo (that environment is likely Île Saint-Marie, as you’ll know if you read our detective work in issue 246) that grabs the attention from a technical perspective, but also a bounty of contextual animations that add to the spectacle. After all, Uncharted has always been about giving you the sense that you’re in a blockbuster movie and small animation flourishes not only aid the sense of realism, but, during combat and climbing, just add a little salt and pepper to the steak.

By far the coolest example of one of those new animations is when Drake is under fire while atop a rocky outcrop and finds himself needing to make a rapid exit as a grenade is lobbed beside him. Drake leaps off of the platform, uses his grappling hook to latch on to a branch and swings round in a wide arc towards the enemy below him, leaping into a flying punch that knocks his foe out cold. In one of those aforementioned touches that adds to the action movie feel of Uncharted, Drake catches the enemy’s machine gun in mid-air and proceeds to start firing off shots without blinking an eye. Nice.

This footage isn’t just about showing how pretty Uncharted 4 is, then it’s about giving us a little look at some of the game’s new mechanics. Hopefully, that hook will add a new dimension to the game’s climbing, along with the introduction of the pick that we see Drake using to jam into soft rock and create a handhold for himself. While we've enjoyed climbing in Uncharted in the past, it’s fair to say that they are simplistic, so anything to add anything new to that aspect of the game is welcome.

Perhaps more intriguing than specific mechanics though, is the way that the area in which Drake is battling in this demo is designed. It seems to be more open than combat arenas we’ve seen in past Uncharted games, structured in a such a way that you are encouraged to constantly stay on the move, using the environment as a means to flank and surprise your enemies as you clamber around them. It seems like a cool way of blending Uncharted’s various aspects together ensuring that it’s no longer a case of ‘this is a climbing bit’ and ‘this is a shooting bit’. Being as we’ve only got a small section of the game on which to make any judgements, this may not be an accurate representation of the game, but we’d like to see this more open and fluid approach applied to the game at large.

Naughty Dog’s footage gives us hope that the PS4’s first Uncharted will be precisely what we want one that retains its focus on spectacle and adventure, while also introducing a few tweaks that makes gameplay a little less passive. It also leaves us with a little mystery: just who is the man that refers to Drake as “little brother”? A real relative? A comrade? A rival? Or something else altogether?

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