The Uncharted franchise has long been one of the most popular in video games. The developers at Naughty Dog have expertly crafted a series of adventures that balance heart-pounding action with a great story, and with Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, they’re back at it once again.
During their E3 2015 press conference, Sony Computer Entertainment gave the world a taste of what to expect from Nathan Drake with the franchise’s fourth installment. We watched that gameplay demo, and then we watched it again. We went back to the demo from the PlayStation Experience in 2014 and spent some time studying that as well, doing our best to get a complete idea of what Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End will be like. Here are some of our first impressions.
The movement in the game appears to be very fluid. Unlike some titles that see characters bumping into objects or clipping through them, Nathan Drake reacts to his environment at all times. If he’s walking through a crowd he will put his hand on someone to gently nudge them out of his way. If he’s trying to vault from one ledge to another, he will point in the direction he wishes to move. We even saw him push off a rock that he got rather close to. What all of this adds up to is a more immersive experience for the player, as walls and objects aren’t just an on-screen visual, but rather interactive components to Nathan Drake’s environment. Even if the interaction between the character and object is subtle, it makes the world feel more alive.
We must also speak of the climbing mechanics, as those were a big part of the PlayStation Experience gameplay demonstration back in 2014. Players will notice that most surfaces that you can grab on to are marked with a subtle bit of discoloration, or perhaps just have a ledge that looks rather inviting. We also noticed that with every move that Mr. Drake takes, his body will swing from the momentum to build on that feeling of fluidity that we spoke of earlier.
There was also quite a bit of vehicle gameplay shown at E3 2015, but rather than have us talk about that all over again, feel free to read our Uncharted: 4 High Speed Chase Gameplay thoughts.
The cover system in Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End appears to blend very well with movement and the life-like world that players will find themselves in. For example, cover isn’t permanent. In the E3 2015 gameplay demo, we saw Nathan Drake seeking cover behind some fairly weak looking boxes and stands, and as you would expect, bullets tore these apart in no time at all, forcing the player to move to another position. We also noticed that the demonstrator was able to move seamlessly from one bit of cover to the next, rounding a corner without having to stand up and reset. This allowed Mr. Drake to work his way into a flanking position where he could attack the target that seemed to have the upper hand only moments earlier.
From what we’ve seen of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, there are a lot of moving parts to the combat system, as it ties directly into the cover and movement mechanics that we’ve already talked about. From a cover standpoint, gamers will notice that they can peek out and shoot at their foes, or they can blindly fire from behind cover. The option you choose will be crucial, however, as your aim will be drastically reduced when you blindly fire.
The combat system also seems to contain some minor quick-time events (QTE), not unlike what you would have experienced in The Last of US. We saw examples of Nathan Drake attacked from behind, forced to mash the triangle button to shake off the threat. We saw a similar instance when he pulled a man off a cliff, only to have that foe grab his leg and hang on for dear life. In both cases, a few quick button mashes and all was well.
Perhaps the most exciting example of combat came in combination with the movement. On more than one occasion we saw Nathan Drake leap from a great height, delivering a devastating punch to an enemy below, and then grabbing that foe’s weapon from mid-air without missing a beat. It definitely had an Indiana Jones feel to it (as many things Uncharted do), and looks to be a very welcome addition to an already fantastic arsenal of Nathan Drake maneuvers.
As with any Naughty Dog game, the voice acting seemed as on point as everything else that we were able to study. We’re not just speaking about the conversation, either. We’re also talking about every bump, jump and hard landing that players will put the protagonist through. Each time something physical happens to Nathan Drake, he’ll respond with a grunt, as will all of the enemies that he faces on his journey. Fill a bad guy full of bullets and see him fall from a ledge, and he’ll scream in horror all the way down. We know we’re beginning to sound like a broken record here, but all of these components and the detail that has gone into them is what has us already feeling great about Uncharted 4.
Of course, we’re all going to have to bury that excitement deep inside until 2016, as that is the rough release date that we have for Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. There are still plenty of Great Looking Video Games to get hyped for though, so don’t worry too much about having to wait to get reacquainted with Nathan Drake.