This is what we’ve all been waiting for; finally, a proper look at Naughty Dog’s next game, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. But does it live up to the immense expectation riding upon its shoulders? You’re damn right it does. Kicking off Sony’s PlayStation Experience Keynote was the premiere of a fifteen minute gameplay demo that showcases all of the things that we love about Uncharted: action, laughs and adventure, as well as some new features that build on the series’ awesome formula.
As the demo begins, we see our hero Nathan Drake standing upon some cliffs overlooking a jagged mountain range in the distance. He turns around to face the camera, and it becomes apparent that somewhere between Drake’s Deception and A Thief’s End, Nate has developed some seriously realistic facial features. The movements in his face, along with the sweat trickling down his brow, are incredibly realistic. Later on, he takes out Francis Drake’s journal to have a look at some lovely drawings, and it is then that we can see the most lifelike human hands present in any video game. Period.
Throughout, the visuals are absolutely fantastic. Water cascades through caves and transmits wavy reflections across natural surfaces; light filters through cracks in foliage to light up the greens, browns and blues of the environment; rock feels like it has weight to it, as dripping and footsteps produce realistic reverberations. Even the plants are beautiful. Other huge games, especially Grand Theft Auto, get away with slotting pieces of virtual cardboard together to make leaves and bushes, but here they are shaped correctly into tapers, tails and stems.
Towards the middle section of the demo, in typical Uncharted style, Drake picks a fight with some no good foes, and must battle his way through them to a section of safety. This area feels much more sprawling and explorative than the zones in previous games. Multiple paths can be taken around rocky protrusions under grassy shelves. There also seems to be an emphasis on stealth this time around: It’s possible to crawl through long plants in order to hide from enemies, and if Drake manages to shelter himself from their attention, they will begin to search for him. If he successfully evades them, they once again return to a state of passivity. Naughty Dog has clearly been able to produce this as a development of The Last of Us’ nerve-racking combat system.
Stealth is one thing on offer here, but so is outright action. While this has always been a staple in Uncharted, this demo ups the ante slightly in terms of scrambling firefights. Drake runs, shoots and punches like he usually does, but there are moments when definitely he goes ‘Full-Indy.’ We are of course referring to his fancy new rope manoeuvres, as he crosses gaps using a ‘whip,’ to land on top of enemies with devastating punches. Ledge grabbing is also no longer just a cinematic, as pulling an adversary off now involves a series of frantic button presses. The action has now heightened and remains continuous.
While slight additions have been made, much has remained the same. Drake may have a new tool to climb with, but nothing has really changed here; he still shimmies up walls in the direction that the coloured rocks points him. The combat emphasises action as well as stealth, but it still has that run-and-gun aspect that has always been present. Drake is of course his usual witty self; saying to a skeleton, “You tried to climb up there…in those boots?”
Nothing has been greatly altered, but in no way is that a negative criticism. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is exactly what we want it to be: Uncharted at its very best.