by Matthew Thompson
My most anticipated game is always the next Naughty Dog title. So for me this weekend’s PlayStation Experience was all about getting our first real look at Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. UC4 was the first game demoed during Sony’s opening keynote and it was a very impressive way to kick off the show.
The demo opened with some quieter moments featuring series hero Nathan Drake exploring some dank caves before climbing into a lush jungle. The stunning environments are loaded with small details that help the tropical forest come alive. As he explores, we see a few new tweaks to Nate’s repertoire of traversal maneuvers. He picks up a new climbing tool off a long dead explorer that allows him to bridge larger gaps between stable handholds. Sliding down slopes seems to be a more frequent feature in the new game. And Drake now has a grappling hook on his belt which can be used to swing across gaps similarly to the way he did on ropes scattered throughout earlier Uncharted games.
None of these are game-changers and this aspect of the series remains simple here. The best part about the traversal in Uncharted is the way it is worked into combat and Naughty Dog seems to have cranked this element up to 11 for the fourth entry in its treasure-hunting series. The enemy encounter that makes up the bulk of the keynote demonstration gives Drake plenty of rocks to clamber on which he can use to get the drop on baddies or as a way to sneak by prowling foes. One of the standout moments of the demo showed Nate swinging down around a corner on his new grapple to take someone out with a melee finisher before stealing their gun and snapping it towards someone perched on the cliff above him. Shooting while barreling down a slope showed another way Uncharted 4 would be further tying traversal into combat.
These aren’t the only ways Drake’s next adventure looks to put more options at your fingertips. This initial battle showed a much more open combat area with lots of different routes to utilize. Stealth looks to be a much more viable option than ever before. Along with plenty of climbing opportunities, you can hide in brush to slink through groups of hostiles. It now seems easier to lose pursuers and regain the element of surprise. Drake even left some of his opposition behind unharmed before moving forward in the game meaning a non-lethal approach is now at your disposal in some circumstances.
After the battle, the demo finishes with a short cutscene where Drake runs into the person he was looking for, a whole new adventure companion for the series who is apparently Nate’s brother. This acts as a nice tease for the story during an otherwise gameplay-focused showing for Uncharted 4.
In the past, Uncharted has wowed audiences with tantalizing setpieces when first shown to the public. This look at Uncharted 4 was largely lacking in those outside of a small scripted sequence towards the end and I think that was the way to go for this game. One of Uncharted 3’s failings was its attempt to out-setpiece its predecessor. Here Naughty Dog demonstrated how they have reworked the core mechanics and level design to create more dynamic combat scenarios in what will make up the bulk of the game. Improving this moment-to-moment gameplay is their best chance at topping Uncharted 2 and if this demo is any indication Drake’s next outing is headed in the right direction.