by Matthew Thompson
(Throughout the next couple of weeks, I will be posting impressions and reactions to some of the games shown off at E3 based on info I’ve gleaned from watching demos and interviews online. Enjoy!)
At the end of 2014, we got our first substantial look at Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. It focused on the core moment-to-moment gameplay and looked superb. It showed us some new features, but more than anything it depicted a much more open combat scenario, overflowing with options and avenues for the player to take, which is exactly what I want from my enemy encounters. My big takeaway from the E3 demo is how a lot of what we saw in that initial showing will likely permeate most aspects of the game.
That may not have been immediately obvious at the open of Uncharted 4’s E3 demonstration. The opening fight looks similar to a many we’ve played in the past. It wasn’t quite as open as the one shown at PSX, but it did show Naughty Dog doing what they’ve always done to create interesting combat scenarios for Drake and company by throwing a wrench into the usual cover-based gunplay. We’ve seen our scrappy hero fight off armed men as a building collapsed around him or while trying to escape a sinking ship. Here we see him dogged by an armored gun truck reminiscent of Uncharted 2’s tank encounter, forcing him to stay on the move as it tears through cover. It is a fun battle that shows Drake using his usual skills to take out baddies through a combination of fisticuffs, well-placed bullets and even climbing up on a roof to get the literal jump on a foe, all the while trying to stay one step ahead of his much more fortified foe. But it is the next segment that really wowed me.
Vehicles have always played a large part in the Uncharted series, but seldom have they put players in the driver’s seat which the developers are promising to do more often in Nate’s PS4 romp. That on its own sounds really cool, but what I loved most about the segment shown off a couple of weeks ago was how it featured the openness that we saw from the combat last year. As Drake and Sully barreled down the winding streets of the Madagascan town evading their pursuer, there were clearly a lot routes open to the player. Ultimately they will all lead to the same place, but I love how that greater freedom Uncharted 4 seems to be affording players is managing to stretch into even the setpieces. That goes for other new elements as well like the grappling hook which sees itself integrated into one those classic action setpieces here too.
One more piece of intriguing intel coming out of E3 is how the jeep (and perhaps other vehicles) will play a role in the series’ explorative side. There will be other parts in the game where you will be able to drive around and actually get out of the jeep when you want. And I could even see it working its way into puzzle-solving which they have already mentioned will be the case with the grapple.
There were a number of other things worth noting from the game’s E3 showing. They are billing this as Nathan Drake’s last Uncharted game. Assuming that is true, you can’t close things out without Sully (who featured prominently in the demo) or my personal favorite Elena who apparently pops up in the extended version and can be seen in the screen above. Getting our first look at those two on PlayStation 4 was certainly a nice bonus. I was also astounded by the amount of small details shown in the demo. The sandbags deflating because of gunfire and Nate trying to stay low enough to remain in cover. All the destructible pieces and tiny little things we see as the boys fly by in the jeep section; those may never be examined by players, but it is clear the developers want to create this believable, beautiful, dense world. And based on what we have seen so far, they are doing just that and Uncharted 4 looks absolutely gorgeous to boot.
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End was the highlight of E3 for me and I just love what Naughty Dog is doing with the game. They are creating a more open experience without losing that fast-paced, rollicking adventure vibe that lies at the heart of the series. They are adding fun new features, but making sure they are integrated into all facets of the gameplay. And it all comes with the technical expertise we have come to expect from Naughty Dog. If this truly is Drake’s final adventure, he looks to be going out on a high note and I can’t wait to play it next year.