Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End has been on my radar for a long time now, so when I was invited to a hands on preview event ahead of the games release in May, I was more than excited to check out the game. We were given a brief from the Director of Communications at Naughty Dog, Arne Meyer, who spoke about the game’s development and the amount of research the team did on pirate history for the game, which was a lot. He also explained some of the new features in the game, including improved stealth mechanics, bigger more open environments and vehicles.
The preview started with the three main characters, looking across a huge open field in a Jeep that is controlled by the player – a first for the Uncharted series. Me being the car nut that I am decided the first thing to do would be to find out if the Jeep can drift. I am happy to report, that it can. A simple squeeze of the left trigger around a muddy corner will send the car sideways, or if you are feeling a bit more adventurous, the square button will engage the handbrake. I was driving around the gorgeous environment doing burnouts, drifts and jumps for the first 10 or so minutes but then decided to actually play the game. I will say that I’m not sure exactly how much the Jeep will come into play, but I’m hoping it is a lot.
The driving controls are really tight for a game that’s never done vehicles before. I found it to be quite enjoyable just thrashing around and also challenging when you had to climb a slippery slope or carefully navigate a rickety bridge. The Jeep also has a winch which serves as a way to go across more challenging terrain to access new parts of the environment. The winch is actually a lot of fun to use, especially because it isn’t just a quick time event or animation. I had to actually get out of the car, climb up a muddy hill and walk around a tree, then attach the winch to itself, get back to the car and drive up. I also had to bring down an old bridge which was in the way by attaching the winch to one of the old wooden stumps holding it up and reversing until it came crashing down. Super cool stuff!
The combat in Uncharted 4 is better than ever. Uncharted’s shooting always felt a bit clunky to me, but I still played it and loved it. Uncharted 4 has made some substantial improvements to the combat, cover, stealth and movement mechanics. Running around, getting into cover, climbing, melee combat and swinging around using your grappling hook is slick and fluid. I really enjoyed rushing into the middle of a bunch of enemies and knocking one out, dive rolling out of the way and quickly getting into cover. It feels so refined and thought out, you can really tell that effort has been made to make this feel as solid as possible.
There are small ‘dynamic events’ that take place in a firefight, which make for some interesting moments. One example of this was in my first play through of the preview, I was in cover and an enemy came up behind me without me noticing. Out of nowhere Sully, who was standing near me, rushed over to help. I quickly hit the melee button and knocked the enemy away, then Sully finished him off. It felt like co-op, like I had a real friend helping me. The second play through, I was in a different spot, in cover and the enemy flanked me. Sully was a bit further away dealing with his own problems so I had to deal with this one alone. It’s little moments like that which really made the game feel authentic to me. I like that sometimes I will be able to rely on other characters, but if they are backed into a corner themselves then it’s all on me.
There has also been a significant improvement in the way that stealth works. You can now ‘mark’ enemies by looking at them and clicking the right stick down. This allows you to track enemies even if they leave your field of view. It’s a welcomed feature especially because Uncharted 4 has some of the biggest environments to date. There is also a sort of ‘alert status triangle’ which changes colour depending on whether or not your enemy is about to see you, suspicious or actively engaging you. Apparently if you break the line of sight, you can reset the alert status although it’s rather hard to do and I definitely wasn’t able to pull it off.
I explored a small part of one of the large environments, found a bunch of bad guys to blow up and in true Uncharted fashion, had a blast (pun intended) doing it. Uncharted 4 looks like the best Uncharted game yet and I can’t wait to check out the full game in a few weeks. Check out the video below for 15 minutes of unedited gameplay!
Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below, or on Twitter @pikalew.