Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End – Hands-On

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I had the opportunity to sit down last week with Josh Scherr, one of the writers at Naughty Dog responsible for Uncharted 4. We talked about some of the changes that came with the move to PlayStation 4 before I got some time alone with the game.

The mystery in the game lies with Henry Every, a real-life pirate from the late 1600’s who pulled off one of the biggest heists in the world and then vanished without a trace. Nobody knows what really happened to him, making his story the perfect driving force behind the next Uncharted.

** WARNING **
A general overview of the story setup follows. If you’ve been avoiding all such information and want to go into the game “clean” do not expand this text.

General Background

The section of the game I played takes place on Madagascar near a fictional city called Kings Bay which is based on an actual city that used to be a pirate colony. Nate, Sam, and Sully are looking for the treasure somewhere around a series of watchtowers Every set up in the shadow on a long extinct volcano.

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With the additional power the PlayStation 4 affords, the developers at Naughty Dog have been able to create much larger levels than in previous Uncharted games and this changes things, for the better I think. They’re not going full-on open world but it does give the player more choices in how to approach things.

How exactly does this come into play? Well we saw a bit of it at E3 where the 4×4 was being chased through a town allowing the driver to choose between multiple paths. I had a massive, open-ish area to explore on my way to the first watch tower.

… more depth than previous installments …
This isn’t Just Cause 3 or The Witcher 3, you can’t just go anywhere. The Uncharted series is more about a focused narrative and proper pacing. What this new openness affords is some room to breathe and a new way to approach combat.

When driving in the 4×4, it’s not a “Jeep” (licensing), you’ll feel a lot more in control of things. I was able to wander, within reason, and take my time getting to the ultimate objective. There’s plenty of banter along the way which should give the game even more depth than previous installments in the series.

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You’ll also find that’s it’s not just a simple, drive from Point A to Point B with some latitude. The terrain comes into play and you’ll have to figure out how to get past some physical obstacles with hills, mud, rocks, water, and such. The 4×4 has a winch as well, and you’re going to need it.

The nice thing about this, for people like me anyway, is that you can spend all kinds of time looking around for collectibles and just checking out the area since you can get out of the vehicle at any time and explore on foot.

… flesh out the backstory a bit …
Along with the classic Treasure collectibles the Uncharted series is known for, a nice addition has been brought over from The Last of Us. The infected… nah, just wanted to see if you’re paying attention.

Actually it’s the documents, which can help flesh out the backstory a bit or be skipped entirely. As one of my favorite things in The Last of Us I’m thrilled that they’ve been brought to Uncharted as well.

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Nate’s journal is back as well but this time it doesn’t just fill up automatically with everything. Many optional or hidden things can be found and added to the journal so by the end of the game mine may end up looking very different than yours depending on your playthrough.

Movement is incredibly smooth and stealth has been expanded greatly. Hide in high grass, mark enemies (with no limits), and watch for stealth indicators on enemies. Similar to Assassin’s Creed, they will see “something” and get curious but you’ll have an opportunity to get away from their line of site.

… completely bypass using stealth …
Depending on how long they saw you, an enemy will either think nothing of it and walk away, get curious and come investigate, or sound the alarm because they’ve full-on spotted you. The areas are big enough now that even if you’re spotted you could potentially get far enough away and hide that they’ll go back to a normal patrol, though a much more intense one.

The nice thing about the changes is that there are a number of encounters in the game that you could completely bypass using stealth, much like The Last of Us. It really changes things up for the better in terms of gameplay and “realism” by giving you that choice.

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Another great addition, especially for people who may want to try a few different approaches, is that in addition to “Restart Checkpoint” you can now “Restart Encounter” since checkpoints don’t always put us where we want to be.

During my playthrough I decided to try stealth first. I was spotted before I even got into cover because I approached the area too close to the guards. Dead. For my second approach I swung around to the left and took out the sniper first. Unfortunately that alerted the many guards on the ground around me who attacked from all sides. Dead.

… come at it from different angles …
Believe it or not, I was actually having fun with this. Next, I approached from the right, took out a guy with a silent kill and found a sniper rifle. I then tried to use that from a distance to take everyone out. Unfortunately my position was terrible with little cover. Dead.

Then I tried the same approach but after the stealth kill I decided to quietly climb the tower and take out the sniper and then sit in to tower picking bad guys off. A bit more successful but still not much cover.

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You start to get the idea here. The area for this encounter isn’t overly large but there’s enough space to come at it from different angles and try to take a more Metal Gear or Assassin’s Creed approach to the combat.

I really like what I saw and I’m very happy with the direction Naughty Dog took with the game. Pacing is important when you’re telling a big story but having that little bit of freedom to choose you approach makes all the difference in the world.

… one of the many ways to approach the area …
This is something that was explored in The Last of Us and they’ve expanded and refined it for Uncharted 4. From what I played, they’re on the right track. I can’t wait to dig into the full game when it’s released on May 10, 2016.

Check out the video below showing the level I played through. This was provided by Naughty Dog and Sony and it shows just one of the many ways to approach the area, with a lot of stuff that I didn’t try. Something else to keep in mind is that I took around forty minutes to complete the same area with minimal exploration. I joked with Josh from Naughty Dog that I could spend about four hours in that area alone when the game comes out and really, I wasn’t exaggerating all that much.

 

Written by Josh Langford

Josh Langford

Josh has been gaming since 1977 starting with the Atari 2600.
He currently owns 25 different consoles and 6 different handhelds (all hooked up and in working condition) including all consoles from the current generation – minus the Switch.

Josh is currently the US PR & Marketing Manager for Fountain Digital Labs and has recused himself from any involvement on PS Nation arising from posting or editing any news or reviews stemming from FDL.

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