Few games pull me in like the Uncharted series. Lovable characters, fantastic voice acting and great set-pieces mesh together perfectly in Sony’s premiere franchise. 16 minutes of gameplay show Naughty Dog still has it.
Nathan, Sam and Sully venture on to the plains of Madagascar 10 chapters deep in Uncharted 4. We’ve seen teases of this locale before, but this is the first time we’ve had a good look at the new open-world features introduced in Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End.
The first thing you’ll notice is just how damn good the game looks. It’s stunning. We hear rumblings of upgraded PS4 and Xbox One’s coming and then I see this.
I don’t know what black magic Naughty Dog uses, but can they let everyone else borrow it? The developer leaves no detail untouched. Whether it’s mud kicking up on the Jeep, or the banter between characters while you explore ruins. It’s the little things that sell you on what Naughty Dog is creating.
The wide-open nature of Madagascar is much different than how previous games played out. It’s no GTA V, but it does stand in contrast to how previous Uncharted games played. Those tended to be much more linear, cinematic experiences. Uncharted 4 is still cinematic, but Naughty Dog wanted to give players more options to traverse the environment, and Madagascar is just one example of the new more wide-open approach.
Audio and visual cues help you navigate the wide plains. Comments like ‘that bridge there is what you would call rickety,’ work much better than prompts saying ‘cross the bridge.’ Tire tracks indicate areas where you can drive that might not be immediately obvious. It feels much more intuitive than waypoints and prompts. The result is the same, but getting there feels much more fluid and natural.
The wide-open nature of the mission also extends to combat. Stealth has never been a word used to describe the Uncharted franchise. And A Thief’s End isn’t about to turn into Metal Gear Solid, but you can sneak around a bit more.
We see some of the new stealth features in action. You can mark enemies to help keep tabs on them as you move around. Enemies also have a stealth indicator. Yellow means they’re on alert. Orange means they’ve spotted you. Don’t worry. Several previews say you can turn these settings off. It’ll be the first thing I do on my playthrough.
You can’t talk about the latest footage without mentioning the grapple hook. You can opt for stealth if you want. Or, you can jump off a tower in your best Assassin’s Creed impression, hit your grappling hook and do a flying haymaker. Hmm, sneaking through the grass or flying haymaker? I know what I’ll be doing.
Naughty Dog is going all out for Nathan Drake’s last jaunt. Telling a great story while giving players freedom is something the developers have talked about frequently. The latest 16 minutes of gameplay is our best example yet of this. Will this freedom extend to the entire game? We’ll see for ourselves when Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End releases on May 10, 2016. Now, I’m going to go back and watch that gameplay again. And dream about what Uncharted 4 could look like on the rumored upgraded PS4.