For many PlayStation 4 owners, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End has been one of the most anticipated games for Sony’s latest home video game console. The Naughty Dog franchise is a PlayStation cornerstone and a guaranteed E3 press conference feature, but has been delayed quite a few times raising some concerns. The latest title has been delayed three times despite a beta test earlier this year. On the other hand, Sony has kept expectations high and even though it’s not the focus of this website or editorial, the multi-player beta seems to have been a hit with gamers as well as the gaming press.
Before I get too far into this, I must confess that I didn’t like Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception quite as much as Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. I will admit the third chapter was visually breathtaking and one of the best looking games I’ve ever seen, in either 2D or 3D. I just felt like the whole formula was a bit tired, with too much reliance on quick-time events, and the story wasn’t quite as compelling as its predecessor. That being said, there is absolutely no way that I’m going to miss Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End.
According to the developer, Uncharted 4 will take place several years after Nathan Drake’s last adventure. Now married, the retired fortune hunter is of course pulled back in when his brother, Sam, resurfaces. While A Thief’s End is guaranteed to be an action-packed, globe-trotting treasure hunt, Nathan Drake’s family ties and other relationships will likely make it a much more personal tale. It’s this kind of character depth in the narrative that makes Naughty Dog’s new franchise, The Last of Us, such a beloved game.
One thing the last Uncharted game did do was explore Nathan Drake’s early years. Hopefully, this will have some effect on how the narrative for the new game plays out. Along those lines, Creative Director Neil Druckman, also The Last of Us’ creative director, did imply in an interview with Game Informer that things that happen early in your life tend to linger with you. The piece actually goes pretty far into Drake’s inner conflicts and how his outward facade isn’t necessarily who he is on the inside. All of that indicates something we haven’t seen before in the series.
What’s also new to Uncharted is the addition of dialogue choices. While this mechanic is unlikely to have the same impact it does in games from Bioware or even TellTale, it does show that Naughty Dog is concerned with giving players greater agency and investment in Nathan Drake. As I mentioned before, the series does have a new creative director, and there is a justifiable concern that Uncharted 4 very well might have a much darker tone than its predecessors. While I’d personally appreciate a more impactful narrative, I can understand why others wouldn’t. Though I seriously doubt it will be dark enough to garner an M rating from the ESRB.
Of course a game like Uncharted isn’t all about the narrative. Each of the preceding games have been mechanically sound even if they aren’t exactly groundbreaking. With Uncharted 4, some real effort has been put into the game mechanics and AI – for both companions and enemies. In another Game Informer piece, it was revealed that Drake’s animations have been completely overhauled, and that his climbing motions alone use more memory than his entire moveset from Uncharted 3. As for the AI, companions have always played a big role in the series and this time around, Naughty Dog promises they will be pretty competent on their own. The enemy AI roles have also been drastically expanded. After playing the beta, I’m pretty impressed with how the actual gameplay works.
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End will mark the end of the Uncharted series and with new direction is likely to end on slightly different tone than how it all started. Depending on your expectations, that can be either a good or bad thing. As I mentioned before, I found Uncharted 3 to be a little flat, so I welcome a more mature narrative, though I’m sure at least a portion of the game’s audience will feel otherwise. I was also really impressed by the gameplay mechanics, especially the combat, in the multiplayer beta, and expect that aspect of the game to be pretty solid on the PlayStation 4. If nothing else, the sheer amount of effort put into improving that aspect of the game is enough to inspire confidence in the final result. Uncharted is, without a doubt, an essential PlayStation title, and there’s really almost no reason to skip the finale.
With Uncharted 4’s release right around the corner, the most likely flaw is in the execution of the narrative, but I’ve seen enough to be confident that the series’ finale will be its best chapter yet.
The opinions in this editorial are the author’s and do not represent OnlySP as an organization.
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