Sony kick-started its inaugural PlayStation Experience keynote in style Saturday morning, opening with a jaw-dropping 15-minute gameplay demo of Naughty Dog’s hotly anticipated PlayStation 4 sequel, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. After drip-feeding us ambiguous teasers for the past 12 months or so, this was the first time the gaming public were able to clap eyes on just how Drake’s latest adventure looks and plays—and it was all live, right down to Drake falling spectacularly through the floor to his death in an embarrassing glitch.
Hiccups aside, this was unquestionable one of the biggest reveals of the year. Not only did it allow fans of the treasure hunting franchise to see how the game is shaping up, but amazingly, it also succinctly demonstrated just how much Naughty Dog has tweaked its Indiana Jones-’em-up to perfection for its next-generation debut. This is Uncharted, yes, but Drake has more than a few new tricks up his sleeves, as does his enemies.
With that said, PSU decided to cobble together everything we know about Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End after thoroughly dissecting its sumptuous gameplay reveal. Check out our findings below.
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DRAKE IS MORE STEALTHY
One of the most prominent new features that the demo showcased was Drake’s ability to hide in vegetation to evade his enemies, Assassin’s Creed-style. Our cocky hero was seen crouching amidst some superbly-animated shrubbery, while his foes went about their patrols, seemingly oblivious to his presence. Even from 15 minutes of action, it’s obvious this will add a whole new dimension to gameplay, as previous Uncharted games were pretty iffy when it came to stealth; the only way to remain hidden was to take cover, and even then, enemies will sometimes miraculously spot you. This time around, it looks like stealth is a major component, with Drake circumventing whole sections without firing a single shot. Does this mean the days of dispatching every bad guy before you are allowed to progress have come to an end? We hope so.
ENEMY AI HAS BEEN BUMPED UP CONSIDERABLY
Uncharted’s AI was functional but hardly the most accomplished series when compared to its contemporaries. However, from the look of things, Naughty Dog has drastically improved the intelligence of the armed goons Drake will be going toe-to-toe with in his upcoming PS4 adventure. For starters, enemies now seem to be more proactive in searching for you, and also comment to their teammates while searching for their quarry. There’s more of a group mentality feel to Drake’s foes this time around as a result. Most notable however, is the fact these goons–who appear to be of South African origin—can now scale walls and hop around the environment, giving them a clear edge over their predecessors. Expect a more tenacious threat this time around, then.
CLIMBING WILL BE MORE DIVERSE
Uncharted 4’s demo certainly wasn’t light on climbing, but one thing that stuck out like a sore thumb is that Drake can now apparently wield a pick-axe to scale certain surfaces. This was demonstrated a few times in the live demo, where our cocky hero would leap over to a rough-looking surface, whip out his pick-axe, and dig into the rock, allowing him to climb up, ala Lara Croft from the Tomb Raider reboot last year. This looks set to making the platforming sections far more dynamic, as previously, Nate would simply scale any surface that was climbable; now, it looks like the player has more input, and must carefully pick and choose the right tools for the job, or risk plummeting to their death. He’s also seen using a grappling hook of some description, used to great effect when crossing large chasms, as well as getting the drop on unsuspecting enemies.
DRAKE AND HIS BROTHER WERE IN SOME SORT OF SHIP WRECK
During the middle part of the demo, Drake encounters a band of mercenaries chatting amongst themselves regarding the whereabouts of two troublemakers—presumably Drake and his older sibling, Sam. One of the interesting tidbits garnered from this chinwag is the fact they mention how they managed to ‘survive the wreck,’ which considering the fact Drake’s on an island, we presume means he was involved in some sort of shipwreck with his brother. This ties in neatly with the E3 2014 teaser trailer, where we see a battered and bruised Drake seemingly washed up on shore. Whether or not they were wrecked by natural means or from their enemies remains to be seen, but it sounds like a bumpy ride ahead for the Drake Brothers.
THE ISLAND IS LIKELY IN MADAGASCAR
Something the demo solidified for us is the supposed location of the island when combined with previous info released on the game. First, cast your mind back to last year’s debut teaser, where we clapped eyes on a wrinkly old map marked with an X; the general consensus this is the south-eastern area of Africa, specifically the Island of Saint Mary, just off of the east coast of Madagascar. Next, the E3 trailer depicts pirate skeletons in gibbets—a popular method of execution for piracy centuries ago—and Madagascar just happened to be a popular hotspot for pirates during this era. Fast forward to the gameplay demo, and Drake mentions that his brother has ideas of a ‘pirate treasure,’ which ties in nicely with the above themes. Also, the island, with its razor-sharp rocks, jungles, and vast vegetation, all combine to make the Madagascar setting theory a snug fit. It’s also a notorious spot for shipwrecks, something which we mention above.
DRAKE’S TRUSTY JOURNAL IS BACK (AND SO IS SIR FRANCIS DRAKE)
A staple of the Uncharted series has been Drake’s trusty journal, which stores all his musings and clues regarding his adventure. Naughty Dog has continually expanded its role with each game, and from the look of things, it’s back once again for A Thief’s End. We clearly see Drake flick through the pages in the demo after prying a map from a corpse’s boney fingers; what’s more, we also catch a glimpse of Sir Francis Drake’s mug shot for a brief moment. Hopefully, we’ll see the journal have more impact ala Golden Abyss in this latest installment.
Uncharted 4 is due out on PS4 in 2015.