The hour grows late as I sit down to write this first impressions piece. Like many of you, we here at TechRaptor had to wait to play the most recent offering from Naughty Dog until launch day and I'd never be able to sleep tonight if I didn't get my initial thoughts about Uncharted 4: A Thief's End out now.
Let's get this out of the way first. Uncharted 4 is magnificent looking. Enough said.
If you've played Uncharted games before, you know what kind of a package you're in for here. Playing Uncharted 4 is like sliding into a pair of really comfortable slippers, or coming back home after you've been on an extended vacation. All of the series staple game-play mechanics are here as the player controls the ever charming Nathan Drake around many an amazing location in search of historical artifacts. You climb, take cover, and negotiate the environment in stunning locals to get to your next objective or story beat and when Drake runs into human challenges he removes them with bullets. Everything has been improved and refined. Shooting feels more fluid than before, and enemies take fewer shots to bring down. However, that feeling of floating you get while aiming remains. What I noticed, in particular, is that even though I'm a seasoned Uncharted veteran, Naughty Dog did a fantastic job of integrating new gameplay mechanics into the narrative in a way that was natural and progressive. Through the game's storytelling, it subconsciously taught me everything that I needed to complete later stages.
The climbing has also been improved, as you navigate up cliff sides and other types of terrain everything is more responsive, and in general Drake grabbed hold on what I wanted him to. Gone are the days of lighted and color coded grab points which forced me to look around and examine where I tried to jump to next. Everything feels more natural than past entries in the series, and that helped to immerse me in the experience that I was the closest thing akin to Indiana Jones. Newly added to aid the player in scaling surfaces is the grappling hook or rope, and it's every bit as fun as you've seen in all the trailers. I spent time with the first nine chapters of Uncharted 4 tonight, and once I unlocked the ability to rope swing/tackle an enemy from above I spent most of my fights trying to use that tactic to my advantage. I don't think it'll ever get old.
Stealth has been a part of the series since the mechanic's introduction in Among Thieves, but it takes on a new identity in Nate's fourth outing. Areas are more open now and usually contain patches of tall grass that I could hide in and take down an unsuspecting guard on patrol. It is a little disappointing that there is no way to distract a guard or lure them into your ambush. I would imagine that in a post Assassin's Creed and Metal Gear Solid world that these two things would be necessary for including stealth into your game, but Naughty Dog has chosen to leave that out.
Right now the story is on par with the other three titles in the series, but it's a little difficult to care about Drake's long lost brother Sam, but that's really just because after three numerical entries in the franchise and one Vita title this is the first time we've heard about him. Mostly, Sam serves as a very well voice acted spring board to get the story moving, but that could change after the final credits have rolled. Storytelling is something that Uncharted has always done very well and It's not the action that has stuck with me for this small amount of play time, but instead, it's the new life that Nathan and Elena have built for themselves that I can't stop smiling at.
Drake's Fortune came out way back in 2007, I was nineteen, and, just like Nathan Drake, I too have grown over the course of the past decade. I won't spoil anything, but when we see Nathan and Elena in their opening moments, I can't help but see myself in them. Here we have these treasure hunters, who once were jet setting to every corner of the globe who are now struggling with adjusting to a normal life. Nate and Elena are happy, yet also torn between settling down and accepting the life they have while still wanting that action, still addicted to the bullets. I see myself in that. Not the bullets, as I've never been shot at, but my wife and I are expecting our first child this year. Going from a life of parties and bars and racing the sunrise home to getting ready for an infant can change your life's perspective.
For Drake, and for me, there's a sense of nostalgia as you explore Nate and Elena's house early on and I encourage you to take your time in any given area as the environmental storytelling from The Last of Us returns here. As I started to find all of the little treasures and notebooks from Drakes Fortune, Among Thieves and Drake's Deception I realized that coming back to Uncharted now felt like seeing an old friend.
Everything about my brief time with Uncharted 4 so far has me wanting to go back for more. There's still more caves to explore, treasures to find, bad guys to rope punch, and whole helping of multiplayer goodness to chew through before our final review goes up. If this is truly Drake's last outing, then It's shaping up to be a memorable one.
Uncharted 4: A Thief's End is being reviewed on the PlayStation 4 with a copy purchased by the reviewer. The GIF on this page was provided via Sony's press materials.