Seeing More with Uncharted 4
“Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.” Well, by all early indications, it appears Naughty Dog has picked the perfect quote as a lead in to Uncharted 4, Nathan Drake’s first PS4 adventure. Truly, from all we’ve seen in trailers, screenshots, and events like the PlayStation Experience, it appears as though Drake will be exploring a dangerous, beautiful world and taking us along for the ride.
It’s a familiar, in terms of structure, though it will certainly be visually different than other installments. I mean that in the best possible way. Thanks to the power of the PS4, Nathan Drake and his travels around the world in search of treasure will look better than ever before. Advanced shading and lighting techniques will add a new sense of realism to the game, allowing more minute details to be incorporated. As one example, there will be 850 different facial poses in Uncharted 4, over 700 more than the last game.
Although, Uncharted 4’s evolution isn’t about presenting players with a prettier face; it’s also about content. Drake will be more adept at interacting with his environment and Uncharted 4 presents a world where everything seems accessible. Of course, there are some designated ledges and spaces where Drake will be able to parkour through the great outdoors. At the same time, it also feels like there are an equal number of unexpected areas to reach. Nathan can see a mountain in the background, and then need to approach and scale it. A new climbing tool, a pick, allows him to scale pockmarked, vertical walls that appear impassible.
Conversely, enemies appear to possess these same abilities to conquer terrain. As Drake hides, opponents can be seen leaping gaps and scattering around areas with similar levels of skill. It no longer feels like Nathan has some sort of super-human edge on his foes. They’re as adept and comfortable in the wilderness. Perhaps a little less knowledgeable about using ground cover or the environment to quickly take a moment for themselves, but still comfortable.
Keeping on the move is key. If there’s one thing all of the initial videos and trailers have confirmed, it’s that players will have to think on the run. Enemies are constantly canvassing the area, and standing still will get you spotted. Environments are full of their own hazards, and hesitation could get Drake crushed by a rockslide or thrown from an unbearably high place.
Rather, there’s a time and place for quiet moments. Perhaps taking time to look through Drake’s journal, which now looks and functions more like an actual book. Notes could be scribbled inside, and in the most recent footage the contents are large and clear enough to be read without additional narration. There could be an obviously safe space, where a player can take in the world around them, investigate things like remains of more unlucky adventurers or suspicious artifacts, or even appreciate the moment.
That sort of space is something Uncharted 4 players will undoubtedly need. Much of the story remains shrouded in shadows, but Naughty Dog has set out to create a situation that seems dire. Drake isn’t treasure hunting for fun. He’s being forced to undertake this latest adventure to save some of the people he loves, and its unclear what kind of consequences could stem from this. Could the people in danger be seriously hurt, perhaps even killed, due to his folly? Will there be a darker tone, now that the stakes are higher?
At least the Uncharted 4 casting can amuse players. Naughty Dog introduces Nathan’s brother, Sam, in this installment. Given that Nolan North was already busy voicing one character, it somehow feels fitting that the other most recognizable voice in games be tapped as his sibling. Fresh off of working together in Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor, Troy Baker and North are being thrown together again.
On a personal note, if I don’t start seeing North/Baker fan fiction as a result of their continued collaboration, I will be very disappointed. Though, knowing the internet, it probably exists already.
Uncharted 4 is still very much a work-in-progress. What we’ve seen so far are only glimpses of things to come. They’re hints at a larger world filled with more conflicts and adventures than Uncharted fans have seen before. It’s never smart to start exaggerating or encouraging hype before seeing more of a title’s scope before you. However, I will say that everything that has been revealed in small peeks and tastes has been savory and encouraging, and I am confident Uncharted 4 and Naughty Dog will surprise us again.