Madagascar may be best known for its goofball cast of personified zoo animals, but some even bigger idiots are on their way to the enormous African island. Uncharted 4: A Thief's End will find protagonist Nathan Drake and his familial allies Victor 'Goddamn' Sullivan and Sam Drake exploring the outback in search of missing pirate Henry Avery's historical score – and we recently got to ride shotgun with the trio as we road tripped our way through 30 minutes or so of Naughty Dog's hotly anticipated PlayStation 4 exclusive.
The legendary developer's using lots of buzzwords like 'wide linear' to describe its latest game, but they all boil down to the same thing: this is the biggest entry in the Uncharted franchise yet. That's not to say that the spectacle's necessarily being amped up – the studio's talked about ways in which it wants to make the set-pieces more personal – but simply that the scale of the locations has been increased. Madagascar underlines this ambition perfectly because, while it's not fully open world, it's unlike any area Drake's plundered previously.
Enter the Jeep: a brand new form of locomotion that looks like it's going to play a pivotal role in the release. You drive this vehicle like you would in any other game: R2 accelerates, L2 reverses, while square acts as your hand-brake. It's not on-rails, it doesn't force you down a particular path – it's yours to control exactly as you desire. Basically, in the Madagascar chapter that we played, it's used as a means to traverse the environment as you wish, and while there are boundaries to where you can explore, there's plenty of ground for you to cover.
This, as you can probably imagine, changes the traditional Uncharted blueprint profoundly; it gives you even more incentive to go off the beaten path and poke around. Sometimes you'll be rewarded with an extra line or two of dialogue, other times you'll happen upon a stunning vista to stare at – there are even crumbled structures for you to conquer, many hiding treasures for you to add to your inventory. How do you scale the architecture when you're behind the wheel? Well, you can get out and travel on foot at any time. Game changer.
More familiarly, the writing's outstanding, as you'd expect; Sully and Sam extol the virtues of online auctions in one exchange, while a running joke sees the ageing ex-sailor complain about the cost of hiring a vehicle with a winch. This leads to lots of wise-cracks when the hoist inevitably gets used; you need to manually attach this to a tree in order to navigate one muddy ascent, while another sequence sees you using it to bring down a bridge in order to create a makeshift ramp that enables you to access higher ground.
It all sounds a bit Batmobile, doesn't it? Perhaps, but it brings a nice change of pace to the tried and tested Uncharted formula, which is necessary when a franchise reaches its fourth instalment. It's important to note that the Jeep is not half-baked, either – it's governed by its own impressive physics, and the muddy off-road nature of Madagascar means that it can get stuck in mud, spin out, and more. In other words: this is a fully-fleshed feature rather than a passing fancy, and Naughty Dog seems to have found a way to embed it into the main game in a manner that's additive rather than annoying.
Of course, the core gameplay blueprints haven't been ignored; the one firefight that we got to experience felt much more sandbox in nature. Drake can now hide in long grass, for example, and mark enemies, adding a bit more strategy to encounters. Metal Gear Solid-esque enemy alert indicators enable you to better stay undercover, but if you want to go guns blazing or use a mixture of espionage and action hero tactics, that's totally up to you. Mix in the grappling hook and inherent verticality that Nate's moveset enables, and you have lots of options in conflict.
It feels very fast and responsive, we must say. The control scheme – aside from the unorthodox mapping of reload to triangle – is very intuitive, and it seems built around the spontaneous nature of skirmishes that Uncharted executes so well. Low ammunition means that you'll constantly be discarding exhausted weapons, refreshing your arsenal on the fly and rolling to new points of cover in order to get the upper-hand against your aggressive foes. We didn't see as much of the combat as we'd like to, but enough to know that it feels good.
And that point applies to the demo as a whole, really: we sampled more than enough to feel encouraged ahead of the title's May launch, but it feels like Naughty Dog's keeping a lot close to its chest. The graphics, an element that we've glossed over, are as spectacular as you'd expect – but you'd always anticipate plenty of polish from a Naughty Dog game. No, it's the way that the studio's taking the series' staples and expanding upon them all over again that's most impressive here.
War may never change – but treasure hunting, it seems, does.
Are you eagerly anticipating the arrival of Uncharted 4? Are you excited by the inclusion of the Jeep? Attach your winch to the comments section below, and drop some thought nuggets for your fellow readers to loot.
The game keeps looking better glad for the few delays so we got the best possible game.
Game truly looks phenomenal. Glad they're making the story less linear, since that was a big turn off for me about all the previous games (I love movies as much as the next guy, and occasionally I like a Call of Duty shooting gallery-style campaign when I need to wind down... I just think UC1-3 stretched those concepts a bit thin by the end).
Just playing Uncharted collection and finished U1(for second time), U2(for first time) and starting U3. I have to say, that U2 seems to me much better than U1. If U3 is so much better than U1 and U2 like in reviews is and U4 will be so much better than U3 like everybody says....there certainly will be super duper collectors edition of all 4 parts ....just joking....I wanted to write, that I cant even imagine, how great fun it will be!
Swe-heet!! <3 I used to be a pc gamer (way back-ish) but jumped on the console wagon, first with wii u two years ago, and then ps4 in August 2014. My first time playing uncharted was the drake collection, and I ate 'em all up in no time. I talked my girlfriend into playing 2 and 3, and she loved it. Now both of us are looking forward to this. It's gonna be so awesome, playing this game with her!! my girl used to be hot...now she's cool. Lol
Happy, of course, to take questions that any of you may have about any of the Uncharted content. Just copy me in and I'll do my best to respond.
I can't describe how much I am looking forward to Uncharted 4. Its my most anticipated game this generation and nothing even comes close. There are a number of games I am very much looking forward too but Uncharted 4 would be a game I would buy a PS4 just to play whilst the others I could conceivably wait for the opportunity to play. I think that sums up how much I am anticipating it.
@get2sammyb You mention a 'Demo', as this seems to be circulating amongst journos and a few play-throughs cropping up on youtube by various sites, will this be made public? Not that its going to affect my decision to buy, I have had my pre-order (paid for) for over a year now...
@get2sammyb hey sammy, in the demo you played could you get out of the jeep at will and explore on foot, or where you prompted when you could do so?Edit. Sorry you already answered that!
FIVE WEEKS TO GO, CAN'T WAIT!
This looks f*cking amazing! It's the little things like the shine off the muck or the facial expressions that get me.
Delighted you can explore areas more, always thought this one of the reasons Tomb Raider (reboot) was better than the previous Uncharted games.
Hopefully they don't include some p*ss poor trophy list with this game, like the previous 4.
Really pumped for this one. Recently finished up Drake collect and am eager to wrap up Nates story. In the next 6 months or so ps4 has an absolute ridiculous line up of games. DS3, UC4, NMS, FF15, HLD, possibly HellBlade, Nioh, Persona, Overwatch, and HOPEFULLY Red Dead 3 before the end of the year. Could go down as one of my favorite years in gaming ever, especially if No Man's Sky ends up being as special and awesome as it is starting to look. Can't wait!!
I don't think linear is a problem for a game or this game as a lot of open world's last gen were still linear in story and plenty games still lock you out of areas for no good god damn reason.
"I'm not in the mood for games..."
@BAMozzy No one mentioned a public demo. It doesn't mean it won't happen, but when I say "demo" I just mean, "The bit they let us play".
@Bazza78 Yeah, you can get out whenever you want and go on foot if it takes your fancy.
@JoeBlogs Seemed silky smooth to me.
I wonder if Uncharted 4 will get slagged off as much as The Arkham Knight did for its jeep sections.
@get2sammyb Thanks for that. I didn't expect there to be a demo of the campaign - its mostly chapter 10 and judging by the video, a great example of the range of game-play mechanics and wide-linear design without giving away any of the real story.
Looks stunning and I love the way the Jeep looks like it handles over the different terrain. I also like the way the aerial and gas can in the back move and react as well as the mirrors reflect the environment in a natural and lifelike way - typical ND attention to detail!!
Still not sure at the 'marking' of enemies as I think that takes out some of the immersion - seeing triangles over their heads. Also still not sure about the way Sully, Sam or whoever is with you 'help' out in those combat situations but I guess its more realistic in those situations - maybe I will feel a lot different when I get to play myself.
@banacheck yeah but in uncharted 4 you're NOT blowing up endless waves after waves of other jeeps evertime you drive it. Batman on the other hand.....
@BAMozzy You can turn off all of the marking and enemy awareness features, I believe. And you won't have them in Crushing mode.
@get2sammyb Thanks again for that. I will give that feature a go but I do think it takes away from the immersion a bit. Looks odd seeing characters with triangles over their head in an Uncharted game. I may start with 'crushing' anyway - I normally do but I can see the 'wide-linear' making it a nightmare to find all the treasures in 1 play-through - especially on that difficulty.
Had this pre-ordered for quite some time now and I can't wait to play this. Naughty dog have kept on improving the series and from what I've seen Nate is gonna go out with one hell of a bang. Looking forward to the vehicular action.This game will sell like hotcakes.
@BAMozzy I am 100% with you there buddy. While there are plenty of top games I am looking forward to this year, nothing comes close to Uncharted 4. It's a game that I don't have to manage my expectations for because I know that Naughty Dog will deliver.
@itshoggie I wish they wouldn't include multiplayer trophies. As much as I enjoyed the MP I am not sure how much I will play it, so I don't want that to stop me from getting that prestigious platinum.
Alot of PC gamers are always shouting the term "PC Master Race" and while its obvious the PC easily outperforms the PS4 technically and also has some top tear games. The one thing the PC doesn't have is, Naughty Dog. There is nothing exclusive on PC that comes close to Uncharted 4 imo and a £4000 gaming rig wouldn't change that opinion of mine.
Like they say, its not the size, but what you do with it that matters, and the PS4 is more than capable of giving us games that aren't just fun to play, but look absolutely stunning too.
Even the REMEDY devs are in awe of of uncharted 4, said on twitter "Thanks naughty dog for raising the bar". These videos must be stomach churning for REMEDY after they put everything they had into Quantum break!
Does look stunning, in parts as good as Star Wars.
I probably have to experience it myself to know certain, but Quantum Break and Rise of the Tomb Raider seem to look just as good as UC4. Gameplay wise I even feel that Crystal Dynamics set the bar with their latest effort and ND is the one that has to follow. I'll probably like UC4's story better because it suits me more, but RotTR did really surpirise me in a positive way.
If UC4 turns out to look as good or better than QB and plays like RotTR I'm an happy chappie!
@Boerewors i'm just going by what the REMEDY staff said, if they say uncharted 4 has "set the new bar" then they obviously think uncharted 4 is the daddy !
I've played ROTTR i'ts nice visually , juddery frame rate spoils it's look though.That game makes the xbone cry.
Quantum break looks great too , unbelievable for a 720p game!
Really looking forward to this and the new Tomb Raider when it comes to PS4.
If you get out of the jeep and continue on foot but then decide you want the vehicle, can you summon it or do you have to remember where you left it and manually go back to it?
@sinalefa You can press a button which shows you whereabouts it is.
@seanobi Me too. Haven't read any of this article as I want to be surprised as much as possible.
Having said that I'm dying to watch some of the new trailers!
As a relatively new PlayStation user, I just ordered Uncharted The Nathan Drake Collection. One of the first PS games I bought was The Last of Us Remastered, a Naughty Dog game that I liked much. I also like Tomb Raider games and they say Uncharted is similar, so I think I'll enjoy the Uncharted trilogy quite much. If so, I'll also get Uncharted 4.
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