E3 2015 Preview: Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End Impressions

Where we left off: Nathan Drake had put on his best Indian Jones impression yet by grappling onto a vehicle moving overhead and narrowly escaping driving his car off a pier.

What happened afterwards: Drake is pulled along by the jeep as it pursues his friend Sam. Scenery rushes past at breakneck speed while the other vehicles in pursuit notice Drake being dragged along in the mud—they promptly begin to open fire on Drake, who returns the favor. Whilst still being dragged along by the Jeep, Drake manages to shoot the tires on one of the enemy vehicles. It loses controls, makes a sharp turn, and begins rolling on its side, propelled through the air in a twisting carnage of debris and flames until it comes to a crashing halt. Drake then lifts himself up onto the Jeep without its driver noticing; as the truck continues racing after Sam, Drake lets loose with his AK-47 on the various mercenaries now tailing him.STILLS_0004_Layer 14As in the E3 Conference footage, everything is rendered to a high degree of visual detail with very few instances of poor texture work or environmental effects. Similarly, as Drake disables an enemy vehicle by taking out its driver, the vehicle crashes into various prop elements found in the road, showing off Uncharted 4’s new physics engine. Wood splinters realistically, metal deforms upon impact, and dirt, smoke, and gravel kick up as you would expect them to.

What happens next is an action sequence on par with (and maybe even better than) those seen in previous Uncharted games: Drake hops between various moving vehicles as they are destroyed by enemy gunfire until he is able to forcefully commandeer one for himself. Now fully caught up with Sam, Drake yells for him to jump into the Jeep when it is rammed from the side by a charging enemy truck, flipping Drake’s car on its back with him still in it. Temporarily stunned by the shock of the crash, Drake is unable to exit the crash as it slowly begins to catch fire. As Drake’s face starts to contort with pain and all seems lost, he breaks through the side door and takes out two enemies approaching on foot.STILLS_0005_Layer 13As more begin to move forward, Sam arrives on motorcycle on rescues Drake from certain death. Another extended chase sequence begins, this time with Drake shooting backwards at the armored vehicle from the Conference trailer, which has finally caught up with the rest of the pack.  Drake eventually succeeds in destroying this metal monster and makes his escape with Sam. The two meet up with Sully at a safe house and discuss what Sam had uncovered that made him such a high value target: the location of Libertalia, an undiscovered pirate colony founded in the 17th century in Madagascar. Said to hold a treasure of immense wealth, the trio celebrate their finding and move to find the treasure before their rivals do.

All told, this extended demo (which was actually the last to be shown) was extremely satisfying and impressive. In stark contrast to the Uncharted gameplay reveal from last year’s E3 which was all about combat in a (semi) open environment, this demo was one long and very tightly scripted action set piece, something the Uncharted series is known for. It can be argued that there wasn’t much new to this demo that we haven’t seen in previous series entries and that would be a fair criticism, but the Uncharted series has always been about refinement and escalation and not necessarily the addition of radically new gameplay concepts. I very much look forward to seeing more of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End when it releases next year.