A couple of days ago, Naughty Dog released the story trailer of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End and quite honestly, it will not be an overstatement to say that it’s one of the most gorgeous pre-release footage of any video game we have seen in recent years. Phenomenal image quality and pushing the hardware to its limit is something we expect from Naughty Dog but this trailer has proven that Nathan Drake’s last adventure will truly be a step above from their previous work.
Note: Before we go ahead, we recommend watching the video below. It will result into a far better experience as we are able to point out details better in the video.
In the first screenshot we see the Drake brothers are standing near a bridge. Right off the bat you can observe an excellent use of screen space reflections on the water, with the amount of detail varying in proportion to the viewing area to the far and distant objects such as the buildings. You can also see volumetric lighting effects in action on the bridge’s pillar with light casting on its beams which in turn is casted back to the water surface. The game’s engine is using physical based rendering for depicting realistic lighting effects so intricate details such as light bouncing off the motorcycle’s fuel tank can be observed. In the second screenshot, we get a look at the trailer’s first few moments of fantastic facial animation technology which we will talk about in a bit.
Next, we see both Sam and Nathan wandering in what looks like a forest. Here we can see the use of depth of field in the background. Furthermore, you can observe that the light rays from the torch are bouncing on Drake’s fingers and back to his coat. Another interesting detail that we observed is that snow is accumulating on their coats. Whether this will be a dynamic feature is something that remains to be seen. One last detail that can be observed in this scene is Sam’s shadow. We can observe that as he moves his shadow dynamically shifts from the ground over to the foliage. This is a really nice touch.
The trailer also shows Sam and Nathan opening some sort of a puzzle door. There is nothing much to talk about here but we can see the light from Drake’s torch clashing with the incoming rays through the door in a realistic manner.
The scene above is one of our favorites from the trailer. The amount of detail in this shot is beyond ridiculous as it looks almost like a painting! This scene utilizes extensive use of fog and other volumetric effects along with an excellent use of anisotropic filtering on the ground surface. This is also one of the first scenes in the trailer that reaffirms the fact that most levels in the game will be open ended, ditching the somewhat linear paths from the previous games.
Moving ahead, it’s quite easy to get distracted with scenes such as the above but there is a tiny little detail here that is easy to miss out. When the vehicle comes to a standstill, the dirt flow changes its direction. Details such as this aren’t really expected in video games but it just goes to show how beautifully this game has been crafted. This scene is in many ways is similar to the previous one but there are minor negatives. If you observe the trees in the distance, you will notice flat textures. This isn’t a show stopper but for the observant type, such minor issues can drag down the experience.
Next we see Drake inside a water body. Nothing much to talk about here but we observed the light rays dynamically fall through the water depending on the direction where Drake is swimming.
Further into the trailer we see Sully and Sam discussing some serious topics and within that moment of seriousness it’s easy to forget the cloth simulation. Sully’s tie moves in relation to his hand and shoulder movement and Sam’s collars move in relation to his jaw movement. Quite immaculate!
In these scenes we see Drake stuck as water fills up dynamically in the vehicle. Whether Drake survived the jump is a question for another day, but the volumetric water fall effect is a sight to behold.
Later on the trailer reintroduces us to Nadine. One shot in particular speaks volumes about Naughty Dog’s lighting tools. The light rays are seeping through the hut and are dynamically casting shadows on Nadine’s clothes, hair and face and then as she moves her face, the shadows change their position accordingly.
This particular close up shot of Drake shows the complex use of sub surface scattering and skin shaders. Light rays getting casted off his shoulder belt and the dirt getting accumulated on his skin look absolutely wonderful due to the physical based rendering pipeline.
The trailer also introduces us to an old man. The beauty of this is how realistically his throat nerves and wrinkles are handled as he asks Drake, “whether he is ready to seek his fortune.”
And it won’t exactly be an Uncharted game if it does not include Drake jumping through a window or two. We are not sure whether the game has a complete dynamic destruction of objects. Some objects can obviously be completely destroyed but whether it’s up to the level of DICE’s Frostbite engine is unknown at this time. The reason why we are bringing this up is because in this shot you can see the window getting literally smashed into little pieces of wood and glass. We will know the full details about this when the game launches.
Naughty Dog weren’t joking when they said their animation tools will be high-end. During the video, the shock on Nathan Drake’s face is priceless. This is then followed by a sad look on Elena’s who is literally crying. Next we see the Drake brothers sitting on a bike as dynamic light is cast from the headlight over the foliage and wall on the left.
So yes, Elena is not happy with Drake. This is quite visible by her cheek and eye gestures.
Close to the end of the trailer we see Drake and Sam travelling in a ship, full steam ahead. There does not seem to be any texture streaming or pop in issues in this scene. Further shots show an excellent use of global illumination and the effects of implementing a PBR pipeline.
Now this is one shot that clearly explains why facial gestures are going to play a big role in the game. Elena is obviously talking about something, but Drake is clearly not interested as he looks at something else. And that something is a beautiful island. The trailer ends with a stream of destruction and chaos which are most likely scripted events.
Well, that about wraps it up. It’s interesting to note how far the game has come along when it was first shown off at E3 2014. Just like in previous Uncharted games, Naughty Dog keeps their best stuff in the main game itself so we are intrigued to see what those moments are. We are quite sure that the actual game will have more visual defining moments which we will cover when the game launches next month.