The change in level design impacts Uncharted’s traditional gameplay in a big way.
Sony have released a rather long gameplay video of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End which gives us a good look at how some of the game’s mechanics have been shaping up leading to the title’s launch next month. The use of cinematic motion blur and depth of field during cutscenes along with some brilliant voice acting by the people behind Nathan, Sam and good old Sully all add a layer of realism that we have come to expect from Naughty Dog. In many ways, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is shaping up to be a technical showcase for the PlayStation 4.
Besides the gorgeous visuals on offer, it’s amazing to witness how open ended the levels are in Uncharted 4. It must be noted that Uncharted 4 is not an open world game but it’s more in line with an open level design. However Naughty Dog have done well to hide this in intelligent ways. The demo begins with Nathan Drake driving a jeep through the lush and absolutely beautiful plains of Madagascar. Don’t be surprised if you end up standing for a number of minutes, doing nothing but staring the the insane amount of details that the game has to offer. Naughty Dog’s games have always been characterized by their attention and dedication to details but with Uncharted 4 they have taken it to an all together different level. Whether it be the dynamic deformation of the muddy road or the volumetric clouds that move dynamically in the skybox, it’s clear that Naughty Dog have put their heart and soul into this game.
Of course, there are some minor inconsistencies with the visual effects. Pop-in can be observed when travelling quickly through dense vegetation and shadow quality in general seems to be mediocre. As we mentioned above though, it’s the attention to detail that allows Uncharted 4 to stand apart from its competition. Besides using a full physical based rendering pipeline, Naughty Dog has also used a complex use of material shading which allows different objects to react differently. For example, the jeep would get dirty with mud but it would get cleaned up once you are in water and Nathan Drake’s clothes will get all muddled up with dirt. Along with the use of a complex Global Illumination solution and dynamic lighting with full support for screen space lighting and reflections, the end resulting is simply breathtaking at times. The texture quality is superb, even for objects such as rocks and trees. Draw distance is simply phenomenal. All of this is nothing but a testament to the PS4’s raw processing power and to be honest this does not surprise us given that Naughty Dog are at the helm of this game.
Graphical details aside, the open level design dramatically affects gameplay. First of all, larger areas encourages the player to explore the surroundings which means an old ruin can hide a collectible or two. Furthermore, vehicle driving does not feel restricted as the player is no longer bounded to a narrow and linear path. The demonstration in many ways reminds us of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom, not only in terms of how open the levels are but some of the stealth elements seems to have been inspired from one of the best stealth action games of last year.
Just like in Metal Gear Solid 5, Drake will now have the ability to tag enemies and take them down using stealth. Of course there is the option to go all guns blazing but given that you can be killed from any side of the map due to the game’s level design, stealth seems to be best approach. Shooting seems to be much tighter this time around and the cover mechanics also seem to have been improved. Platforming and climbing seems to be much more tightly integrated with the gameplay. Rather than serving as a break of sorts in previous games, platforming is now a crucial element as to how you will approach a particular level in the game. Furthermore, enemies will now have indicators over the top of their heads, which once again reminds of Metal Gear Solid. It will be interesting to see whether the developers will give the option to disable this since it can get distracting for some players, specifically for those who want a bit of a challenge.
Then there is the grappling hook. It could be a lot of fun, yes, but its implementation is somewhat laughable. There is no way that someone can pull that kind of stunt off every single time. It just feels out of place. Granted this is a video game and the level design encourages you to use it whenever you can but it seems to be just there for those wow kill moments.
Judging by this demonstration, we are confident that the game will live up to to expectations. The move to an open world design suits Uncharted more than Metal Gear Solid and given how amazing the latter turned out to be, we are intrigued to see how some of the other levels are shaping up in the final game.
It will also be interesting to see what kind of sacrifices the developers have made to achieve such amazing attention to detail and image quality. We will be back with our full review and technical analysis when Uncharted 4 launches on May 10.