While The Last of Us told a personal and intimate story, Game Directors, Bryan Straley and Neil Druckmann – who also worked on Uncharted 2 – are taking what they’ve learnt from those two games and bringing it to the next level for Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End.
In an interview with IGN at E3 2014, Straley insists that although The Last of Us was an evolution of the game design and narrative structure of Uncharted 2, for Uncharted 4, they’re maintaining the thrilling pace that has been a hallmark of the series without forgetting that the over the top action, “has to be driven by what’s happening with the characters at that moment.”
This was punctuated by the E3 reveal trailer where a beaten and bruised Nathan Drake slowly regains consciousness in an oppressive jungle. It was not particularly revealing but was suitably evocative and helped to sell the story and the darker undertones that A Thief’s End appears to be striving towards.
If The Last of Us and Uncharted ever showed us anything, it was that a strong story, interesting characters and good looking graphics are key to immersive gameplay. Now, aided by the power of the PlayStation 4, the development team at Naughty Dog can instill much more density into the world than what the PlayStation 3 could originally handle.
As for the characters like Nathan Drake, Druckmann agrees that the, “tech really allows us to get more subtlety.”
The way Drake frowns, how his forehead creases slightly, the subtle shifts in his body animations and even the way water drips realistically from his chin, are essential in creating a believable character for the player to feel connected to.
Amazingly, according to a tweet by Naughty Dog, the trailer was made completely out of in-game visuals. Drake’s new model alone has twice the amount of polygons that Joel from The Last of Us had.
Straley explains that this is because while they still want players to be sitting at the edge of their seat while playing, they, “want to make sure that you as players want to play this thing and feel invested.”
So, while graphical fidelity is important, the story, arguably plays a more integral role in bringing Uncharted 4 to life. “Without the story,” Druckmann iterates, “you can have all the graphical bells and whistles and it won’t matter.”
A good story is what will immerse the player and while far from perfect, Uncharted titles have always placed the story and its characters at the forefront of the action. This gave a relatively under the radar studio known mostly for the Jak and Crash Bandicoot games, the chance to stand toe to toe with gaming giants like Bioware and Bethesda – giants also known for their love and keen attention to story.
The way they ensure that all the little systems work together is by maintaining those that worked in previous games and tweaking them so they complement and augment Uncharted 4. From the action set pieces to the story lines and even the relationships, everything has evolved with the characters to get them prepared for their next journey.
And with sequels, especially for the fourth one, it becomes increasingly difficult to up the ante while maintaining interest in a character. Drake may have charmed us over with his sardonic wit and devil may care attitude from the beginning, but there’s only so much cavalier attitude we can take before it becomes stale.
Perhaps we need not worry so much. If you look close enough, you’ll see that Drake sports a little grey on his hair and wrinkles have formed around his eyes. This is a much older, more world-weary traveler being pulled back into his former life.
Characteristically, this would have to be a very different Drake. It’s been seven years since the first Uncharted and for many of us who had jumped on the bandwagon, it’s a little heartening to see that our reluctant hero, despite of his grand adventures, is embarking on his next stage in life.
Thus, it’s a bittersweet moment, that as we get older while playing Uncharted all these years, to feel like, “we’re all ageing with Nathan Drake.”
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is scheduled for release on the PlayStation 4 in 2015