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E3 2015 – Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End Preview: The Beginning of the End

June 16, 2015 Written by Anthony Severino

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As the defining franchise of the PlayStation 3 generation, expectations couldn’t possibly be higher for Nathan Drake’s PS4 debut. The reaction to last night’s E3 Press Conference demonstration of Uncharted 4: A Thieves’ End is anything to go by, fans are satisfied, despite a hiccup in the demo and the lofty expectations.

But shortly after the doors opened at the Los Angeles Convention Center and E3 officially kicked off, we were privy to an extended demo that debuted during the presser.  

Cinematic Gunslinging Evolved 

While Naughty Dog is still keeping much of the next chapter of Nathan Drake’s story close to the chest, you can’t show off Uncharted’s gameplay without immediately recognizing the series’ signature cinematic presentation, and it was present throughout every second – through the gunplay, melee attacks, the small duration of platforming, and the resulting chase scene with a turret truck pummeling Drake and Sully with hot lead.

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The way the power of the PS4 ups the ante here, is through the subtleties in the action. Environments are more destructible; animations are more fluid, robust, and varied; bystanders now get in the way, and have their own personal interactions within crowds as Drake and crew wreak havoc on the would-be serene city streets. The result is the most believable cinematic presentation yet.

The detail in the scenery, even while moving at intense high-speed, is stunning. Animals scatter, everything in the wake of the chase is destroyed, and yet you can still appreciate the draw distance and rolling hills and mountains in the background. 

“I am a Man of Fortune”

Nathan Drake may be after lost ancient treasure (isn’t he always?), but he’s really fortunate that on the flipside of the believable atmosphere, environment, and movements, Drake lives through some jarringly unrealistic situations.

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As the Sony Press Conference demonstration ends, Drake launches a grappling hook on a passing truck with a boom extension and gets yanked out of the Jeep leaving Sully behind in an attempt to save his brother Sam from pursuers. What happens next is that Drake is dragged through the city streets along the paved roadways and smashed into everything in sight with each turn. How the man holds on, and comes out of it with all of his flesh and a mere bead of sweat on his brow — looking even more dashingly handsome for it — in a way defeats the realism being portrayed everywhere else in the game. Yet I wouldn’t have it any other way — Drake’s invincibility is somehow charming and exhilarating, and Naughty Dog does an amazing job of keeping players on the edge of their seat.

Fiery Ending, Heated Characters

Drake eventually climbs his way up the rope attached to the grappling hook and — similar to a specific section in The Last of Us — opens fire while dangling upside down and being swung about from the momentum of the chase. He then proceeds to kill every single pursuer on motorcycles and surrounding vehicles and platform his way to another speeding Jeep where Drake catches up with his brother Sam. The two brothers begin to argue over whom should join whom as any two ego-driven treasure hunters would, when… CRASH! Drake’s Jeep is sent toppling over on its side again and again, landing upside down.

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How could you, Drake?

With Drake on his back, things get worse. The fuel ignites, and soon the Jeep is overcome with flames. Our hero of fortune always has the worst luck, and more enemies appear. “He couldn’t have survived that crash.” Of course he did — he’s Nathan Drake. And not only does he survive the flames encapsulating the vehicle, but he does so while crawling out —backwards — all while shooting and killing everyone in his path.

Sam saves the day, and the turret truck makes a brief return for vengeance before it explodes from taking an extraordinary amount of bullets. Sam and Drake meet up with Sully, talk about about the location of ancient treasure in Libertalia, a villain named Rafe that’s also after the treasure, and proceed through a set of doors to celebrate the new-found information when they are greeted by Elena Fisher who is not happy at all to see our hero whom is supposed to be in Malaysia on a job. The look in her eyes burns hotter than the fuel-filled Jeep Drake was stuck in — which I think at this point Drake would rather take his chances with than deal with Elena. But he’s got some explaining to do. What his excuse is, and where things go next is something we’ll have to find out when Uncharted 4 releases in early 2016. We can’t wait.