Among the many surprises at E3 2014 was just how somber the tone of Naughty Dog’s Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End trailer was. The Uncharted games are best known for their witty banter, massive set pieces and Hollywood action movie tone. In this cinematic, however, Nathan Drake was shown waking up by a river, bathed in muted grey-blue moonlight and looking several years older than in Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception (and even more like Nathan Fillion). Both the trailer and the game’s subtitle seemed to indicate a real change of tone for the next entry in the Uncharted franchise.
This more serious tone may end up being just one of the things that creative director Neil Druckmann and game director Bruce Straley have brought back to the Uncharted series after making Naughty Dog’s critically acclaimed post-apocalyptic drama The Last of Us. Druckmann and Straley both worked on Uncharted 2: Among Thieves before moving on to The Last of Us, and in a new interview they explain how their past work has allowed them to bring something new to the table for Uncharted 4.
With the new console generation still fairly fresh and shiny, one topic of conversation was how the graphics have improved between the PS3 and PS4. The cinematic trailers of E3 2014 practically worshipped every wrinkle and pore in their characters’ faces, and Uncharted 4 was no exception. Straley points out Nathan’s newly-acquired crow’s feet and jokes about their resemblance to his own: “We’re all ageing with Nathan Drake.”
The Uncharted games have a reputation for being built around a series of massive set pieces, such as shoot outs on moving trains or inside collapsing buildings, but they have also drawn criticism for having relatively weak stories compared to the sharp dialogue and impressive visuals. Druckmann explains that in Uncharted 4 their goal was to make the set pieces, the story and the character arcs all gel with one another.
“I remember on Uncharted 2 we had just started figuring out set pieces, and how to get set pieces on the sticks so you’re really playing through a collapsing building or a sliding platform or fighting a helicopter. Moving on to The Last of Us we were really with how do we take those set pieces and make them more intimate, make them really parallel the story and the character arcs. And now coming back to Uncharted it was like, ‘OK, we can go epic again, we can go big,’ but we’re really challenging ourselves, again, ‘How do we mirror the character arcs?'”
In addition to discussing the structure of the story, Druckmann and Straley also gave some insight into how the gameplay has been changed up for Uncharted 4. To ensure that the player feels immersed in whatever madness is happening to Nathan, Druckmann says that Uncharted 4 will expand the ways in which the player can move and interact with the environment.
“Our motto on Uncharted 2 was always, ‘Keep it core.’ No matter how big the set pieces get, keep it on the control stick, keep the core system. So taking that into Uncharted 4 is like, OK, knowing we want to keep it core how do we expand Nate’s core move set? How do we build more systems that will give the player more options, more ways to approach, whether it’s exploration, traversal or combat.”
It certainly beats having to complete quick time events in every situation. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is sure to be one of the big PS4 exclusives that ends up drawing people to the system, and after the mountain of Game of the Year awards accrued by The Last of Us, we’re definitely looking forward to seeing what Straley and Druckmann have to offer next.
Uncharted 4 does not currently have an official release date but will launch exclusively on the PS4 in 2015.