Why You Should (and Shouldn’t) Be Excited for Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

Can Uncharted 4 bring something substantial to the franchise? Possibly.

Uncharted 4: A Thief's End is a game a lot of Sony fans are hoping will bring them the next-gen experience they were hoping for on PlayStation 4. However, the coverage has been a bit... let's say, ill-focused on the wrong aspects of Uncharted 4. Here are the things you really should actually be excited (or not so excited) for in Uncharted 4: A Thief's End.

Be Excited For: Larger, Less Linear Levels

Anyone who has scoffed at the Uncharted series for its extremely linear levels can breathe easy now. While it's far from Deus Ex (or even Crysis), Naughty Dog is finally giving Uncharted 4's levels a scale more in tune with their last project, The Last of Us.

There will also be a stealth system that combines ideas from Far Cry 3 and Assassin's Creed III, and the action combat is distinctly punchier and more dynamic as well. Nathan's even been given a new tool, a hook rope, that will let him swing around like Indiana Jones. Baby steps by comparison to a lot of other franchises, but it's definitely a move in the right direction for the series.

Don't Be Excited For: More QTE combat

It feels like everyone in the games industry had short term memory loss and forgot about The Order: 1886, and it's quick time event heavy melee combat. Uncharted did this first, even though it tried to fix it with an Arkham-inspired flair in Uncharted 3, and there looks to be no change here. Whether the quick time events will match the integration they had in The Last of Us is up for debate, but all current demos have made it look like the exact same song and dance.

Be Excited For: Dynamic Set Pieces

You can't go ten minutes (sometimes literally) without encountering a set piece moment in an Uncharted game, so it's about time they started making them actually be influenced by player choice. Previous entries expected you to follow a path so scripted that you were more less just enacting a quick time event.

With the most recent demo, during the car chase sequence, we see Naughty Dog finally diverge from this mentality and let the players navigate an open-ended level with branching paths. This echoes a similar sentiment in games like Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, that are trying to make set pieces be more about what the player wants and less about purely being there for spectacle. While it remains to be seen how often this will be the case in Uncharted 4, it seems like they've taken a step in the right direction.

Don't Be Excited For: Mud

It's just mud. MUD. It doesn't even impact Nathan's grip or maybe cause a weapon to jam. This is not some major gameplay innovation here people, this is just tech demo reel shlock. It might be impressive to anyone wanting to license Naughty Dog's engine, but it in no way will improve your experience playing the game. It's about as pointless as the custom ragdoll engine in Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. Years from now, you will not look back on Uncharted 4 and say "man, that game had great mud".

Be Excited For: A Story That Won't Pull Its Punches

Despite facing a pirates, a totalitarian dictator, and an evil Illuminati-ish organization, Nathan Drake's lived a pretty charmed life. Women have found his constant whining charming. He's got a fantastic partner and mentor to fall back on whenever he's confused. He's had people nearly die for him, all while he is completely self-interested unless the plot demands he pretend to be heroic (ignoring the fact he's killed upwards of a thousand people by the start of Uncharted 4: A Thief's End).

Finally, that train of inconsistencies is catching up with Nathan, in the form of his far less lucky brother Sam. Not only does Sam provide someone who can out "Nathan Drake" Nathan Drake, but he also is a temptation, showing that Nathan would throw a happy life away just for "one last time" treasure hunt. Whereas Elena has been there as the angel on Nathan's shoulder, Sam is the devil on Nathan's shoulder, guiding him down a darker path.

Now, when the original Uncharted creative team was writing the story, one would expect something fairly rote and predictable about Nathan maturing and growing up and his brother either failing to do so or finally accounting for his actions. Except, now this is being written by the team behind The Last of Us, which means this might actually get treated with a grain of sincerity and credibility.

I realize I'm usually the guy who picks Uncharted apart limb from limb, but I really think there's a chance this one might turn out decently. With actual gameplay innovations (and we haven't even seen what they've done with the multiplayer yet), a potentially intriguing story, and a refocused design that recognizes player agency... yeah, I'll admit it, I'm cautiously hopeful. Here's hoping I don't eat these words, come 2016.