Uncharted 4: lessons on how to create the future of interactive cinema
May 20, 2016 11:52 AM   Subscribe

I absolutely loved play Uncharted 4 and while I was satisfied with the ending, I almost hated to see it end. The pacing, performances, and tone were fantastic and left me feeling like Nathan Drake and his team were real people. I didn't want to say goodbye.

Here's my photo mode album.
posted by Servo5678 at 12:03 PM on May 20, 2016 [2 favorites]

I played the game in fits and starts for a couple days before I hit the opening credits (not a lot of time, admittedly). As the credits began to roll, my wife announced "what is this? The Good Wife?" The game is great! You get to play Crash Bandicoot too!

Anyway leaving now because of possible spoilers.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:05 PM on May 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

The acting is pretty good. The story is *completely* ludicrous* (although I’m guessing no more ludicrous than the previous Uncharted games). However, as in previous Uncharted games, Nathan Drake switches between “normal adventurer off doing adventury things” and “psychopathic mass murderer” at regular intervals which breaks my immersion completely. A protagonist who at a moments notice can shoot twenty people in the throat with a shotgun & then carry on as if nothing has happened is not a normal person. The Lara Croft reboot suffered from the same problem.

Greater verisimilitude has made modern AAA games less immersive for me than earlier ones, because the gap between the story elements and the game elements has become an uncrossable chasm - unless you’re Nathan Drake and have a magic retracting grappling hook that is.
posted by pharm at 12:06 PM on May 20, 2016 [3 favorites]

Boy did they ever twist themselves into a pretzel so they could do Kurosawa-style wipes.

These games are incredibly impressive, but there will only ever be a few of them due to the cost and technical expertise required. Everyone wants something different out of a game, but I do find it a little depressing that so much money is spent on something that doesn't seem to have a lick of novel interaction. Nathan Drake does look kind of amazing when he does his usual jumping and shooting, but... yeah.

Also, I actually find the animation in this game weirdly unsettling. It's so, so good but then the instant that the game has to prioritize your input over the animation smoothness the transition is startling. There doesn't seem to be any way around this without making it Dragon's Lair, but it feels very uncanny valley.

In short, I enjoyed yelling at this cloud.
posted by selfnoise at 12:08 PM on May 20, 2016 [2 favorites]

What perfect timing! I just finished Uncharted 4 last night. I don't know if we're allowed spoilers in here, so I'll just say that I was pleased - and pleasantly surprised - by the ending.

It really is a fantastic-looking game, beyond what I thought the PS4 would be capable of, even at the end of the generation. And the acting and cutscene directing is top notch - normally I dive for my phone as soon as I can't control anything, but I was perfectly happy to see Nate and Sam and Sully with all their bantz.

The game is clearly heavily influenced by The Last of Us, and IMO Gone Home's, environmental storytelling. It really helps leaven the mass-murder sprees pointed out by pharm. I honestly think that they wanted to make a walking/climbing simulator more than a murder simulator, but hey, that's the market for you.

Also, in yo' face gamergaters. Yes, this game was bro-tastic and I don't think it passes the Bechdel test, but it was nice to see some subversions of traditional gender roles in what is arguably the biggest AAA and last remaining system-seller out there.
posted by adrianhon at 12:10 PM on May 20, 2016 [3 favorites]

Servo5678, your first photo reminded me of Wanderer above the Sea of Fog.
posted by Kabanos at 12:16 PM on May 20, 2016

They also did major work to ensure that the game would be accessible for people with disabilities.

Could I play this having not played uncharted 1-3?
posted by Itaxpica at 12:18 PM on May 20, 2016 [3 favorites]

There’s nothing in Uncharted 4 that depends on the previous games in order to progress, although you’ll probably miss the odd story reference.
posted by pharm at 12:20 PM on May 20, 2016

Play Uncharted 2 though anyway.
posted by nom de poop at 12:21 PM on May 20, 2016 [2 favorites]

Itaxpica -- 1-3 have varying levels of fun game-play-wise, but some pretty fantastic stories (plus understanding who all of these people are). If you don't want to play them, I would at least check them out on youtube; fans have ripped the cutscenes and edited them into basically movies.

but yes oh god please play uncharted 2
posted by specialagentwebb at 12:22 PM on May 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

A protagonist who at a moments notice can shoot twenty people in the throat with a shotgun & then carry on as if nothing has happened is not a normal person.

Not only that, but make a moral choice not to kill a known very bad person who's a direct threat to your life after killing dozens of faceless guys who are just standing around moving equipment or something.

The game is certainly beautiful, and I'd recommend it for that reason, but the more 'story' a game has the fewer choices you get to make, and you basically make no choices in this game. Also, they spent way more time on story and graphics than gameplay mechanics I'd guess, because they seem just really simplistic, especially the stealth and cover mechanics.

Fallout 4 has story but you also make game-changing choices throughout, and you can go wherever and do whatever in between, and crazy crap keeps happening randomly, and that's much more satisfying to me.
posted by Huck500 at 12:25 PM on May 20, 2016 [2 favorites]

selfnoise: Yeah, the level of effort put into the environments & graphic design is just stunning. Genuinely breathtakingly beautiful on occasion.

Yet I can’t help but feel that the game itself can’t live up to the standard set by the graphics: In order to be a game it has to be unrealistic, which in turn undermines the realism of the rest.

Huck: Yeah, Uncharted is completely linear. It’s Half Life 2 with better platforming in between the shooty bits & stunning graphics basically.
posted by pharm at 12:28 PM on May 20, 2016

However, as in previous Uncharted games, Nathan Drake switches between “normal adventurer off doing adventury things” and “psychopathic mass murderer” at regular intervals which breaks my immersion completely.

This also happens with Lara Croft and the various main characters of the Far Cry series. The disconnect during those moments where the character is attempting to be a human versus those moments where the character is making headshots of random NPCs and earning bonus stealth kill points is something that never really goes away.
posted by Fizz at 12:34 PM on May 20, 2016

I am loving this game, but I'm not sure that it's in any objective way more fun than a game with simpler graphics like (to pick one off the top of my head) the old Jak and Daxter games. In particular, it would have been exactly as much fun if the environments were simpler, brighter and more cartoonish, and what might be lost of the "immersive-ness" of its incredible cinematic graphics could have been regained in that the violence would seem less jarring if the bad guys were "lurkers" or cartoony robots or some such. I agree that the breaks from "wheeeee!" platforming and swinging to suddenly go psycho on a bunch of guards feels actively... offputting. I kind of want to get those sequences over with and get back to the platforming and "wheeeeee." I didn't get that with the latest Ratchet and Clank, where blowing away silly robots and stinky aliens was as much fun as the platforming (and by the way, anyone else think Drake's grapnel is basically Ratchet's Gadgetron Swingshot at this point?).

But, yeah, loving it. I just home that every game doesn't have to be a hyperrealistic cinematic experience. And I really hope Naughty Dog doesn't feel they have to go even darker and more realistic for their next game, because if they go darker than Last of Us you might have to put me on suicide watch.
posted by kikaider01 at 12:34 PM on May 20, 2016

I feel like I'm always plugging their stuff but if you don't want to play through the first three games, you can watch Chip and Ironicus's Lets Plays for all three (others are out there, but I quite like theirs). (and if you're like me and don't own a console, Chip has already said he's really excited to do the LP of Uncharted 4, but you might have to wait for awhile...)
posted by dismas at 12:38 PM on May 20, 2016 [3 favorites]

Yeah, the Lara Croft reboot was essentially Uncharted with a different skin, plus a bunch of optional puzzle tombs & had exactly the same 'normal person becomes mass murderer' problem. Sadly AAA gaming seems trapped in this cycle of violence and doesn’t know how to give it up. Which isn’t to say I’m against violence in games, I’d just like a bit of variety frankly.

Uncharted does look lovely though: Just look at those screenshots.

(I can recommend ChristopherOdds LetsPlays of the Uncharted games on YouTube, if LetsPlays are your thing.)
posted by pharm at 12:40 PM on May 20, 2016 [2 favorites]

Considering the last two games were zombies and pirates, the next one has a good chance of being robots, if it's not cowboys or monkeys.

posted by dismas

posted by nom de poop at 12:40 PM on May 20, 2016

it's not a self link, I didn't post it!
posted by dismas at 12:44 PM on May 20, 2016 [2 favorites]

People give the Uncharted games a harder time about the violence because they started out having a sort of lighthearted air and the dissonance was weirder than a game like Tomb Raider 2013, which is basically an Eli Roth movie. (At one point you fall into a literal river of blood because... uh... it's unclear).

Honestly, most of these games have terrible, reprehensible plots (Far Cry 3 says hi) and Naughty Dog deserves a lot of credit for trying to raise the bar a bit in that category.

(much to my shame, I really enjoyed both TR 2013 and Far Cry 3)
posted by selfnoise at 12:45 PM on May 20, 2016

With regards to games that feel like cinema. I think the Witcher franchise has added quite a bit to this style of game-play. I just purchased Witcher 3 and the cut sequences feel so very much like their own unique film experience. They're phenomenal. I think the fact that many of these games were adapted from books also helps create a more immersive game experience. I'm thinking of games/books like Metro 2033. It feels more lived in, has more depth as a result of these other ways of approaching the world.
posted by Fizz at 1:20 PM on May 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

Tom Francis on Uncharted 4's drop attack: "I am a fan."
posted by straight at 1:32 PM on May 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

So if the games are better than films, does this mean that games have gotten much better, or that films have gotten much worse? Or both?
posted by Roentgen at 1:40 PM on May 20, 2016

posted by infinitywaltz at 1:59 PM on May 20, 2016 [6 favorites]

I played the first Uncharted all the way through on the recommendation of a friend. It was decent, but nothing to write home about. I started the second and wandered away because I just wasn't into it. I couldn't pour enough of myself into Nathan to make him interesting to play and the mechanics just didn't grab me. The lack of even an illusion of choice didn't help also. I'd love to watch a couple of Uncharted movies with the violence tamped down (or as most people know them, the first 3 Indiana Jones movies), but as a game, it just didn't appeal.

I admire Naughty Dog for making games like this that tell a great story and making a game like this. I just wish that it also was as fun for me as it is for everyone else.
posted by Hactar at 2:10 PM on May 20, 2016

What game has the nexus of most cinematic with least murdering? I want to play that.
posted by latkes at 2:13 PM on May 20, 2016

What game has the nexus of most cinematic with least murdering? I want to play that.

Journey? Life is Strange?

Ooooh... Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. Some violence, but all of it matters. Some of the best actual cinematic work in games, unlike the clumsy half-measures you see in AAA products.

That is a hell of a game, but emotionally prepare yourself.
posted by selfnoise at 2:19 PM on May 20, 2016 [2 favorites]

I just purchased Witcher 3 and the cut sequences feel so very much like their own unique film experience.

So can't we just cut to the chase then, and do animated movies of these properties? Because at this point, it sounds like lackluster gameplay is associated with stores. Is it that the producers decided we needed to twitch our hands occasionally?
posted by happyroach at 2:39 PM on May 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

There is definitely something very compelling to a lot of people about playing games for their stories, though. A sense of being "in" the story? I know when I was trying to decipher what people like about the Dragon Age games this idea of playing them but being primarily disinterested in the gameplay came up alot.

This is kind of a through line in discussion of games which ends up perplexing people. Games are not a genre of entertainment but in a way they are not even a coherent medium; there's sometimes no relation between what one person experiences in the interaction for vs. someone else. It's the ultimate fulfillment of the movement away from "monoculture" shared media; even if you share the game, you may never share the experience.

This by the way is what I suspect really, deep down, infuriates the Goobergoob people; they want games to mean one thing. (their thing)
posted by selfnoise at 2:50 PM on May 20, 2016 [3 favorites]

happyroach, The thing is, I love this weird hybrid of cinema and gameplay. I like that I get to enjoy both of these different things in the same place. A beautiful cut-scene and then a gaming session and then another cut-scene and so on. At times it can be a bit jarring and there are moments where the player is pulled out of the story, but for the most part, I think they go hand in hand.
posted by Fizz at 2:58 PM on May 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

Journey? Life is Strange?

Ooooh... Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons.

Absolutely 2nding the recommendation of Brothers and Life is Strange. Brother has an odd gamepad mechanic that is at times frustrating but the story itself is beautiful and it's a fairly short game. You could finish it in a single sitting, a few hours. And Life is Strange is more like a visual novel than a game, and while the script for the voice-actors is a bit hit or miss (some of their phrases they attribute to young teenagers feels forced), the characters and the story are very satisfying. You find yourself connecting with these individuals as you follow their story. It's a beautiful game and my favourite from 2015.
posted by Fizz at 3:31 PM on May 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

Greater verisimilitude has made modern AAA games less immersive for me than earlier ones

Verisimilitude in some respects, yes me too. It's greater in terms of photorealism, but somehow less believable than it could be in other respects. I've been watching some Uncharted 4 videos (it makes a pretty good movie with a little editing), and can't help but compare it to memories of Prince of Persia: Sands of Time (the first PS2 one), another game that involved a lot of ridiculous feats of climbing around in big half-ruined stone architecture seemingly designed for nothing else. Looking back at a little video evidence there, it seems I'm not wrong in remembering the wall-running of the Prince being near even with the level of physical implausibility of the leaping acrobatics of Nathan Drake. Seems to me the combat systems in both games also resemble real life equally little despite one of them involving supernatural control of the flow of time. But the older game's deviations from reality have a smooth and stylized quality that the new one lacks. Having played one of the earlier Uncharted games, I think even this new one would not feel as easy to believe in as the more fantastic and lower-resolution game from 2003.

Some day I suppose someone will combine both games' exemplary strengths and make something really mind-blowing.
posted by sfenders at 3:32 PM on May 20, 2016

I like open world games as much as the next person, but I'm baffled by the criticisms of Uncharted 4 not having narrative choice. Was anyone surprised by this? None of the Uncharted games have had any player choice, and that's perfectly fine by me. I'll play Fallout 4 if I want shitty story with choices and open world, and I'll play Uncharted for my movie-like experiences. There's plenty of games for everyone and I'm happy to have such a wide choice.
posted by adrianhon at 4:37 PM on May 20, 2016 [2 favorites]

What game has the nexus of most cinematic with least murdering? I want to play that.

Firewatch, if you like cinema that's not a summer blockbuster.
posted by straight at 4:43 PM on May 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

What game has the nexus of most cinematic with least murdering? I want to play that.

It's possible to play Dishonored all the way through without killing anyone, though such an approach requires patience.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 4:53 PM on May 20, 2016

Dishonored is a pretty murder-y world, and I didn't find the story of the game that compelling, but if you want to sort of... steep in a fascinating world, a no-kill playthrough is highly recommended. Not only does it play wonderfully as a sort of "thief with superpowers" game, but the no-kill "solutions" to your assassination targets are often wonderfully creative. I enjoyed it enough that I've decided the release date of Dishonored 2 is my absolute deadline for upgrading my video card.

(also depressingly enough, you'll get one of Steam's rarer achievements, particularly if you can manage the same feat in the DLC)

You can do the same thing in Deus Ex: Human Revolution, but it requires even more patience and a level of "non-lethal" violence that probably renders it pointless.
posted by selfnoise at 5:13 PM on May 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

What game has the nexus of most cinematic with least murdering? I want to play that.

Metal Gear, if you do it right. It actually directly addresses and handles exactly this "ludonarrative dissonance" issue. The whole series takes trope after trope about games, war, violence, etc. and flips them on their heads. If you find yourself killing (rather than stunning or avoiding) a lot of people in most Metal Gear games, you are probably completely missing the point and doing very badly at the game.

(I'm thinking of a mission in the most recent Metal Gear in which you do kill people, and it was physically difficult to push the buttons, I was panicking and nearly in tears by the end of it because of having to kill those people. It's amazing how they did that.)
posted by gloriouslyincandescent at 6:48 PM on May 20, 2016 [2 favorites]

*looks up from her 90% finished game of Bloodborne and her, I dunno, 25% done game of Dark Souls 3*

How much am I missing out on here by the fact that I'm refusing to play any more AAA games that require me to be a white dude?

*goes back to being a magenta-haired Grace Jones clone murdering endless zombies and werewolves*
posted by egypturnash at 7:35 PM on May 20, 2016 [3 favorites]

Sorry not sorry that I have to murderkill a bunch of video game "people" that are actively trying to murder me in a video game. I mean, yeah, it is unrealistic how the antagonist seems to have literally a thousand or more henchmen on the payroll, but that is no more or less an issue than in many action films. It's a common trope.

I probably won't play Uncharted 4 for a long time since I'd have to buy a TV and a PS4, which is a pretty high barrier to entry which I don't particularly care to cross at the moment, despite playing (and enjoying) all of the other three quite soon after their release. I really enjoyed the first three in the series and would love to play U4, but not enough to go buy a TV, PS4, and the game to play it. Especially since I'd be annoyed the entire time that I didn't have surround sound, and at that point I'd be up to nearly $2000 to play one damn game. The Uncharted series is good (fantastic, really..it changed the way I look at video games, which I say as a long time gamer), but not that good.

For those who haven't played MGS4, that was a damn good game if you are into/don't mind cutscene-heavy gameplay. I think there were somewhere around 7 hours of cutscenes in that game. It's much more serious, and moving, than the Uncharted series, though. The earlier comparison to Indiana Jones is spot on, and exactly what Naughty Dog was going for.
posted by wierdo at 9:27 PM on May 20, 2016 [2 favorites]

If (almost) everyone finds the gameplay/shooting sequences boring (and I sure did in the previous Uncharted/Last of Us/...), why are they still there?
posted by Riton at 10:03 PM on May 20, 2016

Because people actually enjoy them. It's been tested. Maybe a little too thoroughly.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 1:49 AM on May 21, 2016

I like open world games as much as the next person, but I'm baffled by the criticisms of Uncharted 4 not having narrative choice.

I couldn't pour enough of myself into Nathan to make him interesting to play

I can't even imagine how much money and time it would have taken to have branching storylines. And it would be a shame not to play through the story as written; they actually did proper story structure, with recurring themes and character arcs. I suddenly care about the characters, and the performances are so realistic that I can hardly believe it. (Nate is still the least interesting.)

There was a moment when all the rope-swinging suddenly reminded me of Pitfall, and I felt so amazed by what games have become; we're all spoiled. In fact, I'm replaying the rest of the series now and am stunned by the advances in gameplay just since then. Going from U4 to U1 is painful because in the first game your movement is so limited that Drake seems dumb. You can hardly climb on anything and sometimes what you can climb on is so far from obvious that the hint system is necessary. I had to look up a walkthrough for the zombie infestation chapter because they were infinitely spawning and I couldn't remember or understand how to progress. A lot of stuff that we take for granted now was just not there only 10 years ago.

onioncharted (spoilers)
posted by heatvision at 4:44 AM on May 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


The latest Idle Thumbs podcast ("Disable Enemies to Reveal Enemies") reports that there's a nifty screenshot feature that lets you pause the action, move the camera freely, and even toggle whether or not enemies are on screen.

The hilarious part is that, early in the game, using the toggle-enemies feature inadvertently reveals that a particular NPC who is supposedly one of Nathan's allies is actually tagged by the game as an enemy.
posted by straight at 10:05 AM on May 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

Going from U4 to U1 is painful because in the first game your movement is so limited that Drake seems dumb

This is one reason why I've not gone back and replayed Witcher 1. I know for a fact that the gameplay is going to feel annoying to me, simply because each successive game has improved upon the mechanics and graphics.

A lot of stuff that we take for granted now was just not there only 10 years ago.

Agreed. It's very 'get off my lawn', but I find myself shaking my head whenever I encounter a younger gamer talking about how shitty current generation games are and I really want to travel back in time and find my Atari 2600 and show them, as you referenced, actual 8-bit Pitfall. We have it so good.
posted by Fizz at 2:23 PM on May 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

Naughty Dog's creative director talks to Rolling Stone about story vs. gameplay, the evolution of the game, and what people mean when they say 'fun'

Some of the artists have been posting their work for this game on artstation

a documentary on the sound design

There are a lot of animator showreels on Vimeo now. This video of raw mocap data against final animations shows the tweaks and cleanups. Here's another one.
posted by heatvision at 5:04 AM on May 25, 2016

Some find them so immersive, they don't want to finish.

Haven't play Uncharted 4 but it is on my 'if I ever have time again' list.

I can totally relate to not finishing games because I don't want them to end. It's been years and I still miss my character and the characters from Dragon Age and even with the not so great ending to the Mass Effect series I still have so much connection to it that hearing certain music from it will make me tear up and feel a real sense of loss.
I finished Life is Strange a few weeks ago and it's still with me.

I'd rather replay Witcher 3 then play the DLC because when I finish them it's done. Same with DA Inquisition though I don't feel this one the same way I do with the first one. I doubt I'll ever finish Fallout 4 because if I don't it won't ever end.

On thinking about it I do feel game stories a whole lot more then the ending of shows or movies. And it's not that I don't want to know the ending of a game story. I know how Fallout 4 can end. I've watched them online. I'm happy with knowing the end intellectually and feeling some sense of conclusion but it's easier because in my world I haven't taken my particular character and identification with the story to it's final ending. I haven't MADE it end.

So weird.
posted by Jalliah at 6:54 AM on May 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

I will also add that with so many games out there and limited time I have just watched videos of games like I would a movie. A lot I enjoy like I would any regular movie or tv show.

I couldn't play the Last of Us but I feel like I did because I watched a 6 hour version that someone did with mostly the cut scenes and whatever gameplay was needed to tell the story. It was really great.
posted by Jalliah at 6:59 AM on May 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

Giant Bomb chatted with one of the developers recently about how the tech they used to make the Uncharted games had evolved over time from the first one through to the new one.
posted by sparkletone at 7:47 AM on June 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

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