Un­charted 4: A Thief’s End

PS4

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You can’t fail to be aware, as you con­jure and ap­ply a full-body coat­ing of flame in or­der to grant your­self tem­po­rary pow­ers of short-range tele­por­ta­tion, that Un­charted 4’ s mul­ti­player por­tion is mer­rily in­cin­er­at­ing even the loose rules that for­merly gov­erned Nathan Drake and co’s dal­liances with the su­per­nat­u­ral. But a set of para­nor­mal abil­i­ties makes sense given Naughty Dog’s in­ten­tion to in­tro­duce more or­gan­ised team­work into its PVP play, even if that means em­pow­er­ing us with a litany of items, buffs and boosts un­suit­able for the cam­paign.

“It’s a cul­mi­na­tion of ideas span­ning Un­charted 2, 3, and The Last Of Us,” lead mul­ti­player de­signer Robert Cog­burn says, and A Thief’s End’s in­cen­di­ary new abil­i­ties do seem in­dica­tive of Naughty Dog’s in­creased con­fi­dence and ex­pe­ri­ence in craft­ing a thrilling five-on-five, class-based con­test. But they also be­speak a se­ries look­ing to fun­nel al­most a decade of history into an ex­plo­sive fi­nale. “It’s most likely go­ing to be the stu­dio’s last Un­charted game,” Cog­burn says. Per­haps that ex­plains the aban­don with which items, lo­ca­tions and char­ac­ters are be­ing smashed to­gether like ac­tion fig­ures on play­sets.

So short-range hops through space are granted to the bearer of the Spirit Of The Djinn, one of sev­eral mys­ti­cal op­tions you can se­lect for your load­out, which also gives your melee at­tacks the power to kill with two hits in­stead of three. The Wrath Of El Do­rado is an­other, a grenade-like weapon that sum­mons a red-and-gold sar­coph­a­gus wreathed in smoky red spir­its to at­tack nearby en­e­mies. Al­ter­na­tively, there’s the Cin­ta­mani Stone, which re­vives the fallen to full health with a pulse, then lingers and speeds the re­cov­ery of downed team­mates in­side its ra­dius. Al­though

matches are overtly chaotic and full of lurid colour, there’s clear at­ten­tion to bal­ance, too. You can’t take cover while us­ing the Spirit Of The Djinn, for ex­am­ple.

Ex­tra on-map bus­tle comes from your side­kicks, AI-con­trolled mer­ce­nar­ies who you spawn by us­ing the pool of money earned through kills and as­sists. There’s the Sniper, who acts like a tur­ret and per­fo­rates en­e­mies who wan­der into her line of sight. The Saviour trails you to keep you and other team­mates stocked with ammo. He can re­vive play­ers who are downed, too, help­fully au­tomat­ing the of­ten-ig­nored sup­port role.

The re­main­ing side­kicks are the Hunter, who sprints at op­po­nents to grab them in a hold so you can get a clear shot in, and the Brute, a straight­for­ward heavy who can take lots of dam­age and dish out plenty of fire­power in re­turn. Some side­kicks are more ef­fec­tive than oth­ers, but the amount of in-game cur­rency they cost is weighted ac­cord­ingly. “The Brute’s ex­pen­sive,” Cog­burn ex­plains. We’ve seen peo­ple buy him late game, and he just turns fights.”

Since ev­ery­one can spawn one side­kick, there’s the pos­si­bil­ity for 20 char­ac­ters – ten hu­man, ten AI – to oc­cupy any of the eight launch maps at any one time. Al­though this has the po­ten­tial to turn Un­charted 4’ s mul­ti­player into a mas­sive, con­fus­ing freefor-all brawl, that isn’t the case dur­ing our ses­sion, which is largely down to the map de­sign. In­stead of skirting rounded are­nas, lev­els em­pha­sise forming and re­form­ing fronts. This means you’re rarely shot from be­hind by un­seen foes, and play is more about ju­di­cial use of totems and side­kicks in or­der to make your col­lec­tive fire­power over­whelm grouped op­po­nents and push the line for­ward.

Stages are all built with ag­ile mo­tion in mind, too. You can slide, zi­pline, climb, and now more eas­ily in­ter­rupt an­i­ma­tions, with fewer finicky mo­ments in which you get stuck on walls or ledges. The down­side of this is that it’s not im­me­di­ately ap­par­ent what you can scale – sev­eral times we leap at crag­gy­look­ing walls only to slide down face first. The new rope swing is more de­lin­eated, des­ig­nated by spe­cific en­vi­ron­ment spots you can tar­get. If an enemy wan­ders un­derneath your swing­ing, press square in mid-air to land on them for a slick-look­ing in­stant kill. It’s a scrap of con­nec­tive tis­sue be­tween

Un­charted 4’ s mul­ti­player scrum and its more fo­cused cam­paign that serves to il­lus­trate how two fun­da­men­tally con­nected movesets can be dif­fer­en­ti­ated by con­text. Whereas the sin­gle­player’s thrills op­er­ate within a scripted frame­work, Naughty Dog has re­con­sid­ered map de­sign, added cooldown-lim­ited pow­ers, and em­pha­sised team in­ter­play to make

Un­charted 4’ s mul­ti­player a more freeform, and thus more re­playable, offering.

Al­though matches are chaotic and full of lurid colour, there’s clear at­ten­tion to bal­ance

Char­ac­ters from across the se­ries ap­pear in Un­charted

4’ s mul­ti­player, all with new quips and con­tex­tual di­a­logue. Elena has her own lines for when a grenade lands near her, for ex­am­ple

Pub­lisher Sony De­vel­oper Naughty Dog For­mat PS4 Ori­gin US Release March 18

ABOVE While tra­ver­sal is smooth, Un­charted4 will be re­ly­ing on peer-to-peer servers, which may af­fect real-world per­for­mance. The lack of ded­i­cated servers is es­pe­cially trou­bling given that mi­cro­trans­ac­tions are os­ten­si­bly be­ing in­cluded here to sup­port the game’s mul­ti­player. Still, it has been promised that noth­ing will be gated off via the Naughty Dog Points cur­rency, nor will it af­fect the game me­chan­ics

TOP LEFT Maps em­pha­sise es­tab­lish­ing and mov­ing fronts, lead­ing to fewer sce­nar­ios in which you’re shot in the back and more ex­changes of gun­fire. Rather than chase each other in cir­cles, teams push back and forth against one an­other.

ABOVE To main­tain 60fps, Naughty Dog is ren­der­ing the mul­ti­player at 900p res­o­lu­tion. Sin­gle­player in­creases the res­o­lu­tion to 1080p, but re­duces the fram­er­ate to 30fps

LEFT Th­ese relics add to the mul­ti­player an overt mys­ti­cism that the main se­ries tends to use more spar­ingly. More pow­ers are promised, but Naughty Dog isn’t ready to re­veal them

The em­pha­sis is on team play as five-strong squads clash in ex­otic lo­cales. There’s no story at­tached to the mul­ti­player, nor is it con­cerned with al­liances or history, so you might very well see Lazare­vic fight along­side Sully or Drake

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