The Uncharted series needs to change on PS4

Uncharted 4: A Thief's End Screenshot - 1157886

Uncharted needs to change. And I sincerely hope Naughty Dog knows this. Considering the reception towards Uncharted 3 and the strides they made with The Last of Us, I am hopeful that they know exactly what they’re doing with a fourth, next-gen Uncharted. But just in case, I’d like to delve into the reasons I think the series needs some big changes going forward.

Let's be clear that this isn’t a plea for Naughty Dog to take what they did with The Last of Us and turn Uncharted into a brutal survival horror tale. What they should do is apply the lessons they learned there and still make something decidedly Uncharted. But how?

Combat needs to chill out

Uncharted combat needs to change

By Uncharted 3 the combat in this series was absurd. In what universe does an Indiana Jones-inspired, Lara Croft-wannabe gun down heavily armored shotgun brutes by the dozen? In what universe is that an early-game enemy, replaced later on with snipers and super fire soldiers? It doesn’t help that the mobs of enemies thrown your way become highly irritating about halfway through the game. It only gets more crazy from there. Combat is a stressful chore, and while The Last of Us certainly had stress, it certainly wasn’t a chore.

The Last of Us makes combat a highlight of the gameplay without throwing eight million enemies your way. It makes each bullet fired feel important, and when you do get shot, it’s a bit more intense than a little bit of red in the corner of the screen and an, “Ouch!” The amount of enemies, rampant killing, and automatic weapon fire in Uncharted seems to surpass some Halo games at times, and it’s about time we see some change.

Combat in Uncharted can stay an important part of the gameplay. After all, it makes up more than half the gameplay in each entry of the series, so by now it pretty much has to be there in a big way. That said, it could be a lot more poignant and feature far less murder overall. We’ve already established that Nathan Drake kills people and then cracks wise, but for a lot of people, Uncharted is one of the most dissonant examples of video game murdering. Naughty Dog made combat feel impactful with less enemies in TLoU, and while it might be a lot harder to do the same in Uncharted, it’s a worthwhile endeavor.

Expand exploration

Uncharted exploration needs to expand

If this generation’s best and most consistently discussed games taught us anything, it’s that we shouldn’t underestimate the intelligence of gamers. Minecraft, Dark Souls, and Skyrim are but a few examples of games that let players find their own fun and figure things out for themselves. Uncharted, by comparison, has always been a very focused experience, pointing you in the right direction at every turn and throwing you down a tightly scripted, linear path.

Tomb Raider, while copying a lot of Uncharted’s style in its latest incarnation, smartly opened up each area for a little more freedom of exploration. That extra breathing room made it a blast to explore and spend more time in that world. They even managed to get all those epic scripted sequences and intense battles in there too. The result was a game that felt much more balanced and well-paced.

Uncharted should allow for some exploration, especially expanding upon the sections involving treasure hunting and tomb raiding. It’s increasingly difficult to believe that there are this many temples in the world designed for one guy to explore. After the millionth time a perfectly-placed foothold crumbles from underneath you, you have to wonder why it’s all so convenient. Something a bit more non-linear and open-ended could really expand not only the believability of the world but the satisfaction you gain from exploring it.

New Gen, Time to Change

Uncharted 4 needs more dynamic action sequences

Uncharted has defined cinematic moments in video games. Those instances of just barely making it out alive, dodging a punch from a massive brute, or boosting a buddy up to a ladder have been done throughout the series and copied ad nauseum by other games. There are certain scripted things that Uncharted just shouldn’t do anymore because they’ve become cliche. It’s time to move on.

Thankfully a lot of this stuff should come naturally with a more powerful console. Transition animations that were used to wall off areas or mask loading will hopefully be a thing of the past. Even in The Last of Us we saw Joel lifting up a few too many garage doors to bring players from one area into another.

Showy sequences like outrunning explosions or tanks or falling debris have also been done to death. They can be exciting, but we’re nearing a point where these sequences are cliche. You know you’re going to press forward and jump a few times and more or less watch some flashy graphics happen. Hopefully with new technology we can have stunning sequences happening within real, substantial gameplay.

Even the basic platforming of Uncharted has become a bit of a cliche for cinematic platforming. The perfectly scripted sequences of ledges strew throughout an area are so simple to navigate that it’s hard to imagine this is considered the same genre of gameplay as Mario and other more straightforward platformers. Even Assassin’s Creed manages to add some dynamic subtlety and freedom to it’s nearly automatic platforming, so Uncharted should really switch things for the fourth entry.

I still can’t wait

Uncharted needs to change, but the story is still great

I have my complaints about Uncharted, and by the third game I found a lot of its tricks to be tired and overdone. That said, I still loved the cast of characters and the story, and I loved what Naughty Dog did next. The Last of Us is a masterpiece, and I hope they can apply that depth of gameplay, scope, and storytelling to a new Uncharted. I want to be as excited to jump and shoot as Nathan Drake as I’ve always been to see his story. I can only hope Naughty Dog is on the same page going into their first Playstation 4 game.

Enjoy random thoughts about the latest games, the Sega Saturn, or the occasional movie review? Follow me @JoeDonuts!

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Joe Donato Video games became an amazing, artful, interactive story-driven medium for me right around when I played Panzer Dragoon Saga on Sega Saturn. Ever since then, I've wanted to be a part of this industry. Somewhere along the line I, possibly foolishly, decided I'd rather write about them than actually make them. So here I am.
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