Looking at places to live in games, it would be easy for the most magnificent, pompous and elegant palaces and castles to dominate any appreciation. But there is plenty of room to appreciate those residences that are tucked away, perhaps underrated, that are not major hubs or destinations and that are only subtle intrusions. Some draw a curious sense of attachment from players, eliciting a sense of pseudo-topophilia - a close relationship with a virtual land or place. The resulting effect is sometimes enough to cause the sentiment: if this place were real, I would live there.
Mario is a simple guy. He wears overalls and a spiffy cap. He's got a brother and a couple of close friends. He can run fast and jump high. In his various quests to save princess Peach, he makes use of all of these attributes and relationships, yet none of them tell us anything about who Mario really is.
Like many, I'd heard about the Crash Bandicoot's cameo in Uncharted 4: A Thief's End before I witnessed it myself. I knew the basic premise: Nathan Drake plays the PS1 classic. And I'll be honest: I thought this seemed like a terrible idea.
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It's the PlayStation 4 Pro demo many hoped to see - but never came to pass. This is Uncharted 4 running at 60 frames per second, and it looks sensational. Sony's new console is built from the ground up principally to run PS4 engines at higher resolutions with similar performance levels to base hardware, but many hoped to see game developers take a different approach. As things stand, the video on this page stands apart as a kind of 'what if', the path not taken, if you will. What if PS4 Pro's 2.3x GPU boost could be used to double Uncharted 4 frame-rate instead of targeting 4K displays?
I absolutely loved The Last of Us. Joel and Ellie's journey from the quarantine zones of Boston to that ending in Utah ranks as one of my favourite video game tales of all time, and I'm not ashamed to admit to feeling a lump in my throat on a couple of occasions; such was the power of its storytelling.
Hello again! Listen, I said there was going to be a podcast the week after EGX Rezzed and there wasn't. That's on me. Completely my fault. 100%. I've let you down. That being said, there was also a bank holiday last week, which didn't help. And I had to go and visit my family before that as well. So yeah, technically it's my mistake. But also perhaps the bank's? Or my parents'?
On paper Naughty Dog's Uncharted series is as generic as it gets. It's about a good looking white, heterosexual man going on exciting globe-trotting adventures, killing bad guys and wooing a spunky blonde reporter. On this level, it's functional at best and banal at worst. But dig deeper and it becomes clear that Naughty Dog's bombastic blockbuster series quietly had a profound effect on the medium's development over the past several years.
The months prior to the launch of PlayStation 4 were filled with both excitement and rampant speculation - the likes of the now-cancelled Star Wars 1313 and Ubisoft's Watch Dogs hinted at what was to come, but the reality didn't quite live up to the promise. However, with the release of Uncharted 4: A Thief's End, we finally have a game that meets and exceeds our most optimistic pre-launch expectations. We've seen a number of current-gen consoles games delivering some remarkable visual achievements, but Naughty Dog has truly pushed on to the next level.
Quit while you're ahead, they say. Nonsense. What if Mo Farah had realised he was in the lead at 9,995 meters, and had a sit down? What if Alan Sugar had been satisfied with the CPC 464, and retired? What if Churchill had received the telegram about Hitler's defeat at Stalingrad, and gone down the Wethers? How different history would have been, most notably due to the absence of the Amstrad email phone.
Uncharted 4 marks the end of a ten-year journey for Nathan Drake - the explorer, archaeologist, and charming mass-murderer who redefined what it meant to raid a tomb. After some truly memorable adventures and tens of millions of copies sold, now feels like a good time to look back over the Uncharted legacy and reflect on what's being brought to a close.
Well, this is new. We're crouched in one of the rustling pockets of tall grass that's flecked across the plains of Madagascar, pushing Nathan Drake slowly towards a tower that's riddled with enemies - snipers near the top send out laser sights that probe all that parched greenery. From afar, Drake's able to mark out each enemy - get too close and a tasteful indictor above a soldier's head begins to quickly fill (in an inadvertent bit of cross-brand synergy, it looks like the floating obelisk from the cover of No Man's Sky), letting us know whether Drake's about to be spotted or not.
Neil Druckmann is different to most AAA video game developers.
Fancy playing some Uncharted 4? Well now you can. Owners of Uncharted: Nathan Drake Collection get their first contact with the game this week, by way of a multiplayer beta. Two maps are included; the island stage first shown at Paris Games Week, and another set in Madagascar - a marketplace you'll know well from the single player demo of E3 2015. As promised, we're getting a native 1600x900 output in multiplayer (while single player runs at 1920x1080), but what's especially striking is how its competitive mode's bid for 60fps has improved since our last hands-on.
Labeled Beta 1.03, the new build runs significantly more smoothly compared to its Paris Games Week showing. Previously, the island map in particular was prone to moments suggesting more optimisation work was needed. Physics-based destruction left parts of scenery floating midair, and we had a sustained bout of stuttering in a spot that, to that point, ran without any issues. Otherwise, all signs pointed to Naughty Dog designing a superb competitive mode, deserving of its place next to the solo portion. A real highlight of the show, the only real caveat was that it was tellingly still in a work-in-progress state.
To an extent, this is still true of the public beta going live today - but at least now it broaches a level of polish we'd expect of its final release. Despite being at the mercy of the same five versus five chaos, drops remain here, but it's safe to say the bulk of the experience now unfolds at a smoother 60fps rate. There's a gain in overall stability that keeps the action lodged at this top figure - and the flow of play feels all the better for it. Especially in the island map, we've yet to experience the same sharp stutters of the last build in a similar spot.
Naughty Dog's hints that Uncharted 4 could be its last entry in the series - a suggestion made most recently at last week's Paris Games Show - shouldn't come as a big surprise. Especially so, judging by the ideas bandied about in its multiplayer demo, a five versus five team deathmatch set to a striking jungle stage. It's clear the team is in a reflective mood, as if casting its mind back on the series' highlights since its 2007 debut, and incorporating it all into one package. It's an online mode that feels like a celebration, a carnival of all things Uncharted, as the studio looks to close its tenure with the series.
Sony mixed things up a little this year, electing to skip a Gamescom that have moved uncomfortably close to E3 and choosing to have its own show at Paris Games Week in the dying embers of October. Its conference on Tuesday evening brought everything you'd expect from a big show: new announcements about existing upcoming games, and big reveals such as Gran Turismo Sport and Quantic Dream's new game Detroit.
The Uncharted series' excellent multiplayer is back, but not the way we left it. For the first time, Uncharted 4 ramps its online play up to 60 frames per second (up from solo mode's 30fps) and having played it extensively at this week's Paris Games Show, the upgrade is tangible. The code on the showfloor was pre-alpha, but even this early on, the 60fps target clearly makes a difference for a mode with a competitive slant - an important part of giving us the tightest controller response possible. It's also fair to say a doubling in refresh means visual priorities are re-ordered here, particularly compared to what we've seen of its gorgeous solo adventure. But from what we've played, is that really a problem?
Being the stand-up gent that he is, Nolan North was up for pretty much every silly video idea we put to him when we met at Sony's UK headquarters last month. We chatted about his voice acting and performance capture for the Uncharted series, we talked briefly about his role as the Ghost in Destiny, and the last thing we managed to squeeze into a twenty minute slot (apart from his excellent Vine collaboration with Ian) was a quickfire challenge where North would attempt to do as many of his past voices, as listed on his IMDB page, as he could within sixty seconds.
Despite the shaky start, it was worth the wait. Uncharted 4 concluded Sony's E3 show this year with style - an extravaganza of live gameplay that showed Naughty Dog's growing affinity for PlayStation 4 hardware. Compared to the meat and potatoes gameplay shown at the PlayStation Experience event in December, Nathan Drake's E3 showing pushes the game's technological credentials more forcefully, calling on the team's incredible talents in set-piece design. But having seen some accomplished current-gen titles over the past few months, is what we're seeing here the consummate next-gen game we've been waiting for?
Gameplay reveals don't get much more exciting than this. This weekend's demonstration of Uncharted 4: A Thief's End gives us our first extended look at Naughty Dog's next-gen engine in playable conditions - and that's a big deal. After it was first teased at E3, the game was met with wild speculation and debate that would last for months over whether or not that level of visual fidelity could be achieved in real-time on current-gen console hardware. This brand new 15-minute gameplay demo helps to answer that question, while also giving us an idea of the kind of gameplay experience we might expect. Does the new footage stack up to the teaser trailer? Is this really a true next-generation Uncharted - or simply a prettier 1080p evolution of the existing formula?
UPDATE 11/06/14 19:07: This report from GamingBolt.com suggests that the Uncharted 4 trailer is indeed running in real-time - a simply phenomenal achievement. We've studied the video in a little more depth and have concluded that it's definitely running at native 1080p resolution (as opposed to being rendered at a very high resolution, then scaled down - a process known as super-sampling). Small clipping anomalies, a touch of specular aliasing on Nate's shirt as he sits up, along with some shadow aliasing on his forehead also suggest a real-time render. On the face of it, we're still looking at some pretty incredible anti-aliasing here for a real-time technique on a game running at 60fps, particularly when it comes to the perfect, artefact-free rendering of Nate's hair - but the combination of the low contrast setting, slow camera movement, motion blur and depth of field would work well generally in making aliasing much less of an issue.