Chris Schulz is the deputy head of entertainment for the New Zealand Herald.

Hands-on with Uncharted 4 - what's it really like?

Chris Schulz gets some hands-on time with Uncharted 4, and finds he needs a little help.
Uncharted 4 is the year's biggest release from one of gaming's biggest franchises.
Uncharted 4 is the year's biggest release from one of gaming's biggest franchises.

It's going to be tough, warns Arne Meyer, with a suspicious glint in his eye.

Naughty Dog's Community Strategist passes me his PlayStation 4 controller and lowers his voice: "These are some of the most formidable antagonists in the entire series."

My hands are sweating and I haven't even started playing through this key scene that comes near the end of A Thief's End, the climax of Nathan Drake's Uncharted adventures.

A screengrab from Uncharted 4: A Thief's End.
A screengrab from Uncharted 4: A Thief's End.

I'm the first person in Australasia tasked with completing this mission - and I can feel the weight of expectation on my shoulders.

This is, after all, the year's biggest release from one of gaming's biggest franchises. And it comes from the developers, whose last game, The Last of Us, is considered by many to be the greatest of all time.

For Drake's fourth outing, the pressure is on Naughty Dog to deliver a fitting finale. And the pressure is on me not to stuff this scene up.

Meyer has spent 20 minutes talking me through the scenario Drake faces to make sure I'm ready to play it. I'm not. I'm definitely not.

Fifteen enemies armed with machine guns, sniper rifles and blocks of dynamite guard tower ruins where Drake's lost pirate treasure might be. With Drake's sidekicks Sully and Sam next to me, I have to drive up to the ruins in a jeep, and using long grass and ruined structures for cover, take each guard out one by one.

"This scene exemplifies how we're trying to provide a lot of player choice," says Meyer, sitting in PlayStation's Sydney offices with a touch of jetlag.

A screengrab from Uncharted 4: A Thief's End.
A screengrab from Uncharted 4: A Thief's End.

"As you approach the ruins, you can come from different directions. You can go full stealth, guns blazing, or a combination of both. You can use tall grass to stay in stealth. You can mark enemies so you can keep track of them. And you can use your grappling hook."

Ahh, the grappling hook. Like the jeep, the first time Drake has been able to use a vehicle in an Uncharted game, the grappling hook is another new initiative that allows players to swing between structures and drop enemies with flying punches.

In trailers, they look like an incredibly impressive addition to the game. In my hands, it'll surely be a tool to go flying into concrete rubble.

Finally, when Meyer thinks I'm ready, my focus sharpens, my grip tightens, and I start sneaking through the grass towards the ruins. "I've got this," I mutter.

Then things go horribly wrong. I accidentally jam my finger on the wrong button and fire a gun shot into the air. Every single enemy now knows where I am.

Meyer bursts into laughter as bullets rain down around Drake. I've stuffed it up, just like I thought I would.

A screengrab from Uncharted 4: A Thief's End.
A screengrab from Uncharted 4: A Thief's End.

I follow Sully and Sam and crouch behind a wall. I'm left sitting there, stuck, wondering what to do.

Then I catch a break: I spot a block of dynamite at the base of the tower. I take aim at it, and it explodes, taking out at least three enemies.

I crouch back down, and catch another break. The game's auto-aim mode has been left on, meaning every time I pop up from the wall, I get a clean shot at each enemy without having to pause to set my sights. I take them out simply and efficiently, without every having to leave my cover. It's too easy.

Afterwards, Meyer sits back in his chair.

"We left it on the easiest setting with a bit of the auto-aim on in there," he says.

"I actually didn't check that."

His disappointment is obvious. All I can feel is relief. I won. Sort of.

After the session, I watch a demo that shows exactly how it's supposed to be done. Drake uses the long grass to sneak up on enemies, choking them and dragging their bodies out of sight.

He crawls to a remote tower, takes out a guard and uses his sniper rifle to take out the other sniper in the tower. Then he breaks out his grappling hook, flying between structures with sensationally timed flying punches. Those enemy AI don't stand a chance. Drake barely takes a hit.

Next time, I promise myself. That's exactly what I'll do. Next time.

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf03 at 11 Dec 2016 20:31:30 Processing Time: 1096ms