10 Things I wish I knew before I started Uncharted 4

Be prepared

Just when Nathan Drake thinks he's out, he gets pulled back in on another grand adventure. But as much as things have stayed the same, a lot has changed. Big open spaces and a wider array of tools and tricks combine with a far more personal and character-driven narrative to provide an Uncharted that embodies the spirit of the prior games, while pushing it into new and exciting territory. So yes, you'll still climb mountains, look for treasure, and have every building inexplicably collapse around you, but are a lot of other, newer things to take in, too. If you're just getting started with Uncharted 4, here are a few pointers to set you on the right path.

The opening chapters are kind of a slow burn, so tuck on in for the ride

After an explosive intro, Uncharted 4 rewinds time a bit to fill in a few gaps in Nathan Drake's back story. It's a pretty lengthy prologue - you'll spend about five hours or so in a handful of surprisingly quiet character-building moments, until the adventure finally 'gets going' around chapter seven or eight.

It's good to mentally prepare yourself for it now so you're not constantly asking your television set, "Ok, so when do the explosions and the breaking things happen?" But trust me, by the time you finish the game, you'll be thankful Uncharted 4 made the effort to really let you get to know these characters.

There's no crafting or upgrade system, but it’s still worth exploring

Uncharted 4 may be helmed by the creative director of The Last of Us, and it may share some of its DNA in other, more subtle ways - the reduced linearity and greater width of its environments being chief - don't expect it to be a carbon copy of Naughty Dog's post-apocalyptic adventure. You won't have to scour every room looking for broken scissors to craft improvised weaponry. It's still very much an Uncharted game, which means the focus remains firmly on exploring lush environments and shooting a lot of mercenaries in the face.

That's not to say that exploration isn't rewarded. Just like in previous games, you'll often find hidden treasure lying around in unconventional places, and these artifacts will unlock additional options and bonuses on the main menu screen. Plus, you'll also be able to discover plenty of lore notes, in addition to filling out your journal with sketches of interesting things you come across. 

The important thing to remember is that you can (and should) explore environments to your heart's desire, but you should never feel pressured into thinking that you're leaving behind something important that you'll need in a combat encounter later - because there's nothing like that here.

It feels open-world, but it’s not. So don’t worry too much about navigation

So Uncharted 4 is not 'open-world', exactly, but there will be a few moments that do a really good job of giving off the illusion that it is. It's still very much a linear affair, but there’s certainly now more choice in how you get from A to B. There are often several different climbable paths that point toward a single ledge, for instance, and some later levels deliver huge open environments filled with multiple paths and loads of secrets hidden off to the side. If you’re not aware of all this at first it can feel overwhelming, but you can never truly go the ‘wrong’ way.

Try to stealth-kill as many goons as you can

One consequence of having bigger, more open environments is that you have a lot more freedom in Uncharted 4's combat encounters, and the best, most reliable way to get through them is by being as stealthy as possible. The opposition numbers are massive in comparison to the previous games, and if you stick to straight cover-shooting, you'll likely meet a swift and painful end. Luckily, goons are no longer instantly alerted when you enter a combat environment, and you can often turn this to your advantage.

You can hide in tall grass to sneak through densely-guarded areas, and if you get close enough to an enemy, you can take them out without anyone noticing. You can also climb up to higher vantage points (or use your grappling hook to swing) and leap down to take guards out with a single punch, as well as climbing below them to fling them off whatever ledge they're standing on. 

Pay attention to the icons above your enemies so you can stay unseen. Yellow means they're suspicious, red means they've spotted you. If you get seen and bullets start flying, feel free to go loud against the reduced numbers. But if you're really good, you can sneak off to another corner of the map and wait until the guards go back on their patrols, allowing you to continue quietly disposing of them one by one. They work on line of sight and last known location, so exploit that and disappear. You have a lot of tools at your disposal to ghost entire stages, so use them wisely.

Tag everyone you can

The most important tool for stealthing your way through combat is by marking enemies. Hold L2 and press the L3 button while aiming at a baddo, and a little pip will appear over their head, which you can use to continuously track their movement. 

Always take the time to tag enemies. You will always underestimate how many there are, and you’ll always get shot by one you didn’t know about as you push too far.

On that note: Don’t push too far, too fast

You’ll be tempted, because there are so many exciting things to do in front of you, but swinging in to air-punch a goon will always drop you right into the middle of a firefight if you don’t take the time to clear the others out first. There are always more goons than you think, so stay careful.

If you do go loud, use distractions

It’s also entirely possible to go loud and play evasively. If you’re smart about your angle of attack, you can use throwable explosives and the omnipresent red barrels to cause a ruckus far from your actual location, before immediately moving to another vantage point. Pay particular attention to the white circle blast-radius indicator dynamite. It’s huge, making the little red sticks of boom way more potent than the series' beeping grenades. The dust cloud is great for misdirection too, allowing you to mess with your enemies' aim, or provide a useful getaway.

Drake's grappling hook is brilliant, but using it requires a little effort

It's seriously great. Swinging feels really good, of course, but you can use it for a lot more stuff than that. You can use it in combat situations to quickly traverse certain areas in the environment (and you can even shoot while swinging, which feels as fantastic as it sounds), you can climb vertically up and down by holding L1, and you can use it to pull certain objects from high ledges. 

Though the rope has a very weighty physicality to it - don't expect any pre-canned auto-swinging, direction and momentum are all your own responsibility - and while it's magically able to latch onto certain objects with 100% accuracy, it otherwise acts very much like a rope is supposed to. Keep this in mind when you approach many of Uncharted 4's puzzles.

Read Drake's journal. Seriously

Not only is it filled with a ton of interesting information, great drawings, and Drake's witty notes, it's also necessary to solve many of Uncharted 4's puzzles. And there are a lot of puzzles, many of which require that you use your journal to reference newly acquired information. You'll also use the book to store any lore notes or other papers you may find, so keep that in mind if you want to go back and read some of the stuff you've picked up in your travels.

Turn on Photo Mode

If you go into the options menu, you can turn on Photo Mode, and then activate it in game by pressing L3 and R3 simultaneously. Photo Mode allows you to swing the camera around, zoom in and out, remove characters from the scene, and more. Uncharted 4 is gorgeous and it knows it, and it wants you to go wild - take it up on its offer.