Uncharted 4 might not be around to bolster the PS4's appeal this Christmas, but the fact that it follows in March next year will be good enough. Especially considering everything we've seen on it so far.
Previous teases and trailers have shown great promise, and our own talks with Nolan North, the voice of Nathan Drake have given us every reason to expect the latest to be the best of an already excellent franchise.
Now we've actually managed to play some and we're even more resolute that it will be one of the best games released for the console so far.
Sadly, we still haven’t managed to get our hands on any of the single-player campaign, where we think the game will shine the most, but we have had a few bouts of its multiplayer action and Naughty Dog has gone all out this time around to make the experience as fun as possible.
Not only has the developer introduced all the favourite characters from the previous three Uncharted games for players to play as, it has learned lessons from Uncharted 2, 3 and the multiplayer mode of The Last of Us to bring what it feels is its best online skirmish action yet.
Maps are restricted and small – something that helps teamwork more than large, sprawling vistas – but it is the addition of purchasable power-ups that adds a new element to the third-person shooter.
As well as weapon loadouts that can be chosen before a match, players get to purchase items in the game using in-game cash won through good play. This cash can then be spent on upgrading gear, new weapons or sidekicks and a superpower-giving device known as a mystical.
Mysticals are based on artefacts from previous Uncharted adventures, such as the Wrath of Eldorado from first Nathan Drake’s first outing. Of those already announced, there are also the Cintamani Stone and the Spirit of the Djinn, each of which bestowing the user with a different, magnificent effect.
The Wrath of Eldorado, for example, sends spirits towards any enemies in its sphere of influence, immediately knocking them to the ground and leaving them prone. They can either then be finished off easily or revived by their own teammates.
The Cintamani Stone automatically revives fallen comrades when activated, while the Djinn’s Spirit gives the bearer a short-lived period of teleportation.
Other mysticals will also be announced before release next march, but you can bet they will sound familiar if you are an existing Uncharted fan.
Sidekicks are artificially controlled characters that help you or your team when summoned. There are four in total, each with their own special abilities and they can turn the tide of a battle dramatically.
A sniper is fairly self-explanatory, a hunter tracks down the nearest enemy and holds onto them until they escape or you catch up and blast them off the map, and a saviour will help revive you when you have taken too many hits.
There is also a sidekick called simply “Brute”, who lays down an extraordinary amount of heavy weapons fire in scorched earth fashion. This is why they are the most expensive to purchase in a round, but when you can afford one they can completely turn the tide of a fight.
Sidekicks have limited health, much like player characters, but will recharge between hits. However, if they die you’ll have to earn the bucks in order to buy them again.
A lot of this will be discoverable within the Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End multiplayer beta that will go live in December, and eventually there will be eight maps available to play on.
On our own terms, we actually had a fairly miserable experience playing an early build of multiplayer, not because it wasn’t fun but because we were pants at it. However, we managed to let loose a couple of sidekicks during our bouts, and a mystical, so got a fairly good idea of what to expect.
For those of our skill level, that will mainly consist of being kicked to death after being knocked prone. But as Chumbawumba once sang, we “get knocked down, but we get up again, you’re never gonna keep us down.” Mind you, they didn’t have a bunch of Norwegian eSports wizards hovering over their spawn points now, did they?
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End will be available exclusively for PS4 from 18 March 2016.