Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End crescendos at its midpoint with a bombastic, all-out chase action sequence that is not only a highpoint for the game itself but for the entire Uncharted franchise, ranking as one of Uncharted’s best chases and action scenes. It’s a thrilling, lengthy chase through city streets and rocky terrain, against seemingly unstoppable odds (and one frightening truck), and plenty of Uncharted’s coolest moments., but it’s also one rooted in its character work, a reflection of Nathan Drake’s journey so far, his various personal ties to Sam, Sully, and Elena, and so much more.
It’s a high point of Naughty Dog’s action work, and to find out more, IGN spoke to two Naughty Dog team members – Kurt Margenau and Shaun Escayg – about how the chase came together, its emotional resonance, and more in our latest Art of the Level.
Among the many important things to get right about this sequence was ensuring it worked as a summation of all the character relationships at play so far in A Thief’s End.
“So we’ve laid out the story structure. We know where the highs and lows are, and in particular, this particular sequence was the midpoint,” Escayg explained. “There’s a lot of emotional charges of these brothers being reunited. And we knew that at some point we wanted all of the dynamics, Nate, Sam, Sullivan, Nadine, Rafe and all the history that came with that to crescendo at a midpoint and in almost like a false victory, if you will, or the band’s back together kind thing.”
The devs reveal the secrets behind the series’ best chase sequence in our latest deep dive into how one of gaming’s most memorable levels came to life. Learn about how the devs crafted this sequence, including some surprising ways they made driving, gunplay, and hand-to-hand combat feel so satisfying, how the deep, emotional stakes are brought to the forefront as Drake races to reunite with his brother, and so much more by watching the video above.
Some of the key takeaways involved learning how the massive, relenting truck that chases Nate and Sully at the start of the chase actually works.
“It has this network of essentially rails that it’s on that every street it has the ability to get to, to be as kind of a predictive spot in front of the player that wants to be in. So no matter where you’re going, it’s going to try to be there, i’s always shooting at you,” Margenau explained.
And perhaps one of the biggest things the team worked to get right was the pressure and feel of Uncharted’s best convoy fight scene, as Nate hops between cars, taking down foes with bullets and fists, knocks out drivers and full cars nearby, all while racing to get to Sam. As Margenau explained in the video, an inventive slotting system allowed the team to choreograph all the car’s movements so that the player always had something to contend with. And doing so allowed the wider team to strive to get all the finer details right.
“That was the [macro] level that I was able to think about [the slotting mechanism] instead of having to do every little tiny little detail, which I think was a big breakthrough just for myself and my own time to be able to think about it on that level and have the tools to really iterate on it and play around with, what do we want the player to be doing here? How many vehicles? What’s the orientation? How do we make this fun? And that’s kind of our design philosophy, how do we get to a place where we can iterate on that final experience as much as possible instead of just trying to get something to work.”
Margenau also touched on how a sequence like this evolves when bringing Uncharted 4 to the PS5 as part of the Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection. It’s still the same content as the PS4 release, but this collection allowed the team to start experimenting with one of the PS5’s most exciting features, haptics.
“We wrote a whole new way of when you’re driving the vehicle, there’s a bunch of different systems in place in the vehicle itself. Every tire is modeled and how much it is gripping or slipping on the ground is modeled and then reflected in stereo, on the controller, in haptics. So you can kind of feel what every tire is doing just from holding a controller. These little touches and stuff, when you’re drifting around in that sequence down the roads, it’s a lot of fun.”
For more, watch the full video above, and be sure to check out our other Art of the Level features, like our breakdown of The Last of Us Part 2’s memorable Rat King boss fight, and Ghost of Tsushima’s unforgettable opening.
Jonathon Dornbush is IGN’s Senior Features Editor, PlayStation Lead, and host of Podcast Beyond! He’s the proud dog father of a BOY named Loki. Talk to him on Twitter @jmdornbush.