It's possibly Naughty Dog's magnum opus. Their final word on Nathan Drake and his band of misfits. Perhaps the last time we'll see the spirit of Indiana Jones crystallised so earnestly into a video game.
It's Uncharted 4. It's a story millions of gamers have been waiting years for. And that's the problem. How do you preview the game without giving away the good stuff?
That's the quixotic problem I was presented with this week when attending a preview for Uncharted 4 this week. It was just over half an hour of playthrough of Madagascar's alluvial plains and abandoned ruins, along with a brief presentation of the back story.
It's pretty intriguing: Drake, his older brother Sam and partner in crime Sully (Victor Sullivan technically, although that's rarely referenced) are searching for Henry Every's lost treasure.
Every's an interesting chap. He was a former mariner who turned pirate. According to Naughty Dog community strategist Arne Meyer, Every's career was intriguing for a few reasons. For one, he assembled a small squadron of ships rather than working alone. His convoy ended plundering the Ganj-i-sawai, a haul that made Every the richest pirate in the world.
Meyer said the loot was around US$400 million in today's money, and the raid resulted in the first worldwide manhunt. The East India Company and the Privy Council put up a combined bounty of 1,000 pounds, and substantial tension was put on the relationship between the Mughal and English empires.
None of this, of course, was borne out in the gameplay itself. And it couldn't have been.
Previews are a tricky business. You want to show the press and public something to get hyped about so they'll be excited for the game when it comes out. You want to show off the new systems and mechanics so people can see what's improved from your last title.
And it's not as if the new Uncharted systems aren't cool. The new threat indicators and AI behaviour is pretty stock standard, but it means you use a stealthy approach far more effectively than you could in previous games. The open areas gives you more viable options when tackling major fights -- and it makes replaying the game more interesting, too.
Plus, if you're the kind of person who likes hunting for collectibles -- now you'll really have to explore. And there's some interesting uses of the vehicle for environmental puzzles. It's a bit unrealistic in the way it slips and slides in the mud, but it's fun to fling around.
Problem is, Uncharted's draw card is the story. And you can't give that away. The brief cut-scene from the start of the footage posted on PlayStation's YouTube channel: I didn't even get that.
And that's fine! I'm not holding it against the game. I'm certainly not holding anything against the developers. Because those are the bits I don't want spoiled. I want to sit down and binge the last Uncharted (from Naughty Dog, at least) the same way I would House of Cards, or The League or a three-part movie.
That's always been the appeal of the series for me. And I'm not alone. But because of that it's too much of a risk for Naughty Dog to give anything really juicy away in previews.
So I'm stuck making handbrake turns in the dirt and the mud, pondering what's to come. Fortunately, May isn't far away.