Uncharted 4 features a completely revamped facial animation system

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Every console has always had that one game that has set the graphical benchmarks for the system in question. The Xbox 360 had Gears Of War, which was easily the finest looking piece of technology to feature creatine-blooded walking slabs of man-meat muscles to ever wield a gun. That had a chainsaw attached to it. For the PlayStation 3, Uncharted was always a stunner, pushing the console to the bleeding edge and paving the way for other Naughty Dog projects. Expect more of that visual quality then, when Uncharted 4 eventually arrives on the PlayStation 4.

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End marks the first proper debut of a Naughty Dog game on the PlayStation 4 (Remasters don’t count in my book). So naturally, the studio wanted to create a game that looked as pretty as it possibly could with the current technology available.“We’ve completely revamped our facial animation systems. The previous Uncharted games, and in The Last Of Us, the characters all had about 90 to 100 ‘bones’ in their faces which we used to moved the meshes around,” writer Josh Scherr said to GamesTM, explaining how the Uncharted 4 characters had extra “bones” in their faces which made for more nuanced performances at any time in the game.

Think about that, about how detailed Joel and Ellie’s pained facial expressions were, how well the game captured the respective actors’ – Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson – seminal roles. All that was achieved on the old tech. Now, the faces have anywhere between 300 and 500 bones.

It’s not just about better visuals however, as Naughty Dog wants players to feel emotionally connected to the characters in the game. It’s about setting a scene and mood, rather than going for broke with visuals that aim to pierce the uncanny valley effect. Something which the PS4 can deliver on with its hardware.

“On older games, some of the animations might have been sampled at 10 or 15 frames per second to save memory. That would have just been interpolated by our code [to run at 30 in-game],” Scherr explained.

While that looked fine, we can now afford to record it at 30 frames per second so that the animation looks that much smoother.”

Uncharted 4 is out sometime in 2016, provided that it doesn’t suffer any more delays. And you can bet your buns that Sony is going to pull out all the stops on their primetime exclusive title.

Last Updated: May 13, 2015

Darryn Bonthuys

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