As Sony’s presser came to a close last Monday, it was glaringly evident that every Sony fan’s favorite developer, Naughty Dog, had not announced anything. People weren’t sure whether they should keep holding their breaths or allow themselves to deflate in disappointment. However, right at the tail end, there was just one more thing to announce, there was the Naughty Dog logo, and Drake’s gorgeous mug popped up on screen.
Despite the initial excitement, it quickly dissipated for some when Nate and Sully made allusions to an ending to the series, with phrases like “one last time” casually tossed around as if they weren’t some of the most beloved characters in gaming history –characters who we have grown to love adventure after adventure. To top it off, the damn title was revealed as Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End (end!). Well…shit.
If you’re one of those heart sick fans, then you’ll be surprised that I’m happy this might be the end of the series.
Hey…HEY! Just put the gun down and let me explain…
One of, if not the biggest, selling points to the Uncharted series is the characters and their development. Very rarely do we see developers put real love into their characters like we have with this series. We have watched them grow, come and go, and somehow end up back together again for another adventure.
But…where else do these characters have to go? For one, Nate and Elena appear to have gotten back together at the end of Drake’s Deception, which only really leaves their future together as husband and wife to be explored. Given that this relationship was already put in jeopardy once because of Drake’s wanderlust, it’s just not going to be as appealing to watch Nate try to win her back again. Not to mention, this was always more of a side story than the focus of the game, with most of the action being centered around Nate and Sully, which brings me to my next point.
Throughout Uncharted 3, Sully was constantly warning Nate against how far they had gone into the seedy underworld in their hunt for treasure. Shit was getting real when just too many people started dying, and Nate was clearly starting to see that. He especially came to his senses when he ended up wandering the goddamn desert alone and nearly succumbing to dehydration. Ol’ Nate may get off on near-death experiences, but it was clear that he was seeing just how unglamorous death can be.
Not only was Sully trying to show Nate how out of control their lifestyle was getting, but Sully himself was getting too old for it. He’s only gotten older since then, and let’s face it, he’s gotta hang up his hiking boots and revolver some day. That day never seemed closer than it did in Drake’s Deception. It was already a stretch to watch the old man scale walls with the finesse of a 20-year-old gymnast in the last installment, and if Naughty Dog really want to tell a story, they’ll understand when Sully has to go. And who wants an Uncharted game without Sully?
Where the story is concerned, all of the characters are starting to come to a logical and satisfying close. Nate has little left to prove in the world of archaeology, him and Elena are probably still married (as evidenced by his wedding ring in the Uncharted 4 trailer), and Sully is surely going to be retiring to some island soon where he can haunt the bars like a modern-day Hemingway. There just isn’t a lot of necessary and satisfying story to tell.
Uncharted 4 has a great set up – the last adventure for our two heroes, who know that their time in the world of pirates, thievery, and treasure plundering is nearly over. The trailer set up a truly dreary and almost desperate tone, and if the game carries through with that and maintains the “this is it” theme throughout the plot, it could easily be the best in the series.
Gameplay-wise, there just isn’t much more for the series to do to keep things fresh. Sure, there may be a few years in between releases, but at their core, all of the Uncharted games have been the same blend of light puzzle solving, cover-based shooting, and fleeting moments of stealth and platforming. Naughty Dog would be better off either starting a new story (besides The Last of Us) or working on a game that will show us some different type of gameplay. Remember when they used to do 3D platformers? *wistful sigh*
I’m not glad to see the Uncharted series potentially coming to the close because I don’t like it or think it’s getting stale, but because it has the opportunity to avoid what so many big-name franchises, both in movies (Pirates of the Caribbean) and video games (Halo), do: overstay its welcome. I really want to remember Uncharted as the series that went out on top, and that is why it warms my heart to think that Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End will finally allow Nate to head off into the sunset with Elena and Sully.