Siobhan Doyle looks back at the Nathan Drake’s final outing
It’s hard to believe that Uncharted 4 came out over half a decade ago, with visuals that don’t look out of place years later and engaging storytelling, influenced by The Last of Us. The fourth instalment had a tumultuous development with writer Amy Hennigs departing from Naughty Dog following the series’ shift to a grittier, more serious tone. Although the games’ rocky road proved one worth taking for new co-directors Neil Druckmann and Bruce Straley. This pivot from a playable action film that doesn’t take itself too seriously to a playable action film with narrative stakes and complex character arcs intertwined with one another was a success for Naughty Dog.
One of the most affected aspects of the series with its change in tone and game director was the approach to narrative and character development. In Uncharted, character development is achieved through not just cutscenes but also conversations between characters' gameplay events. This method of conveying dialogue allows the player to organically learn who the characters are and what their motivations are. It is a game that treats its characters dynamically, as they and their relationships change throughout the game. Despite the fictional nature of Uncharted, its characters carry a sense of believability, and are humanised through their flaws and shortcomings. Uncharted 4 is a dynamic game, from the different animations based on how long it takes the player to react to a button prompt to the various ways in which Nathan narrates the adventure based on player action. In addition, the music is equally adaptive to player input and features musical ideas that recur throughout the game. For example, the ambient music that scores endearing moments between Nate and Elena. All of these features and dynamic details serve to create an immersive narrative experience that has since only been bested by The Last of Us Part II. Unfortunately, such attention to detail is impossible to achieve against a monetary-driven schedule without making compromises.
Nathan Drake’s problematic work-life balance is comparable to the reality of crunch culture in the video game industry
Games journalist and author, Jason Schreier has drawn parallels between the game’s narrative theme and the reality of developing a game at such a massive scale. In his book, Blood, Sweat and Pixel, Schreier details how Nathan Drake’s problematic work-life balance is comparable to the reality of crunch culture in the video game industry. Schreier’s interpretation facilitates a conversation about crunch culture at Naughty Dog that, unlike their games, has seemingly not evolved very much in the last six years.
In all, Uncharted 4 is an excellent game and a breathtakingly beautiful experience that is only further enhanced by Legacy of Thieves Collection’s finer-tunned graphics and improved lighting. It is a wholly engaging and cinematic experience, facilitated by incredible attention to detail. Featuring a line-up of some of gaming’s most fleshed-out characters, it’s no surprise to see the series adapted for film. With the Uncharted film playing in theatres, now is no better time to revisit the exhilarating and immersive world of this trigger-happy treasure hunter.