Sony Computer Entertainment
May 10, 2016
I’ll be honest; I came up with this headline before I thought about what this article would really be about. Because, realistically, what can I say here? “Remember that blockbuster gaming franchise that everyone loves and has just gotten a film adaptation? They should make more of those.” It’s kind of a “no duh” situation. I’m not the first person to say they liked *good thing* and want another *good thing*. I should probably say something a little more sensational. Okay, fine: Uncharted is an incredibly unique, industry-shaping series that resonated with me powerfully, and we deserved more of it.
To be fair, Uncharted doesn’t appeal to everyone. Some write off the series as low-brow pop art. If you scroll down a Google search, it doesn’t take long before you run into critiques declaring Uncharted overrated. And to be fair, Naughty Dog’s action blockbuster has a few weak points. Its gunplay grows repetitive. The climbing sections are a bit simple as everything is painted the same color, so you know exactly where to go. And the narratives are juiced up with more razzle-dazzle than a Hollywood film.
Now that that’s out of our system, let’s get on to why Uncharted completely rules. Uncharted games are basically popcorn flicks in interactive form. That’s one of the reasons they go down so easy. But making a game that operates on a high level and appeals to a broad audience is difficult, making the series’ charm all the more impressive. But I don’t need to defend Uncharted. It’s okay if you don’t love it. Let me tell you why I do.
One of the things I love the most about Uncharted is its characters. If you look at any game with a highly regarded story, you’ll find that what fans really love is a captivating cast. Look at Mass Effect or Red Dead Redemption or Eidos-Montréal’s recent Guardians of the Galaxy, and you’ll discover the same thing. If you break down those narratives into a linear series of events, you may find that they seem pretty basic and trope-filled. However, those games do all have something in common: they are full of incredibly interesting and well-rounded characters. The reason we fall in love with video game narratives in the first place is because we first fall in love with the personalities that inhabit those worlds.
Click here to view embedded media
And Uncharted has some of the best characters in the business. Sully is the cigar-chomping rascal with a past full of adventures who I really just want as my dad. Chloe Frazer is the steely-eyed heroine with flexible morals who was so compelling that she deserved her own spinoff adventure. Meanwhile, Sam Drake is a character who shouldn’t work. Throughout three games, Nate’s brother was never once mentioned; this character should have felt entirely out of place. What’s more, Sam is a lying, manipulative thief. And yet, we love him.
I haven’t even gotten around to talking about two of Uncharted’s most essential characters: Nate and Elena. In our Video Gameogeaphy podcast, we talk about our appreciation for the romance between these two characters. When we first encounter Elena at the beginning of the first Uncharted, she is a TV journalist wrapped up in one of Nate’s wild Indiana Jonesesque adventures. She seemed like a traditional flavor-of-the-week romance. But as the series evolved, so did her relationship with Nate. The two got married … and then separated. But something kept pulling them back together.
And that is one of the things I respect about Uncharted’s take on Nate and Elena’s relationship. Naughty Dog didn’t shy away from the challenges of marriage and what it takes to remain committed to another person. Most gaming love stories end once the two primary protagonists hook up. We rarely get to see what happens after the first kiss. But a genuine long-term relationship takes work and sacrifice, and the romance doesn’t have to end. In fact, a committed relationship is often richer and more meaningful than the dalliances of youthful passion. Long-term commitment relationships are challenging, but they can also be beautiful.
I hope I don’t sound like an old man wagging a finger and saying, “When are you kids getting married?” Everyone’s situation is different. But that’s what I love about Uncharted and its characters. It offers farfetched stories full of genuine human moments. Yes, it’s constructed from tropes pioneered by Indiana Jones and other adventure serials, but it takes those building blocks and finds its own spin on the formula and manages to say something true in the process.
That’s why I want another Uncharted game … well that and they’re fun.