When Naughty Dog released Uncharted in 2007, they brought us one of the most widely respected and adored characters in video game history in the main protagonist Nathan Drake. Drake is a wisecracking, treasure hunter who never ceases to amaze with his wide knowledge in the mythical legends and his can do attitude. Although his adventures are something concocted within our wildest dreams, it is Naughty Dog's ability to make him such a relatable character which keeps him close to our hearts. Actor Nolan North portrays Drake in such a manner that by the end of each game you are left feeling like you have just lost your best friend. It is the combination of these elements which have film makers begging to portray his stories on the big screen. Naughty Dog have begun to set a precedent when it comes to storytelling within their games, combining unrivaled action sequences with tense inter character dialogue that evoke emotions, which many developers aim to achieve and yet fall so short.
Undoubtably, Uncharted leads the way and The Last Of Us is following suit, with the former spanning four main series games. Nate's adventures seem to have come to an end, but his character will never die within our hearts. Nathan Drake embodies everything we wish we could be, an all action man with a witty persona who doesn't seem to do too badly with the ladies. However, there are times within the series where we definitely see ourselves in Drake throughout his adventures, his struggles and his general life.
Living in London, one of the busiest cities in the world, public transport is essential for travelling around. It's horrible and we hate it. Attempting to travel the central line into the middle of the city is a challenge no one would take on willingly. It's hot, delayed, packed to the rafters and it smells. Coincidentally Nate can identify with train troubles. Nate we feel you, we know your pain. At the beginning of Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, we start with Nate sitting on a train, covered in his own blood. Surprisingly, I have actually seen a similar situation on a train to work and I'm pretty sure that guy had a rough day too. Drake then struggles to his feet to realize the train is hanging off the side of a snowy mountain and his impending death is looming over him. Although not quite to the same extreme, Nate knows our struggle; he doesn't do trains and neither do we.
After duping the young budding reporter Elena Fisher into helping him with an illegal dive, Nate manages to recover the fabled journal of Sir Francis Drake, his idol. Nate claims to be the long lost descendant of the famed English Sea Captain and wishes to follow in his footsteps. After enchanting us with such a lavish story, which becomes almost believable, Nate is cut down by Elena who reminds him that Sir Francis had no heirs. This extract reminded me of being young in the playground, spinning up lies to my friends about my family or famous people that I've met. I'm pretty sure I once told someone my Dad was a karate master, when he really was a 5"6 bus driver. We've all done it at some point. However, it is his ability to dream and wild imagination that we identify with so well, leaving us thinking...yeah he's just like us!
At the end of every adventure, Nate seems to have picked up this uncanny pattern of leaving without the thing he set out for in the first place. Whether it was El Dorado or the fabled Shambhala. At the beginning of Uncharted 4, we see a very different Drake than what we were used to, as he's married with a house and a normal job. Adventure still awaits Drake, yet he turns it down on several occasions. There are scenes which take place showing his boredom and longing for something more than the mundane tasks of his everyday life. In this respect, Drake is so relatable. As humans, we all desire something more and stagnation is something that drains us. We always strive to move forward and when we find ourselves in a rut, we often look for an escape. For Drake, it was hunting pirates treasure, while for me it was to become a writer. For you, it may be something different, but ultimately we are all on the pursuit of happiness.
Have you ever just been wandering around the house feeling bored and decided to be a kid again by letting your imagination run free? I know I have and I bet more of you have, even if you don't care to admit it. It's okay! You are not alone friends. As it happens, our favourite hero does too. While rummaging around in his attic, reminiscing about adventures gone by, Drake gives you the opportunity to live this moment through him. Equipped with an air ball gun and his sweet moves, you navigate the dangerous terrain that is....Nathan Drake's man cave! With every shot, he can not seem to contain his excitement, delving further and further into his imaginary game with childish perfection. Moments like this make it easy to see why Nathan Drake was definitely one of us! We're all still kids at heart really.
Although Uncharted 4 was the last step in the whirlwind that was Nathan Drake's life, it also acted as a prologue for much of the game. The game explored Nate's past to reveal how he got where he is today and what made him...well...Nathan Drake. The introduction of his long lost brother did a lot to reveal a side to Drake that we had not previously been exposed to. His loyalty to his brother and love for him had not wavered in years gone by and it did not take much convincing from his brother for Nate to join his expedition for Captain Avery's treasure. Even after he found out Samuel's life was not in danger, he was happy to carry on living out their childhood dreams to a certain extent. Many of us have brothers, sisters or even close friends who we would do anything for. Seeing Nate's undying loyalty is just another way in which he perfectly represents us!
Over the years, we have played plenty of games with overpowered, almost super human characters who just walk through their enemies without a scratch. It is difficult to connect to these characters as they do not experience struggle. Naughty Dog definitely avoided this type of character with Nate. Countless times he has come near death, been beaten, shot and nearly dehydrated to death. He often relies on his friends and comrades to pull him through, whether it's Elena, Sully or even Chloe, and it's abundantly clear that he isn't a super hero. We all need someone, we all need help from time to time. Even Nathan Drake. I think this enables us to understand that he is in fact human, he is vulnerable, and he is just like us...and we love him even more for that. Although, if he came asking me for help securing some sort of treasure, I'd probably have to pass on that adventure. Sorry Nate buddy.
To my nostalgic excitement, Naughty Dog threw us a treat in the form of our favourite little bandicoot. During a very warm scene in Nate and Elena's home, he challenges Elena's high score on Crash Bandicoot. What made it even better for us is that it was playable! Countless hours of my childhood were lost in that game, as I'm sure was the same for many of you, especially running away from that boulder! As Nate plays the game, his frustrations at failing become evident, as was his excitement at the challenge, and these mirrored all the feelings we felt battling through the levels in years gone by. Luckily for us, a remake/remaster is fast approaching, so we can relive all of these moments again in HD, but for now we will settle for Drake and his game time with Crash. Glad he loves him just as much as we did!
Is it me or does it feel like sometimes you can't catch a break? Things seem to be going so well then...BAM! It all comes crashing down. Well as much as it pains me to say it, we aren't the only ones! Just look at all of Nathan Drake's exploits. He survives Mercenaries....then has to deal with Nazi Monsters. He finds El Dorado...loses it in the sea. He finds Shambhala....it's overrun by super powered, yeti men. He leaves home on a secret adventure...gets caught by his wife Elena. Finds a treasure haul worth millions...it gets buried inside a cove. Once again, it proves that Drake really is one of us because despite his victories, things just seem to get worse and worse sometimes! I mean this very morning, I went out in shorts to enjoy the sun and, just like that, it rained. I'm sure he would feel my pain just as I feel his. I guess it worked out okay for him in the end, so keep your fingers crossed guys and stay away from abandoned or long lost cities, okay?
Something which I believe truly makes Nathan Drake one of us is his fear. We all have fears in life. Whether they're irrational or very real ones, we face them. Naughty Dog achieved a state of emotional empathy with Nate in which we truly understood his fears, both physical and emotional ones. For example, as the "Scare 'O' Meter" above suggests, Drake has faced some pretty fearsome foes, like the 'Slippery wet guys' who quite frankly scared the hell out of me when I first played through Uncharted and the 'Demon Sasquatch', which were so difficult to dispose of. As well as this, they portrayed his emotional fear at losing his loved ones and not achieving his goals. When Elena came close to death, the emotion he showed was incredible. His ability to throw humour into the mix also helps to make him one of us by claiming he was only about a 4/10 on a scale of fear that Elena would die and that clowns are scarier. We often use humour to cover up our pain and worry. Although Sully's glorious moustache could well be Drake's hardest foe to date!
One of Nate's best qualities is his humour. It brings out the best of the game during its darkest and most tense moments. Dark humour is one of the greatest types of humour, as it lightens the mood in any situation and helps to change the dynamic. Let me set the scene; Elena, Sully and Drake are deep in a dark cavern, with the imminent threat of private militia soldiers surrounding them. Drake manages to find his prize, as he so often does, a skeleton with a book firmly grasped within its clutches. He reaches in and SCREAMS!! He was making it seem like the the skeleton had attacked him, before gradually laughing as Sully and Elena pooped their pants. Hey, it's definitely something many of us would do. You have to love scaring your close friends and family. Just be careful. Revenge is a dish best served cold.
An unfortunate thing in life is that we will always be stabbed in the back by someone. Whether it's a colleague, a friend or a family member, it is always tough to be betrayed by someone you trust. Nate knows this all too well from Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. Drake is approached by an old accomplice, Harry Flynn, and asked to take on the task of hunting down the fabled Shambhala. Athough he already is weary about trusting Flynn, he decides the adventure is too good to pass on and teams up with him. After several breakthroughs in the search for their goal, all tensions between the two seem to be forgotten, only for Flynn to stab Drake in the back when we least expected it. This left us feeling just as betrayed as Drake and, in this moment, he was 100% one of us! It's all good Nate, we've got your back!
Personally I loved this scene, despite how minuscule it is. It was another way in which Naughty Dog brought Nathan Drake to life and made him one of us! After being caught on one of his thieving excursions, Drake is locked up in a grotty jail cell for three months. With a distinct lack of entertainment, a very angry Drake decided to mock the person who was the reason for his capture, Harry Flynn. This brings memories of being young and having childish arguments with siblings where they would say something and you would say it back in a mocking voice. Ahh good times! I think it's something we can all resonate with and it has won us many arguments, right? Nope, me neither, but looking back on it, it was funny as hell. Luckily for our hero, Sully comes to break him out and the story continues!
This happens more regularly than it should; being late for a train only to have it seem like the world is against you in pursuit of the train like slow walkers, people trying to sell their mixtape or get you to sign up to something. They're just relentless in their pursuit to stop you. Well it doesn't surprise me to see that Nate had the same issue and he's constantly facing opposition in his pursuit of glory. However, their is a particular moment within Uncharted where Nathan Drake is trying to catch the train and is faced with the slight inconvenience of several people trying to murder him. When Drake screams "YouaA-holes are gonna make me miss my train!" it just embodies everything we think and feel in this situation.
All our greatest games and characters often come with a love interest. Sometimes they can feel forced and like they're being thrown in our face. However, in the case of Elena Fisher, I do believe Naughty Dog came up with a winning formula. It is pretty obvious from the get go that Elena is likely to be Nate's love interest, but rather than forcing her into the story, her character is built up to become loved not just by Nate, but by us too! Far from a damsel in distress, she's just as smart and quick-witted as our hero, she knows her way around a gun and isn't afraid to stick it to Nate when it is needed. Naughty Dog did throw a curveball with the inclusion of Chloe Frazer in Uncharted 2, creating the possibility of a love triangle, but ultimately it was always meant to be for Elena and Nate. So when it came to be that they would finally marry, it brought nothing, but joy as it is what we all wanted.
As an adventurer and treasure hunter, you would expect Drake to be a pretty steady guy, calm in the face of adversity, sensible, a good decision maker and always aware of his surroundings and danger. In many ways, he is all those things and in a lot of ways he isn't. One of Nate's lovable qualities is that he is reckless, destructive and just downright clumsy! But he gets results...sometimes. This brought one scene to mind which proves that Drake is definitely one of us.
When Elena tells Nate to "be careful," he replies with his usual lovable arrogance, saying "aren't I always." Then he proceeds to bang his head on a low ceiling! Ask yourself how many times you've been told to watch your head and then followed suit with the ironic banging of your head. It's happened more times than I care to admit! It is these small details which really bring Drake to life.
Nate and Sully's relationship in the game is a special one, as it spreads beyond mentor and pupil and manifests itself as a more dependant father/son relationship. The series expands on their encounters by delving into the past to explain how the two first met, when Drake was an orphan who Sully eventually took under his wing. Those of us old enough to do it without facing the consequences will often mock our parents and Drake is no stranger to that. After stumbling across a German U-boat in the jungle, Sully says "Something about this feels kinda hinky" to which Drake responds with a very sarcastic "hinky? You act like as if you have never seen a German U-Boat in the middle of the jungle before." Again displaying the perfect father/son relationship on an adult scale and adding another moment where Drake is definitely one of us.
One of my favourite parts of Uncharted 4: A Thief's End was the inclusion of a semi free roam car chapter. Breaking away from the more traditional linear profession, it enabled us to roam around in a 4x4 with Sully and Sam to explore the given region, while also allowing us to listen to Sam and Sully talk, which added depth to the characters. Some of this conversation related to Nate's insistence on having a winch added to the car. With Sully and Sam both teasing him over it, Nate clearly couldn't wait for a chance to rub it in their faces if the winch was ever needed and eventually it was! I mean surely we have all at some time had a point to prove and then felt no remorse when rubbing it in the other person's face! We all enjoy it. It feels good when we're right and so does Nathan Drake as we so often find out.
Many of us have been in situations where we have been totally unprepared and unorganised, whether it was a school project, a work presentation or meeting. In these moments, rather than concede defeat, we always call on our inner Nate Drake and absolutely wing it. Drake's ability to wing situations is absolutely unrivalled, even though most of the time he gets himself into these situations. For example, in one of the very first scenes, Elena and Nate are attacked at sea by pirates and when she suggests calling the authorities, he then tells her..."we don't exactly have a permit." If anyone could hold the title for number one improviser, it would have to be Nate for somehow getting out of these sticky situations he puts himself in. Who needs planning anyway when you always have Sully to bail you out, right? Either way, each and every badly planned situation and badly organized excursion is just more evidence to support than Nathan Drake is one of us in these moments.
Nathan Drake's very nature automatically makes him one of us, his archaeological mind-set says a lot about us as humans which me may not actually realize in itself. He is always intrigued by mystery. Wanting to know more is a constant goal for Drake, as one clue leads to another and to another, but not always just in the pursuit for treasures but for knowledge as well. His excitement grows as he inches closer and closer and learns new things in the same way we as a society do. Humans have advanced rapidly in the grand scheme of our history, developing new technologies and pushing the boundaries in our knowledge as a race. Just look at how we have ventured out, exploring space or the depths of our ocean. Simply, we crave answers and, although this may not be comparable to us as individuals, it shows how Naughty Dog have created a character who embodies everything it means to be human.
The introduction of Cassie Drake was a beautiful end to our story, showing how our hero had gone full circle and started a family with Elena some years down the line. Cassie resembles everything Drake and Elena are, even in the short time we spend with her, as we see her wise cracks, her intuitiveness and her thirst for knowledge, mostly about her parents adventures. For those of us lucky enough to have children, the one thing you would all agree on is that we would protect them with our lives. This was no different for Nate. He is very cautious about telling Cassie of his adventures, knowing some of them came with some scary details. Nathan Drake became a parent, he is human, he is one of us, he protects his daughter, and he protects his wife. In Nathan Drake, Naughty Dog created one of the most accurate portrayals of what it means to be one of us. He is a character who will be timeless and never forgotten, and for that we will be forever grateful.