Michael Abbott sums up Drake's appeal:
"Much of Uncharted's success can be traced to its hero, Nathan Drake - a regular guy with no special powers or skills (well, he is a pretty good climber). Nate's ordinariness helps explain the game's overarching structure. Nate is basically in it for the ride, tracking a story he does not control, figuring it out as he goes along."
Based on the voice acting and cutscenes, this is accurate. Yelling "Aw crap!" when a grenade rolls in front of your feet seems like a natural reaction. Grunting and panting while scaling a sheer cliff is something I could see myself doing. And who really makes sure their shirt is tucked in at all times? Drake's characterization suggests he could indeed be one of my drinking buddies.
However, when it comes to actively playing the game, I feel as though I am controlling a completely different character. Why? Because, when faced with an obstacle, this plucky, fun-loving, regular dude morphs into a frighteningly efficient killing machine.
Things started getting weird when the trophies came rolling in. Every so often, I'd hear a chime alerting me to my latest accomplishment, the majority of which were tied to weapon proficiency. Soon, I began to wonder just how lethal Drake was, so I collected some data:
|Trophy||Confirmed kills||Estimated kills|
|Brutal Slugger (kill 20 enemies with brutal combo)||20||-|
|Stealth Attacker (20 stealth kills)||-||5|
|Steel fist (melee kill after dealing bullet damage)||-||2|
|50 Kills: PM - 9mm||50||-|
|50 Kills - 92FS - 9mm||50||-|
|50 Kills: Micro - 9mm||10||-|
|20 Kills: Wes - 44||-||5|
|20 Kills: Desert - 5||-||3|
|30 Kills: MP40||30||-|
|50 Kills: AK-47||50||-|
|50 Kills: M4||50||-|
|30 Kills: Dragon Sniper||30||-|
|50 Kills: Moss - 12||-||-|
|50 Kills: SAS - 12||-||-|
|30 Kills: M79||-||20|
|20 Kills: Mk-NDI grenades||20||-|
|Totals||320 (confirmed kills)||358 (conservative total estimate)|
Note that these numbers are a conservative estimate of how many enemies were slain over the course of my play-through. Although I cannot substantiate it, I would guess that the actual body count is closer to 500.
I soon realized I was controlling a character whose cutscene persona clashed with his gameplay persona. Cutscene Drake was a smooth talker who tried to bluff his way out of jams, lived to solve historical mysteries, and was not immune to accidentally bumping his head on low doorways. Gameplay Drake shed his conventional charm, instead becoming an expert marksman proficient with over a dozen firearms, a stealth assassin whose first move against an unsuspecting enemy was to kill rather than incapacitate, and a juggernaut who slaughtered his way out of predicaments. Unfortunately, this Drake was unable to kill that infamous beast we call "ludonarrative dissonance."
Naughty Dog was actually too successful in casting Drake as an every-man. The writing, acting, and directing did help me identify with the character, so much so that I felt like I was betraying their creation when actually participating in the game. Uncharted is one of the few titles in which I have given any thought to how many people I/my avatar killed in a game. Based on his personality and competance, Drake simply did not seem like the kind of guy who would (or could) pick up any random gun and use it for large-scale manslaughter.ally seem like the kind of guy who would shrug off large-scale manslaughter. While interesting, I do not think this was the developer's intent.
I am hoping that in Uncharted 2, the Drake that shows up in the gameplay will be the same Drake I got to know in the cutscenes. A shift of focus towards "action" rather than "combat" could provide big thrills by emphasizing ingenuity in the face of danger rather than blood-lust. Implementing more complex platforming or chase sequences would both show off the game's wonderfully crafted engine while also preventing Drake from becoming a sociopathic killer.
Since the game so successfully relies on cinematic techniques, why not look to the master for inspiration?
Despite its low body count, the scene conveys is full of hazardous excitement. The fighting showcased is not that of trained warriors, but that of desperate people in an extraordinary circumstances . Indy's admission, "I'm making this up as I go," also serves to remind the audience that he is not a superhero; he's just a guy trying his best to stumble through ridiculous situations.
An action/adventure approach would mesh well with the character Naughty Dog created. Gameplay that downplays gun fighting in favor of more physical and environmental challenges would better complement the Drake we meet in the cutscenes. Additionally, this approach would give the game some much-needed separation from the ubiquitous run/shoot/cover gameplay popularized by Gears of War.
As an added bonus, limiting the amount of explicit killing could clear the way for more prudent, meaningful, and hilarious violence:
Talk about an everyman: Who among us cannot sympathize with Indy's decision? I have a feeling Drake would.