Alright, this is the promised more “in depth” look at Uncharted 4. And it is about the many lives of Nathan Drake. Not in the sense of him living multiple lives, but rather, in the way the story presents characters that reflect Nathan or a possible version of Nathan Drake if he had taken a different branch in the walk of life.
WARNING: this post contains spoilers for the Uncharted 4 and the Last of Us.
This is not the first time that Naughty Dog has done something like this. As I mentioned in my review of Uncharted 4, the Last of Us’s fingerprints are all over this game. This is one of them. In the Last of Us, the reflections of Joel’s “lives” could be seen in the characters of Bill, David and Henry. If you need a refresher – Bill represented what Joel could have been if he had continued with his smuggling business, losing his partner and then living alone, going a little bit crazy. David represented what Joel could have been, had he stayed with the Hunters, doing his utmost to survive, no matter what the consequences are. Henry represented what Joel could have been, if Ellie was killed.
Anyway enough about the Last of Us, let’s start diving into how Uncharted 4 does this. Let’s start with the obvious one. Rafe. Rafe is the main villain of Uncharted 4 and he was once Sam and Nate’s partner in the search for Captain Avery’s treasure. However, in the intervening years, they have ended up on opposite sides. His motivation for this whole treasure hunt is the need to prove himself to outdo his parents’ legacy. And this turns into an obsession as he pours in ridiculous amounts of money and effort to hunt down the treasure, murdering anyone who gets in his way and at the end of it all, he finally lost his life. Rafe, I think, is what Nate would have been if he had never had an emotional lost in the process of fortune seeking, i.e. Sam. And if he hadn’t shifted his focus from Avery’s treasure (his mother’s legacy).
Evelyn is a character whose story is easily missed if you didn’t pay attention to the letters in her house. But in case you weren’t, she’s the old lady adventurer/collector who lived in the house full of artifacts. The letters in her house tells of her obsession with adventure. She left her husband and her son to go off adventuring and wasn’t even there for her husband’s funeral. Consequently, her son has disowned her, going so far as to reject the money she had sent to his daughter. This is probably the route Nathan was on before the events of Uncharted 3 and 4. He stopped his adventuring life for Elena’s sake at the end of Uncharted 3, but the artifacts laying around the attic hints at a desire to return to it. (Also remember that Evelyn’s house is full of artifacts too.) Certainly the lure of the Malaysia job and the subsequent call to adventure by Sam showed that. He lied to his wife and left her to pursue his own passions, his conscience cleared by the threat Sam was facing but it’s not hard to see that it was just an excuse.
Sam is Nate’s long lost brother, thought to be dead for more than 15 years. Sam is also obsessed with Avery’s treasure. He works with Rafe for a time after he is released from prison, and then betrays him, because he feels like Rafe does not deserve the treasure. Avery’s treasure was something left to Nate and Sam by their mom. He fights with Rafe at every step up until the treasure trove itself, and almost dies there if it hadn’t been for Nate. He represents what Nate could be if he hadn’t met Elena, if he hadn’t found something outside of the Morgan family and Avery’s treasure.
Nadine is perhaps the closest to Nate in this entire list. She’s also obsessed with Avery’s treasure, though not because it’s Avery’s treasure, but just that it is a treasure. And she leads her men into this whole kerfuffle and many has died along the way, no thanks to Avery and the Drake brothers. At the end of it, after getting a small portion of the treasure, she was prepared to end it all and leave. And when they reached the ship, she leaves at the first chance she gets. She is what Nate would be if he hadn’t had the emotional tie to his brother. If it was Rafe he had partnered and not Sam, Nate could just have easily walked away from all of this. Even without the treasure. And he was prepared to do this until Sam went back. Honestly, I feel this is the only purpose Nadine served in the game. Otherwise, I can’t see any other purpose other than she looks cool. Or worst, that she was added just for diversity’s sake. Rafe and her mercenaries’ betrayal just broke the rest of her character. Why would they need her when Rafe could just have hired the mercs directly? They should have just let Nadine and the mercs leave and have Rafe row his own boat to the ship. I think it would have highlighted Rafe’s obsession more and leave Nadine’s character intact. Anyway, I’m rambling and this isn’t related to the topic.
Sully is Nate’s father figure. A mentor of sorts in this whole treasure hunting hijinks. His part in this installment was actually very small, being the man who sorts of look after Nate and taking care of him from Sam. Karak from ACG makes a good comparison in casting Sully and Sam as a sort of little angel and demon sitting on his shoulders arguing about what he should do. Elena’s line in Uncharted 3 perfectly sums up Sully – “He would go to the ends of the earth for you, Nate. Just don’t ask him to.” Sully, I feel, represents the blank slate Nate, one without ties to Elena or Sam or to the Avery treasure. Just a thrill seeking adventurer who would knows when the odds are too high to overcome.
You could also probably fit the characters on a scale of obsession. It’ll probably go something like Elena > Sully > Nadine > Sam > Evelyn > Rafe, with Elena being not obsessive at all. Nate moves across this scale throughout the story. Starting somewhere around Sam and finally resting near Elena. This movement through the obsession “scale” is the entire character arc of Nathan Drake, at least in Uncharted 4.
That’s a brief overlook at how I think the various characters sort of reflect the character of Nathan Drake in Uncharted 4. Do you agree or do you have some suggestions of what other way the reflections work? Let me know in the comments down below.