Today I’m going to talk about how Uncharted 4 is able to use facial expressions to tell a lot of its story. Actually I’m not going to do a lot of talking, mostly showing. And needless to say, there will be a lot of SPOILERS, so be warned! Also warning, gif heavy post coming up. Also, this is the second in my short series of Uncharted 4 Analyses, check out the first one here – the Many Lives of Nathan Drake.
I’m going to use just one character to show this. That character is… Elena Fisher. You know, “Last year’s model.” God, I just love her. Anyway, I think Elena is the most expressive character in the game. I don’t if it is because of her animator, or her actress (the great Emily Rose from Haven) or just that I notice more of her expressions because I was staring at her a lot. She’s really beautiful. Haha.
In any case, Elena is an important character in the story and to Nate. She literally bookends the series, being the first person we hear and the last person we see. We see that, without a doubt, Nate’s greatest treasure is Elena. And this is a slow progression starting from the first game. He finds that she’s something special in the first game. He discovers that he can’t live without her in the second game, when she was almost killed by a grenade. And this is despite the introduction of Chloe as a possibly love rival. Yeah, that didn’t last long.
Nate and Elena marries and are separated between the second and third game. In Uncharted 3, Elena is semi-retired from the adventure life. Maybe because of the events of Uncharted 2? Nate discovers that he doesn’t want to ever lose her again. So, by the start of Uncharted 4, they are together again, living a normal life in a suburb of New Orleans. But normal isn’t really Nate’s style, which is what leads to the events of Uncharted 4.
So that’s Elena Fisher. Anyway, without further ado, let’s get to the meat of this post.
This one takes place after Nate asks her about an article she was working on. Look at how her eyelids flutter as she thinks about it and her pupils move upward and right. This shows that she is recalling something. And that ear scratch. Wow, just wow. Little tics like that really make the characters believable.
This one takes place after Nate loses a video game challenge. Just look at the giddiness. The slow spread of glee on her face. From the brows to lips. And then her jerky head movements, the movement in her feet, her eyes darting to Nate before turning to look at him. Nate’s animations in this scene are also great. The widening eyes. The hand movements in disbelief.
Her tapping her index finger of the chair as she processes some bad news Nate is telling her. The sucking in of the lips. The fluttering eyelids. The quick nods. The gif ends with her tightening her grip on the chair as she asks Nate to stop talking.
Her toying with her ring finger and wedding band, shows she is thinking about her relationship with Nate. (By the way, that’s not a gif, just in case you were waiting for it to load.)
The tears welling in her eyes. Bonus Nate guilty face.
There’s a plethora of emotions is this scene. Her facial expression while she looks at Nate as he goes off on a rambling about the pirates, realizing that this was the person Nate was. Her subsequent sad smile as she says that it’s okay after he apologizes and then the pursing of the lips, the quick glances and the furrowed brow makes it very apparent that no, it’s not okay. The two lines from the soundtrack For Better or Worst really makes the scene.
There’s a lot of subtle story telling in this, just as the Last of Us did as well. The whole thing with Joel’s watch and also that ending. A lot of the emotions are conveyed through expressions alone. This is not something really done a lot in video games, due to the lack of technology in this area. Most have to rely on dialogue, tone and background music to relay the same emotions that Naughty Dog does with face alone. Really looking forward to what the rest of this console generation have in store for us.
PS: Check the Many Villains of Uncharted 4.