Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, Treasure has a price - Games Weekly

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, Treasure has a price

Nathan Drake has always been a thrill-seeker. He can’t resist adventure, reveling in cheating death and excelling at overcoming the worst odds. Treasure hunting is a drug for him; he’s addicted to the adrenaline rush of it all, living his life like an Indiana Jones movie.

In the past three Uncharted games, we’ve seen Drake struggle with his craving for adventure and face the tension it puts on his relationships, primarily with his love Elena. At the end of Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception, he seemingly left it all behind, putting his wedding ring back on and choosing Elena over the thrill. So what would lure Drake back into the treasure-hunting life, risking everything again? The answer to that question isn’t cut-and-dried, but when his long-lost brother returns, everything is turned on its head.

Naughty Dog is pulling out all the stops to ensure Drake’s foray back into treasure hunting is the pulp-action spectacle we’ve come to know and love from the series. However, this wouldn’t be Naughty Dog if the team wasn’t wowing us by taking its tech to the next level for a new-gen Uncharted game. Naughty Dog is using everything it has learned from Uncharted and The Last of Us to push new boundaries with Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. Get ready for Drake’s most trying adventure yet as he faces enemies, family, nature, and his most dangerous foe: himself.

Nearly 10 years have passed since Naughty Dog first started work on the Uncharted series. The first game, Drake’s Fortune, launched in 2007 as an early PlayStation 3 title and impressed with its fun gameplay, death-defying thrills, and charismatic protagonist. Since then, Naughty Dog has delivered two other globe-trotting entries in the franchise along with 2013’s The Last of Us, which leveraged the PS3 hardware to bring us one of the best-looking games of last generation. The Last of Us, an emotional game about an apocalypse, garnered myriad accolades, winning multiple game of the year awards (including Game Informer’s).

Shortly after, Naughty Dog developed the Left Behind DLC and remastered the game for the PlayStation 4 hardware. In hindsight, this ended up being a blessing in disguise for Uncharted 4. It helped the team learn how to work with the hardware without having to create a brand-new game in the process. “Shipping The Last of Us on PS4 was a huge leg up,” says Naughty Dog co-president Evan Wells. “It was critical. We learned so much; it was a much bigger task than we anticipated. It was instrumental for getting ready for Uncharted 4.”

“That’s why we’re in such great shape already and being able to show so much,” adds creative director Neil Druckmann.

Uncharted 4 has been brewing ever since the third game ended. A small team broke off to create some core concepts and prototypes. Production didn’t ramp up until The Last of Us shipped. Half of that team moved over to Uncharted 4, while the other half stayed to work on Left Behind. When Left Behind wrapped, the studio became fully committed to Uncharted 4. “It was good to go in those phases because it gave the tech time to get established and some of the art to begin development before we had everybody there to say, ‘Okay, what do I do now?’” Wells says. “We spent a lot of time setting the foundation, so when everyone got there, we could hit the ground running.”

Building on past technology was one thing, but the team also needed to think about Uncharted in a new way that would move the series forward. “When we moved on to The Last of Us, we were really trying to push wider environments and give the player more choices,” Druckmann says. “That was our earliest discussion for Uncharted 4. What does that mean in the Uncharted universe? Because traversal is very different, the pacing is very different, the general feel of the game is very different.”

“[The Last of Us] gave us new concepts about how we evolve things,” says director Bruce Straley. “It’s not like we’re bored as developers. It’s that, as players, we want to play a game that is the ultimate Uncharted we think it could be. It has such great potential.”

The world in The Last of Us is quieter and more somber than the bombastic action of Nathan’s Drake’s adventures. Naughty Dog had to get back to ramping up the energy and going big with the set pieces. “Quite honestly, it’s a difficult game to design for because it’s so accessible,” Straley says. “It has such a fast pace, such an adrenaline rush...every mechanic that you add, every choice you add as far as how wide you go with the layouts to how does the [climbing] piton mechanic actually work… Everything has to be put through this test of, ‘What does that mean for traversal and what does that mean for combat?’”

The team has tested and discarded plenty of mechanics to see what works for Uncharted. “A lot of things got scrapped and rethought,” Straley says. “With that, we’ve come out with something that can retain all pacing, that gives you a better sense of the adventure and exploration, and we can also get the problem solving and engagement of the player moment to moment better than ever before.”

This meant revamping traversal, creating multiple paths for exploration, expanding the environments, making the A.I. much more competent, and adding new mechanics such as a climbing spike and rope. Naughty Dog even rethought one of its biggest strengths: cutscenes. All of them are now in-engine and real-time, rather than playing back a movie as in previous games. “We’re constantly questioning how to do this better,” Straley says. “We want to create an experience that resonates with the player. We’re trying to create amazingly rich characters, an adventure for them to go on, and pressure applied to them; all of these things have to make sense. I want to feel engaged. I don’t want to play the same games I’ve played before.”

Everyone has a few skeletons in the closet, but if we learned anything from Uncharted 3, it was that we really don’t know Nathan Drake. Uncharted 3 dug into his orphan childhood. The more startling discovery is that his last name isn’t really Drake. As a man we’ve considered a descendant of Sir Francis Drake, this put everything in his life into question. How much of a facade has he been putting on this entire time? Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End deals with these questions, but also put new dilemmas in Drake’s hands. The narrative explores his obsession with the thrill of the hunt. “We’re still trying to have Drake be an everyman, but more so he is a fallible human being,” says writer Josh Scherr.

Three years after the events of Uncharted 3, Drake has finally settled down with his wife, Elena. At the start of Uncharted 4, Drake is just trying to live a normal, quiet life, but he’s pulled back into his old ways when his older brother Sam re-enters his life. All this time, Drake thought Sam was dead, but the reunion isn’t a relief. Sam brings trouble with him, as his life depends on finding an artifact from one of the most successful pirates in history, Captain Henry Avery.

Suddenly Drake is lured back into the world he left behind. Sure, he feels indebted to his brother, but he also can’t resist the adrenaline rush of getting back in the treasure-hunting game. “Every treasure has its cost,” Druckmann says. “We’re exploring the toll of these adventures on Nathan Drake’s life. Why would someone do this? Why would they enter this kind of life and pursue these things, putting their life continually in danger? And through his relationship with his brother, who knows a lot of this stuff, we’re going to explore [Nathan Drake’s]  backstory.”

The adventure takes Drake and Sam into Libertalia, a mythical Madagascar colony purportedly founded by pirates. “You’re not going to spend the whole game on this island because we were concerned about pacing and showing other things, but even on the island you’re going to see a lot of different environments and locations,” Druckmann says. Holding true to the series’ heritage, Naughty Dog is designing this entry as a globe-trotting adventure, and briefly teased snowy locales and urban landscapes as possible destinations for Drake.

The journey won’t be as simple as merely tracking down the treasure. Two rival hunters, Rafe and Nadine, are trying to get there first, exposing Drake and Sam to even more danger. “Whenever we bring out new characters in the series, we want them to bring out more facets of Drake’s personality, so you want to have people that are similar, but also in stark contrast to Drake.” Scherr says.

Rafe is a treasure hunter who has very different morals and approaches to obtaining the prize than Drake, while Nadine owns a private military agency in South Africa and has hired the best mercenaries in the world to halt Drake and Sam’s progress. Naughty Dog isn’t ready to reveal much other than these rough outlines, but these villains play a larger role in the story than past antagonists. ”We’re trying to get more moments with the bad guys, so we can get them to be a little more developed,” Scherr says.

The theme of brotherhood is a big part of Uncharted 4 and drives much of the experience. Since Drake hasn’t seen his brother for years, part of the journey entails them getting reacquainted, but Sam’s appearance also shakes up Drake’s world.

“For Drake, it’s a difficult thing,” says Nathan Drake’s voice actor Nolan North. “Sam is a mysterious part of his past. Up to this point, we had no idea he had a brother. The regrets, the circumstances of which they drifted apart are incredibly interesting. The lack of Sam being in Nathan’s life for so long is what’s driven him in the last games. There’s mistrust at first, but there’s that inner desire with family members. Blood is always thicker than water. The idea of Sam reappearing, I like to think of it as Drake’s a little kid again, and there’s big brother.”

Sam is around five years older than Drake, and their relationship is rocky to say the least. “As they like to say on Facebook, ‘it’s complicated,’” Scherr says. “Family itself is complicated. You have some relatives that you get along with, others that it depends on the day. Drake’s brother definitely had a formative influence over his life and regardless of what he thinks about his brother, there are certain things that you will do for family that you wouldn’t necessarily do for anyone else. There’s that feeling of nagging obligation.”

Drake must confront the tough decision of who takes precedence throughout the game, the family he built for himself with Elena and Sully or his blood relative, Sam. “Drake has been trying to bring some balance to his life and settling down and being with Elena, so this wild card appearing is definitely going to gum up the works a bit,” Scherr says. Naughty Dog isn’t confirming much about Elena and Sully’s role, but, “You’ve seen Elena and Sully in the previous three games, it’s safe to say they might make an appearance,” Druckmann teases.

Sam may be in dire need of Drake’s help, but just because the two are brothers and treasure hunters doesn’t mean they always see eye-to-eye. Sam is even more reckless than Drake, if you can believe that. “He’s not a saint, but neither is anybody that Drake hangs out with…Sam is a little more willing to cross more lines than his brother is,” Scherr says. “He’s been through worse scenarios; he’s a little more weathered, a little more worn down than Nathan is,” Druckmann adds.

Sam’s voice actor, Troy Baker, finds Sam good at heart and incredibly charming, but admits the character has some jealousy issues with Drake. “There’s something that happens when you see that younger brother that’s just a little bit more charming than you, a little bit more better looking than you, a little bit more talented than you, can run faster, jump higher better than you. That’s Nate,” Baker says. “I think before Nate, Sam was the golden child. In reality, anything Sam can do, Nate can do better, but I don’t think Sam would ever acknowledge  that.”

Naturally, you can expect plenty of brotherly banter and sibling rivalry during the course of the adventure, which actually worked out well for voice actors Nolan North and Troy Baker, who are good friends off screen as well. “This was an easy fit and we just had to put the suits on,” North says.

You can find some of the more humorous moments in the dialogue forming from brotherly rivalry as the pair explore together. “One of the things that we’ve been having a fair amount of fun with is just the way that siblings treat each other,” Scherr says. “There’s sibling rivalry and gentle teasing. Sometimes not-so-gentle teasing and the remembrances of good things they’ve done together and to each other in the past. That’s the kind of thing we want to explore. This is a different kind of relationship than Drake has been depicted as having.”

Lighthearted banter aside, Naughty Dog thought bringing in a character like Sam would allow them to address the hidden side of Nathan Drake, giving players a glimpse into more of his past. The third game addressed his time in an orphanage, but this takes things even deeper. While Naughty Dog wouldn’t go into story specifics surrounding Sam and Nathan’s past, Scherr hinted at some of it unfolding in flashback sequences similar to those in previous games.

“Even Sully doesn’t know everything about Nathan Drake, so this was an entrance into that,” Druckmann says. “There are things that Drake doesn’t talk about, but having someone else there that knows those things gives us the opportunity to poke at them and get them out.”

In early December, Naughty Dog revealed some of Uncharted 4’s gameplay at The PlayStation Experience expo in Las Vegas. The demo, which was received well, has Drake searching for his brother after they’re separated on rocky shores of Madagascar. High mountains are in the distance, birds are flying overhead, and he’s surrounded by sharp boulders. The sun isn’t shining; it’s murky. The camera pans to a loud waterfall, harshly spouting water. It’s only a matter of time before the dangers begin and fans swoon as Drake swings through the air using a rope to reach high ledges and attack enemies in exciting new ways, such as using a melee move to push an enemy up against a wall and steal his gun.

Throwing enemies off ledges from below also isn’t as simple as bowling them over; they can now grab Drake’s leg at the last second, forcing him to kick them off. Movement, traversal, stealth, and combat all seamlessly meld together, something Naughty Dog is hell bent on sustaining throughout the entire game. “To us, when Uncharted combat works really well is when it has a flow to it,” Druckmann says. “You’re not just behind cover and shooting from behind it, ducking back down. It’s when your cover is getting flanked and you have to move and jump and drop down to another level.”

The rope is just one of the new tools that Naughty Dog puts in players’ hands to enhance traversal. “The rope has huge depth,” Straley says. “You have a Y-axis, it’s a full three-dimensional axis as far as how you swing across surfaces, how you climb up the rope or drop down the rope. You can pin it onto things, so that in and of itself opens up the opportunity for the player as well as Nathan Drake to engage like, ‘How am I going to get through this?'” As shown in the demo, you can use it to wrap around to faraway ledges, or to swing into an enemy.

The other new tool shown off was a piton (metal spike) that allows Drake to climb up sheer cliffs. Naughty Dog wasn’t ready to talk about any of the other new tools, but is working on putting more into traversal than merely the rope and piton. “We can use previous Uncharted games to say, 'There’s breadth,'” Straley says. The team wants to incorporate these items from Drake’s toolkit into the puzzle solving as well.

“It’s the same stuff you would expect, but now just on a bigger scale. We’ve got spatial problem solving and now that you have more tools, we have ways to integrate those things. You’ve had a glimpse at the piton and the rope and now you have that more technical climbing, so you combine all those elements for more scope and exploration and using all those tools,” says co-lead game designer Ricky Cambier.

As for the puzzles that require you to move things around to open doors and rooms, those are still a part of the Uncharted experience. “The puzzles in Uncharted 3 were some of the best puzzles that we had in regards to scope and being approachable, but still making you think,” says co-lead game designer Kurt Margenau. “We’re definitely taking that and continuing forward, making sure the player is fully engaged.”

Naughty Dog also wants the puzzles to make sense within the con-text of the story. “The puzzles are always driven by, ‘Why do I need to puzzle solve, who laid out these clues, what are the clues that I have, how does the journal play into this, and how do my core mechanics play into it?’” Straley says. “We want to find elements of the story that we can keep drawing back into these puzzle places.”

During our visit we saw an extension of the demo from The PlayStation Experience event, complete with a full new scene after Drake finds Sam. Drake is beaten down and exhausted, while Sam looks well-rested and ready to hunt. In his state, Drake starts doubting the hunt and questions the existence of Avery’s secret pirate utopia, Libertalia. Sam doesn’t want to hear it, saying, “We’re buying my life back.” He’s determined to find the treasure, telling Drake to go home if he can’t handle it. Drake is upset with this remark, asking Sam if he knows what he put on the line to help him. Sam fires back, “What about what I put on the line? The last 15 years of my life.” Before things escalate any further, something catches Drake’s eye and he slowly inches forward. He pulls some foliage back slowly, revealing a gray monument with a carving. It has Avery’s sigil, renewing Drake’s hope in the mission. You know he can’t resist trudging on now.

Naughty Dog is focusing on navigational freedom for this entry. We witness multiple paths for reaching that final destination in our demo, changing parts of how it plays out. While the game is still more linear than open-world, you encounter different obstacles based on the path you choose. Sometimes this means a new treasure or finding an extra cave; other times it might mean bypassing a group of enemies.

Plenty of side stories and optional encounters are around if you’re willing to look for them. You choose not only your paths, but also how recklessly you play. If you go for risky actions, certain quick-time events known as slip events are triggered. For instance, in our demo Drake first takes a more adventurous climbing route, while another has him going through plant life. Little decisions in how you traverse structures also appear. In one, he takes a riskier route that triggers him almost falling into the sea, only to get ahold of a rock at last second.

The goal is to force the player to react and adapt to the unexpected, but never punish the player for playing a certain way. All paths have consequences; some even feature breakable hand holds, so you only have a moment to react. “There’s not that golden path,” Cambier says. “You may turn this corner and find something surprising. Maybe you find a grappling hook, or maybe this way you’re going to use your piton. It’s the mix up of your different tools. So every path may have that action and tempo that you want.”

Uncharted isn’t all just climbing; Drake also must demonstrate his handiness with a gun. “As far as the gunplay, it’s the Uncharted everyone loves it’s tight, fast, cover-based shooting with destructible cover everywhere,” Margenau says.

Improving the enemies was a primary goal for the team, as they wanted them to not be easily outsmarted. “We’ve really rehauled our A.I.,” Straley says. “With Uncharted 4, we’ve had to rethink how the A.I. assesses a space, so they can figure out where Nathan Drake is and what is the most optimal path for them to maneuver around to try to reveal where their target is.” This means the A.I. is likely to call out your location to other enemies if you’re spotted, or even split off to try to corner Drake. As seen in the PlayStation Experience demo, one screams, “On the ledge!” to the enemies below to blow Drake’s cover, forcing him to react quickly and jump down on one, while melee attacking another by slamming his head into a wall.

You also have A.I. on your side. Like The Last of Us’ Ellie fighting alongside you, Uncharted 4 teams Drake up with a companion, namely with Sam, who has much stronger combat abilities than Ellie. After all, he’s an adult and treasure hunter; he knows how to fend for himself. “We’re trying to explore what it’s like to be with somebody who’s as capable as Nathan Drake and what is that relationship going to be like? How are these guys going to work together?” Cambier says.

“It’s kind of fun to think about two brothers going on a pirate adventure together, giving each other s--- and being competitive,”  Druckmann  adds.

Allies also engage in contextual conversations when you come across an object, like in The Last of Us. “If you see a mural or something, you can then interact with that ally and talk about what you’re seeing,” Druckmann says.

This also means you can expect some cooperative moments with Sam. In The Last of Us, Ellie helped with ladders. For Uncharted, Naughty Dog is devising interesting ways to involve Sam in the action. “One of my favorite things to do at Naughty Dog is to figure out how to build relationships with your NPCs through the gameplay,” Cambier says. “We’ve introduced Sam, so there’s going to be a lot to do with him. He’s someone that’s capable. He’s going to know how to climb. He’s going to know these things like Nate, so we’re going to look for ways for you to build that bond and that relationship. There are some nice cooperative moments with your brother.”

While Naughty Dog is set on giving Nathan Drake a deeper journey, the team hasn’t forgotten the essence of the series. Nathan Drake still flies by the seat of his pants and has a quip for every near-death experience. “I don’t think it’s physically possible to have a game without humor with Nolan North,” Scherr says. North often improvises his own lines; even in the demo when he comes across a skeleton hanging by his foot, the trademark Nathan Drake responses are dealt, “See anyone come along here? Tall, lanky, filled with big, stupid ideas about pirate treasure?” Then when he passes the skeleton, he remarks, “You tried to climb up there in those boots?!”

Uncharted is about surviving with a smirk. The demo shows the high-octane action has been amped up with more realistic tussles and more extreme traversal. Cambier says it best when he discusses going back into the Uncharted world and what he loves about it. “…. Getting into that high adventure again.” he says. “The pacing of Uncharted. The adventure of Uncharted. The mystery of Uncharted. The way that Nathan Drake is this lovable rogue and can get into those tight, overwhelming situations, but has all these tools to make the escapes at just the last moment.”

This also wouldn’t be an Uncharted game without the iconic set pieces, like the train sequence from Uncharted 2, or the plane scene from Uncharted 3. However, Naughty Dog is hoping to balance out the sequences to keep you constantly surprised. “We’ve evolved the concept of set piece,” Straley says. “From Uncharted 2, it was bombastic and big. And then In The Last of Us, it was like, ‘Well, set piece can also mean something very intimate and personal.’ So now our concept of set piece is, ‘What’s something impactful that we can do to switch expectations and how can we have it emotionally charged?’ We want to constantly surprise the player, so it can be really intimate, or really big and bombastic.”

Just like our all-around hero, Naughty Dog is leveraging the tech to enhance every type of moment, whether it’s a grand, on-the-rails action sequence or a quiet moment between two brothers. That’s probably the biggest takeaway from our time at the studio how focused the team is on pushing the boundaries and making not only the most polished, but also the best balanced entry in the series. Naughty Dog sets a high bar with all its projects and hasn’t failed to deliver yet, and now it’s looking to set an impressive benchmark with new-gen technology: a completely seamless experience. After all, do we expect Nathan Drake to have his PS4 debut with anything but a bang? If he’s getting back in the game, he’s most likely pulling out all the stops for his biggest adventure both physically and emotionally.

Bringing Uncharted 4’s World And Nathan Drake To Life
One of the most noticeable parts of seeing the game in action is the jump in Graphical fidelity. “It’s always building on top of past technology,” says co-president Evan Wells. “The graphics engine probably took the biggest overhaul.” In fact, Uncharted 4 is one the first games we’ve seen that truly shows the potential realism and naturalness in new-gen visuals. The precision straight down to crows feet around Drake’s eyes, realistic veins in his arms, and a few gray strands in his beard  is mesmerizing. Even the animations have received a complete overhaul; there are 60 animations just for Drake picking up something. Every move is new, and a lot of effort went into focusing on Drake’s climbing animations, especially factoring in weight to everything from punches to reaching up to new ledges. Even the grappling system has been overhauled, so if you flank an enemy, you don't simply warp in front of him, but you can attack from your current vantage point.

The detail is extensive. A new wind system even affects the way Drake’s chest hair moves. The foliage reflects the smallest details to the wetness of the leaves. In the PlayStation Experience demo, they start off wet and by the end you see them transition to dry. The team even put thought into things like how Drake's shirt would crease while he reaches up and having the animations reflect his weight shifting as he moves. The redesign for Drake also took time to settle on. The artists wanted to show some maturity and passage of time and took into account things like if he’d still be wearing jeans or how different he looks with his shirt tucked in or not.

Trouble In Paradise?
We’re guessing Elena isn’t going to be happy with Drake getting back into treasure hunting. It may have brought the two together, but it’s also been a constant conflict in their relationship. “Throughout the games, and even the gaps between the games, [their relationship] has been interesting to see,” says creative director Neil Druckmann. “At the end of Uncharted 1, he’s got this woman and they’re both adrenaline junkies and both treasure hunters. And then we come into Uncharted 2 and they’ve grown apart. There are certain things that are very important to Elena’s life that are very different than the things that are important in Drake’s life. And then between the adventure, they come back together with Sully’s help as well at the end of Uncharted 3. You can’t have your cake and eat it too, and that’s why I think their relationship keeps falling apart. The process is exploring that toll of [pursuing] this thing that is almost like an addiction. Like an addict who’s not paying attention, there’s a cost to this. You’re neglecting everything else around you.”

The Maguffin: Pirate Henry Avery
Uncharted stories have always focused on historical figures. So far the series has featured Sir Francis Drake, Marco Polo, and T.E. Lawrence. For Uncharted 4, Naughty Dog wanted to bring the swashbuckling spirit to modern day treasure hunters. That’s why the writers chose to dig deep into one of the most successful pirates, Henry Avery, who operated out of Madagascar. “Funny enough, he’s not as well-known as a pirate as others like Blackbeard,” says writer Josh Scherr. “What drew us to do it is that he is in many ways the most successful pirate ever because he raided this treasure fleet and got away with a haul that in today’s money would be worth anywhere between two and four hundred million dollars.”

After Avery took down the massive ship called the Gunsway to earn his fortune, it sparked a massive manhunt for him. He spent his time covering his tracks, hiding out in places like the Bahamas. “At the time, he was a renowned pirate; he inspired other people to take up piracy,” says creative director Neil Druckmann. “He also dealt with slavery. He was not a good guy.”

Exploring Avery’s journey also helps Naughty Dog draw out some of its themes and compare and contrast him with Drake. “Avery’s a treasure hunter and Nathan Drake’s a treasure hunter,” Scherr says “How are these two similar? How are they different? Where does this all tie in together?”

Treasure Hunting Galore
In addition to a primary treasure, the Uncharted games have always had little collectibles along the way. Uncharted 4 continues that, but when you stumble on any of these items they also might contain clues that will lead you to even more treasures and locales. “Within the artifacts, there are notes that you can find and you can flip them over and examine them closely,” explains director Bruce Straley. “You might find little clues or details that lead you somewhere else in the environment to find more artifacts or treasures in our treasure system.” For instance, an “X” might appear on your map, indicating where you can find valuables. The journal is also receiving an upgrade to dynamically fill in with the clues you find in the world, so your journal could look different than another player's depending on your thoroughness and how much you explore every nook and cranny. In addition, the team hopes to contextualize these clues better than before, so they fit with the types of places you’re exploring. 

Multiplayer Is On The Way
Naughty Dog confirmed that multiplayer returns for Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, but the team isn’t ready to talk about it yet. This shouldn’t be a surprise as the games have had this component since Uncharted 2 and Naughty Dog views it as a success in the previous entries.

Drake's Final Adventure?
The biggest question surrounding Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End has been if this will be Nathan Drake’s final tale. “[We want to] do this franchise justice, evolving it in an interesting way and having people reflect back on Nathan Drake and how much time they spent with this character. That sense of closure,” says creative director Neil Druckmann. During our trip, the word closure was used often when talking about Drake’s story, but Naughty Dog isn’t giving a straight answer on whether this would be his last bout. However, it isn’t hard to read between the lines that some sort of finality is coming. The E3 trailer had both Drake and his partner in crime Sully saying, “one last time.”

With so much uncertainty though, the question of when to move on from a character had to be asked. “I think you just have to assess the story of the game and how it fits the greater kind of story that’s been evolving and morphing over the franchise and ask yourself, ‘Where does this character go?’” Druckmann says. “I’m not talking specifically about Nate, but even on The Last of Us, when a character can’t go anywhere else, then it’s time for that character to leave or die or have their exit, whatever that means.”

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