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‘Uncharted 4’ plans to send Nathan Drake out on top


Steve Tilley, Postmedia Network

, Last Updated: 6:12 PM ET

LOS ANGELES – Neil Druckmann likes video game titles that have more than one meaning. So should gamers be worried that next month’s release of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End might be the literal demise of hero Nathan Drake? Or one of his partners in treasure-hunting?

Druckmann, creative director on the hotly anticipated action-adventure game coming to the PlayStation 4 on May 10, said development studio Naughty Dog sees Uncharted 4 as the payoff to 2007’s Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, 2009’s Uncharted 2: Among Thieves and 2011’s Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception. The challenge is to tie up loose ends, complete Drake’s character arc “and make it feel surprising, and yet, in hindsight, inevitable.”

Inevitable. Well, that sounds veryfinal. Does Druckmann – who was also creative director on 2013’s grim post-apocalyptic adventure The Last of Us – think that Drake needs a happy ending?

He pauses before answering. “I think life is more complicated than that,” he said. “Maybe I should just leave it at that.”

Whatever the case – and no matter how much Uncharted fans line me wail about it, or how many copies the game ultimately sells – Uncharted 4 will very likely be Naughty Dog’s last game in the nearly decade-old franchise.

“Uncharted is at the height of its popularity, this game will probably do better than the previous three games,” Druckmann said. But even though the franchise has sold in the neighbourhood of 22 million copies, pumping out sequels for a financial payoff “is not how we work. For Uncharted, it really felt like this is it. We’ve told everything we can with this character. As artists, it’s a good place for us to walk away.”

Nolan North, the veteran video game actor who has provided the voice and motion-capture performance for Drake throughout the series, also feels this is the end of the line for the character. “This thing could sell 10 million copies and Sony says, ‘We need another one, bring him back!’ But like me, he’s getting a little older,” said North, who compares the character to Harrison Ford’s aging Indiana Jones.

“I think the big thing is you really don’t want to do Uncharted: The Crystal Skull, if you know what I mean. It’s nice to go out on top.” (Just to be clear, North said this before they announced Indiana Jones 5. Maybe that’ll be Harrison Ford’s chance to un-nuke the fridge.)

Druckmann said there will be one story-driven downloadable add-on released for Uncharted 4 down the road, but it will likely be in the vein of Left Behind, an addition for The Last of Us that was told partly as a flashback.

“There are some loose ideas we’re playing with,” he said of the add-on chapter. The ending of Uncharted 4 “is very conclusive, and we don’t want to play with that too much.”

Conclusive. Again, that’s very final-sounding. It’s making me a little nervous.

If there’s one bright spot to Naughty Dog not working on another Uncharted, it’s that the studio is free to focus on a sequel to The Last of Us. But don’t expect The Last of Us 2 any time soon.

“For a sequel to that game to work, it would have to not tread that same area, it would have to say something new, yet it would at the same time have to build on those themes,” said Druckmann.

“It has to pass all these tests for us to say, ‘OK, it’s valid, it’s worthwhile to do this.’ And honestly I don’t know if any idea we have so far has passed those tests.”

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