Nathan Drake and the Case of the Causeless Cruise-liner
I love the Uncharted series – it’s sheer fun wrapped in a story that’s not completely awful, along with gameplay that doesn’t make me hate the entire world. The most recent iteration, Drake’s Deception, took everything from the previous two instalments and improved on them to a level most people didn’t think possible. Graphically and emotionally, it was an improvement. The story, not so much.
The narrative, for the most part, was… ok. There are some teasing hints about Drake’s past which were criminally underused, as well as a progression in the relationship between the main characters. Even the locations were wonderfully scouted. However, there was one point in the story that confused me. You might remember the epic shipyard and cruise liner levels about two-thirds of the way through. That whole section was unnecessary.
Some time before the game was released, I was lucky enough to attend a preview event for Uncharted 3 in London. There, Justin Richmond (Uncharted 3’s Game Director) and Arne Meyer (Community Manager at Naughty Dog) spoke about the development of the game. Essentially, the team start off with set-piece ideas and as they develop, Amy Hennig ties them together with a story arc. For the most part, this method works well. Events such as the German submarine in the original Uncharted game and the train sequence in the sequel are incredibly effective due to how they tie into the story. There is an exception to every rule though, and the cruise-liner set piece in Uncharted 3 is an unfortunate example. The entire sequence was completely superfluous, but more importantly, it didn’t move the story anywhere. Drake is quite literally in the same place he was before he went gallivanting off into the sea. It could have been cut out of the game and not had any impact on the overall story.
Richmond also spoke about standalone PSN titles for Uncharted. While they had tried to come up with ideas for mini-adventures, they always expanded and became full-game ideas. Here’s what they should have done: take out the shipyard and cruise-liner levels from Uncharted 3 and turn them into a standalone PSN title. The story would be largely unaffected.
In the original game, Nate gets hit with a hallucinogenic dart and starts tripping major balls in a wonderfully surreal level. Once he wakes up, he’s face to face with the villain, Katherine Marlowe and her right hand man, Talbot. This scene reveals the most about our protagonist, but it’s short lived and feels more like pulling our pigtails, rather than a major character revelation. But no sooner do we learn about Nate, than he learns about the capture of Sully, and he goes after Talbot. After a chase through Yemen, he finally has Talbot cornered, until Rameses, leader of a group of pirates, knocks out Nate and kidnaps him. From this point on, Nate goes in a neat little circle, learning nothing about the main story and being led on a wild goose chase. After chasing Rameses through a shipyard and onto a cruise-liner, Nate discovers that the pirate leader doesn’t have Sully, and races to escape a sinking ship. He does, and after the storm, washes up on the same shore he left not a day ago. He goes in search of Elena, who tells him where Sully really is and they depart to an airport to catch them up.
If we cut out the whole shipyard/cruise-liner sequence, we’re left with something that makes a little more sense. Nate goes after Talbot, in the hope of learning Sully’s whereabouts. After running through all of Yemen, Nate has Talbot cornered… or so he thinks. Talbot starts a sinister chuckle. Just like in Syria, he calls upon his past as an illusionist, and simply disappears. Nate, broken and exhausted, makes his way back to Elena’s apartment, where he learns that Sully is on a convoy on the way into the Rub ‘al Khali Desert, and they set off to rescue him.
As for the PSN title, we catch up with Nate in medias res. He’s being beaten by Pirates because of some treasure, no less, and being threatened with the death of Sully.
“I want what is mine!”
“It belongs in a museum!”
Tired of squabbling, the pirate leader leaves him to his crew, where Nate breaks out and makes his way through the shipyard towards the cruise-liner where Sully is being held. After making his way onto the ship, Nate sneaks into the heart of the cargo bay, only to discover that the pirates never had Sully. Taking drastic action, Nate makes a distraction, which causes the ship to start sinking. He encounters the pirate leader, only to leave him to sink with his ship. Nate escapes with his life.
Fade into a beach. Nate washes up on shore and a shadow moves over him. It’s Sully. He picks up Nate and brushes him off.
“Son, you’re a Goddamn fool.”
“What can I say? I feel really strongly about museums.” Sully chuckles and they walk into the sunset.
Isn’t that so much better? Instead of throwing away a mightily impressive set-piece, they recycle it into a mini-adventure, solve an unsightly lump with Uncharted 3 and make shed-loads more money. So, if you’re reading this, Naughty Dog, I accept credit cards, Paypal, cheques and cold hard cash.