The slow-to-rise Playstation 3 found a spring board to stardom in part thanks to 2007’s PS3 exclusive, Uncharted. The game, which followed wise-cracking sort-of hero Nate Drake as he sought the legendary El Dorado via a map sealed in the watery tomb of his ancestor Sir Francis Drake, won enough critical and financial success to merit a sequel, 2009’s Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. This game, which saw Drake pick up Marco Polo’s trail to Shanghai-La, earned even better reviews—and sales—than its predecessor. Critics and fans alike credited the series’s high quality not only to smooth, exciting gameplay but also to a well-written, fun story filled with quirky, likeable characters and endless possibilities. At the heart of this success stood Drake, whose corny jokes, ancestry, and drive to do the right thing at the end of the day encompassed the essence of the series.
With the firmly established first two entries, it was a given that Uncharted publisher Naughty Dog would release a smash-hit third entry. This third entry was 2011’s Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception (in which Drake went after the legendary Iram of the Pillars, which both T. E. Lawrence and Drake’s ancestor Sir Francis had pursued), and as predicted, it raked in the cash. While that cash was well-earned in terms of graphics, gameplay, and setting variety, many fans felt cheated by the game’s story. Its much-hyped female villain lacked menace, which was provided instead by one of her lackeys. It shied away from daring plot twists save for the “big reveal” that Drake had lied about his ancestral ties to Sir Francis—a move that felt especially cheap after Naughty Dog’s declaration to do whatever it took to better the game’s story, including killing Drake himself. And worst of all, it lacked the fun and easy charm of the series’s first two entries. All and all, it seemed Naughty Dog had little left to say about Drake or his world, if anything.
At this year’s E3, the game publisher revealed a gorgeously rendered trailer for the series’s next entry, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. The trailer depicts Drake washed ashore a riverbed in a jungle full of hanging cages containing the skeletons of people apparently left to starve. The dialogue that plays over the scene—a conversation between Drake and his partner, Victor “Sully” Sullivan—indicates that some time has passed since the events of Drake’s Deception and that in all of that time Drake has kept his fingers out of the fortune hunter’s pie. Drake asks Sully to help him out “one last time.” This dialogue, coupled with the subtitle A Thief’s End, seems to foreshadow a major turning point in Drake’s life—possibly even his or Sully’s death. But considering the hype surrounding Drake’s Deception‘s story with little pay-off—not to mention the various faked “character death scenes” that occurred in all three original titles—it’s hard to take the idea of something as bold as a major character death serious at this point in the series. Such faithlessness is enough to make any fan wonder if a fourth game is even necessary. Only 2015 will tell. Until then, we’ll remain skeptically hopeful—but still skeptical all the same.