The Seventh Generation of Action & Adventure in Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune
Naughty Dog and Sony have had a strong and lengthy working relationship. The dawn of each new Sony home console has usually marked the beginning of an exciting new franchise for the studio since the first PlayStation. The PS1 had Crash Bandicoot, the PlayStation 2 played home to the Jak and Daxter series and when it came to the PlayStation 3, Naughty Dog opted to pull out all the stops and take advantage of the powerful new hardware to break away from the cartoonish and explore a more realistic style of gameplay. It was today in 2007 that we chased after the first of many extraordinary adventures to come in Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune.
Conception of Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune began shortly after the release of Jak 3 on the PlayStation 2 under the project name of Big. As the industry prepared to shift console generations in the period of 2005 to 2007, Naughty Dog’s higher ups came together to consider their steps forward. With the creation of Naughty Dog IPs on previous console generations, the time always attempted to thoroughly explore the technological space of the new formats. For the PlayStation 3, the team would finally be able to realize proper and quality looking human characters otherwise made impossible by their standards with the limitations of the old hardware. With this new horizon of opportunity, Naughty Dog decided to pull the trigger on a larger than life action-adventure title with stylized realism at the core of the experience.
Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune puts players in the role of treasure hunter Nathan Drake as he and journalist Elena Fisher hunt the remains of English explorer Sir Francis Drake in hopes of discovering a mysterious secret related to his final expedition for the fabled golden city of El Dorado. With the help of Drake’s mentor Victor “Sully” Sullivan, the trio fight off pirates, rival treasure hunter Gabriel Roman and South American archaeologist Atoq Navarro in a race that takes them from the seas near Panama, to the deepest jungles of the Amazon. Drake’s Fortune was a story inspired heavily by various actions and adventure inspirations, most notably the Indiana Jones and National Treasure films.
The overt style of Uncharted drew immediate comparison to Tomb Raider when it was first revealed. However, though the team at Naughty Dog couldn’t deny some level of influence, they tried to push away from the Tomb Raider style, which was more focused on puzzle solving and less on depth to combat. In comparison, Uncharted was designed as a cinematic cover-based shooter built upon hefty action sequences punctuated by quick-time events that drove progress and survival in the game. Moreover, in a time when dark tones and grit where beginning to become incredibly popular and mainstream, such as that which could be found in Christopher Nolan’s Batman films, Naughty Dog chose to pursue a much more colorful and lush world akin to the tropical regions Drake and company would explore throughout the game.
Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune was a virgin voyage into new and fascinating waters for both players and Naughty Dog alike. The studio developed entire new sets of graphics rendering and programming tools to pursue the standard of excellence they were looking for out of this new, stylish adventure. It was not always smooth sailing, but the eventual outcome was most definitely an adventure to be considered in game of the year discussions. Drake’s Fortune established a new style that Naughty Dog would return to for years and sequels to come, including the style used to create the incredible title The Last of Us years later. When success came like a flood, others most definitely attempted to follow Naughty Dog’s example, but few have been able to capture the thrill of the ride like the Uncharted series.