Uncharted 4: A Thief's End

Release date: May 10, 2016
Platforms: PlayStation 4

13 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About the Uncharted Series

Easter Eggs, Naughty Dog’s games references and facts about the games’ development you might not be aware of

Whether trekking through South American jungles in search of El Dorado, or seeking the long-lost loot of swashbuckler Henry Avery, players love Uncharted for its dynamic gameplay. Immersive storylines filled with twists and turns throw a lot at gamers at every stage.

In these situations, it can be easy to miss some details in favor of the bigger picture. Of course, any gaming franchise has its share of intricate details and backstories. From a player’s standpoint, not all of these Easter eggs and tidbits are well-known.

Just like your favorite films (hello, Matrix) may require many viewings to understand, here are some things you likely missed during your first Uncharted playthrough. You just might learn some interesting background info too:

1.References to Other Games are Plentiful

As Naughty Dog enjoys doing, the Uncharted Series includes many references to other titles. Consider the following:

  • In Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, the Ottsel name found on Drake and Fisher’s wetsuits is a reference to the Jak and Daxter series. Jak accidentally transforms Daxter into an ‘’Ottsel,’’ a hybrid creature sharing traits of both otters and weasels.
  • In another nod to Jak and Daxter, gamers come across a strange artifact in Drake’s Fortune, which all-too-closely resembles the precursor orbs found in the former. This Strange Relic is found in every Uncharted game, usually in secret locations.
  • Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception actually references a future Naughty Dog release, The Last of Us. Following the bar fight near the beginning of the game, a newspaper references scientific struggles revolving around a new, deadly fungus (cordyceps). In Uncharted 4, players can discover a poster believed to tip the release of The Last of Us, picturing the main character Ellie’s pregnant mother.
  • Though not exactly a secretive Easter egg, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End includes a scene where characters play Crash Bandicoot. However, many players might not know that Bandicoot was Naughty Dog’s first foray into PlayStation gaming development. You CAN beat Elena’s high score in the game – keep an eye out for the extra life and included 500-point bonus!

This is not a complete list of the references available in Uncharted, as there are simply too many to mention.

2.Designers Avoided Making Nathan Drake Resemble Laura Croft

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During the making of Uncharted, director Amy Hennig actively campaigned against creating a big and bad protagonist. Game designers envisioned Nathan Drake as more of an everyday individual. Though Drake and Croft share many of the same ambitions, Hennig favored a more human character. Accordingly, Drake was created to be ‘’tenacious and resourceful.’’ Drake’s behavior during firefights and other stressful situations show this further. Step aside, Terminator. Naughty Dog landed on a mix of Nicholas Cage, Indiana Jones, and MacGyver – not that we mind one bit.

3.A Floating Vessel and an Inside Joke

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Naughty Dog doesn’t only give gaming fans a nod. Lovers of TV comedy Arrested Development are sure to get a kick out of Ramses’ ship in Uncharted 3. Aptly named ‘’The Seaward,’’ the maritime vessel’s name makes a clear reference to Will Arnett’s boat, ‘’The C-Word.’’ Players will be quick to draw parallels between the two, enjoying a dry chuckle along the way. Ahoy Matey!

4.A Small Nod to the Developers

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Most exploration games are well known for their treasure troves of secret items players can discover. The Last of Us was notable for its number of mysterious dog tags strewn about in every nook and cranny of the map. These were adorned with the names of the game’s developers, to show a little appreciation. In Uncharted 4, players could uncover the Strange Pendant, an item marked with an odd symbol and a name. This graphic is actually the Firefly symbol, a post-apocalyptic faction from The Last of Us. Turning the pendant over reveals the name ‘’Druckley,’’ a fitting fusion of co-directors Neil Druckman and Bruce Straley.

5.Conquering the Game Unlocks an Arsenal of Epic Proportions

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We love first and third-person shooters for one thing above all else: the weaponry. Few things get your adrenaline surging more than cutting down enemies with laser precision. However, few players know that beating any Uncharted title summons great rewards. Naughty Dog grants gamers access to a grand assortment of weapons, depending on difficulty level. So, load up your magazines, lace up your boots, and set off on a journey across the Uncharted universe – on your own terms. Whether you prefer high explosives or good old-fashioned lead, rest assured that Uncharted caters to any preference.

6.Even A+ Games Have Plenty of B Roll

Games are hard to make, that’s definitely no secret. With complex motion captures, renderings, and animations (oh my!), things tend to become tricky. Naughty Dog knows this very well, as earlier renderings of Uncharted were interesting, to say the least. Everyone loves a good laugh, so Naughty Dog placed a blooper roll into each of the first three Uncharted games. While giving some insight into the development process, gamers could see some earlier work on the game prior to release. Needless to say, things came a long way.

7.Button Mashing Sucks, So Why Bother?

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Controls are often the target of a lot of flak in the gaming world. We directly interact with games with simple and complex combos of button presses – unfortunately, many of these seem a little unnecessary. Players of the Uncharted games were often tasked with mashing one button repeatedly to complete simple actions, like opening doors. This wore on the nerves of players, and Naughty Dog thankfully listened to feedback.

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The developers instituted a new accessibility option in the game, allowing players to FINALLY disable those annoying rapid taps. Originally added for those needing accommodations, the setting allowed players to simply hold down each button as needed, instead. Apart from cutting down on arthritis and carpal tunnel later in life, this tipped cap to the players helped keep happy Drakephiles coming back for more.

8.Nolan North’s Video Gaming Pedigree

It’s no secret the Uncharted community loves itself some Nathan Drake, voiced by actor Nolan North. However, many may not be aware of North’s voiceover experience outside of Naughty Dog’s hit series. North is lesser-known as the voice of Edward Richtofen from Call of Duty’s Nazi zombies. He has voiced marines and other officers in various Halo titles, and has even voiced Desmond Miles from Assassin’s Creed. While North is beloved for his role as a rugged treasure hunter, his experience in the gaming world is much broader.

9.Uncharted-Inspired Hollywood Action Scenes

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While intense action sequences can often find inspiration from the silver screen, sometimes the inverse is true. Uncharted was groundbreaking for its impressive cinematics, and director Christopher McQuarrie took notice. While filming for Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, McQuarrie drew inspiration from the acclaimed airplane stunt from Uncharted 3. Injecting much of the same drama of its gaming predecessor, producers marketed the scene prominently during the film’s box office stint.

10.No Pain, No Gain

13 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About the Uncharted Series-16The action genre is gritty and beloved for its tough-guy appeal, without a doubt. While Nolan North was surely committed to bringing his character to life on consoles worldwide, few know that his scenes were filmed despite injuries. Rumor has it that North completed many of the motion capture sequences with cracked ribs – creating the realistic expressions of anguish adorning our favorite hunter’s face during the game. You can’t help but admire that level of dedication.

11.‘’It’s Better to be Lucky Than Good’’

When playing shooting games – with a visible health bar or not - red flashes on the screen are typically no bueno. Hit markers, blood, jarring sound effects, no matter – getting shot doesn’t top anyone’s to-do list. However, the Uncharted series takes aim at a new mechanic. Ditching the common health bar, Naughty Dog replaced it with a ‘’luck meter.’’
13 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About the Uncharted Series-17Accordingly, bullets that fly Drake’s way rarely do hit our protagonist. The accompanying flashes on the screen alert the player to nearby gunshots, which drain this luck gradually. Of course, death can only be cheated for so long, and cats only have nine lives. Whatever your preferred cliché may be, Drake will truly start taking hits once his luck meter is depleted. This is when death becomes glaringly possible in Uncharted.

Corroborated by both director Amy Hennig and animator Jonathan Cooper, this design was incorporated to preserve the spirit of the game. As such, the series avoids the overused auto-aim shootout style, in favor of cover-based combat. Development changes in the AI from Uncharted to Uncharted 2 introduced some difficulties to players, as well. Some kinks in the health system sometimes required Drake to shoot enemies an extra time to take them down.

12.Eye Candy Doesn’t Come Easily

One of the most difficult aspects of Uncharted’s game design centered on the transition to PlayStation 3. Having been Naughty Dog’s first game developed for the new hardware, some powerful new potential had to be utilized.

At risk of getting a little too nerdy with you (hey, it’s why we’re here right?), Uncharted uses a cell microprocessor for textures and movements. The series’ early games relied on stacking layers of animations to achieve their signature fluid style. This was refined and improved upon as the series progressed. With new hardware to help out, developers were able to achieve better lighting, shading, and texture reproduction – all key elements in making Uncharted not just a game, but an immersive experience to behold.

This was all accomplished even though the company reworked their creative plan 10 months into development. Naughty Dog certainly experienced its share of development pains, but their end product benefited greatly.

13.Awesome Level Design is the Name of the Game

The developers of Uncharted wanted their game to be as believable and interesting as it was fun. A major factor in achieving that goal was amazing level design. Making geometric templates, sculpting surroundings, and applying rich textures were all crucial steps in creating beautiful environments.
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Designers wanted to place elements on the map that players could interact with, avoiding objects and areas that otherwise ‘’tricked’’ the player into thinking they had some importance. As Emilia Schatz of Naughty Dog outlined last year, ‘’If you put a ladder in your level, a player very likely will at some point attempt try to use it. When the player attempts to use your ladder and nothing happens, they’ll begin to view the rest of your game with a degree of skepticism.’’ Needless to say, everything around Uncharted was designed with authenticity and utility, as not to break immersion.

Cover was designed to provide clear indications of what is usable to the player. Naughty Dog wanted to ensure players avoided any unnecessary guesswork when approaching new areas. All in all, the series was designed to feel very natural. While levels may be more or less linear, as well, vibrant environments should allow players to explore within reason.

Tyler Charboneau