Nathan Drake of the Uncharted series is a consummate hero with a winning smile, a perfect head of hair and utter disregard for peril when his friends are in trouble. A dashing Han Solo for the gaming world, ready to fight the good fight – or ideally run away from it. Still…there’s something sinister about this happy-go-lucky treasure hunter.
The first time I noticed this was in Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, specifically when Drake and his treacherous colleague, Flynn, have to break into the Istanbul Palace Museum. We made it to the rooftops without alerting the guards, quietly subduing those who got in the way. No killing. Drake wasn’t about to kill these guys just for doing their jobs, right?
Climbing up to a high point on the palace, Drake is warned about a guard on patrol near the ledge. I’ll admit I was a bit panicky at this stage. I tap ‘square’, thinking that my hero would jump up and deliver a swift knockout blow to Salim’s head (yes, I gave the guard a name. He also had a wife and five small children at home, by my reckoning). What does Drake do instead? He grabs Salim’s shirt and hauls him off the precipice to a watery grave on the sea-battered rocks, hundreds of feet below.
“Sleep tight.” Drake remarks softly.
I sit there for a moment, staring at Salim’s body as it falls further and further into the abyss. What have I just been a party to? Did Drake think that was funny?
This was when it began to dawn on me that Mr. Drake, as heroic and interesting as he is, could also be considered quite the homicidal maniac. A Dexter among treasure hunters, if you like. His body count was already astronomically high, long before Salim stepped onto the rooftops on his fateful night shift.
See, I think Drake’s experiences in Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune had a profound effect upon his psyche.
His hand was forced to violent action, first by pirates attempting to capture his boat and later by another treasure hunter and his gang of hired mercs, and then (as if that wasn’t enough) by a pack of bloodthirsty mutant scavengers. I know I’d be suffering from post-traumatic stress after that, at the very least. In Drake’s case these horrific experiences seem to have transformed him into a form of sociopath. A charming, funny and kindhearted sociopath, but a sociopath nonetheless. One who’s prepared to hurl an innocent security guard off a tall building while saying the words, “Sleep tight”.
After he’s betrayed by Flynn, Drake allegedly spends three months in prison for the heist and, I assume, Salim’s murder as well as the assault of a dozen or so museum security guards. Yet he shows not an ounce of remorse for pulling an innocent man to his death. Instead he whines about Flynn’s choice to betray him and fantasises about an alternative outcome where he gets to shoot Flynn instead.
I look at his mischievous grin, listen to his easy-going words and I see a predator posing as a lighthearted rascal. Drake, Drake, what have you become?
Drake’s uncaring attitude spreads not only to his fellow human beings, but the treasures he so desperately wants to find. How many artefacts and cultural sites are destroyed in the games after his initial violent baptism in Uncharted? Drake stands atop mountains of ancient rubble and corpses and claims victory. There’s a sobering moment in Uncharted 2 where Drake remarks that everything he touches “turns to shit” before heading off to confront a murderous war criminal, who’s probably more aware of his own nature than Drake will ever be of his.
“How many men have you killed?” Drake’s nemesis demands later on, “How many, just today?”
I can’t deny he has a point. Even Drake’s friends start to question his judgement in Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception, when Drake is going up against a secret order intent on finding a lost ancient city.
“Listen. You’ve won, OK?” Drake’s ex-wife, Elena, tells him, “You’ve outsmarted her. You know where to find the city and Marlowe doesn’t. Why can’t that be enough?”
It’s a brilliant scene that really nails a key point about Drake’s character: he can’t stop himself. He’s compelled to keep going even at the risk of losing himself and others. He brings down cities that have stood for millennia. He puts bullets in people without a care in the world.
…I’d probably still have dinner with him, though.
Written by Alex Lemcovich (MA Journalism Student at Birkbeck) Illustration by Alex Lemcovich