Warning: Spoiler Alert
A big part of the reason the Uncharted series works so well is because of its characters. Nathan Drake and his cohorts are so nuanced, so fully realized, that they’ve become as human as you or I. The first Uncharted gave gamers a reason to cheer for Drake each time he escaped certain death, and then Uncharted 2 plucked at our heartstrings over the love triangle between Chloe, Elena and Drake. Uncharted 3 spent the game focusing on the mentor/student relationship between Sully and Nathan, shedding further light on why the duo was so inseparable. We came to feel the depths of the father-and-son dynamic between them, and why Nathan could always be so sure of Sully’s motives.
Through all of the first two games, though, none of our heroes were forced to meet the Grim Reaper. A huge accomplishment, considering the amount of collapsing structures and flying bullets that fill their adventures. There were close calls, sure, but outside of that everyone always walked away (except the bad guys). Uncharted 3 seemed to be par for the course on that front; the meeting at the beginning of the game was a set-up, and the most ominous moment in the game ended only in a broken leg for Cutter.
That all changed with the death of Victor Sullivan. It happened with almost the whole game in the rear-view mirror and the mysterious “Atlantis of the Sands” discovered. Much like life it was abrupt, it was certain, and it was cruel. Sully, cut down with a single bullet fired by Marlowe’s despicable right-hand man, Talbot. No goodbyes, no last words, just gone.
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At that moment, Drake’s righteous anger became my own. The enemies became more fantastical (as they tend to at the end of Uncharted games) and more difficult, but they fell like wheat reaped at harvest in the face of Drake’s rage. Nothing could stop us as we came ever closer to the last confrontation, where justice would be exacted; or at the very least, revenge. It wouldn’t bring Sully back, but they would pay.
Except that it was all a lie. Drake rounds a corner, and there stands Sully, perfectly fine. It wasn’t a betrayal, or a lucky break, either. He’d never been shot at all. It was the secret of the “Atlantis of the Sands” fully revealed: the clean-looking water supply was all tainted. Nathan had drank some of the water and — to put it in scientific terms — started tripping balls. Sully was never shot, enemies weren’t bursting into flame and teleporting, and he hadn’t been drugged by Talbot again.
It would almost have been admirable, pulling the rug from under me like that, only to put it back neatly afterward. Except I was too pissed to be impressed, because the series has made me so attached to the characters. Naughty Dog had already said it would kill a character if the story warranted it, but what they did was something else entirely. They played a game with players, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who danced. So congratulations, Naughty Dog. Successful troll is successful.