UNCHARTED: DRAKE’S FORTUNE

a review of Uncharted: Drake's Fortune
a videogame developed by Naughty Dog
and published by Sony Computer Entertainment America
for the sony playstation 3 computer entertainment system
text by J. Jonathan Brett

2 stars

Bottom line: Uncharted: Drake's Fortune is “why video games are referred to as 'murder simulators'.”

How can we take issue with the mainstream portrayal of video games as murder simulators when a majority of them prominently simulate the act of murder? Here a detractor protests: what about Wanda and the Colossus, or the most recent Prince of Persia? A notion bewilderingly common among Internet-posting game enthusiasts is that the exception somehow vanquishes the rule; that the millions of heretofore observed white swans ought to politely blink out of existence in deference to the discovery of black. Well they don’t. And these pacifist black swans don’t remove from consideration their countless shotgun-wielding, grenade-launching, head-shot-prioritizing white cousins.

Case in point, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. Uncharted is inspired by Indiana Jones, and let it be said that we at Action Button are, in fact, thrilled to see another top developer taking a crack at this fallow sub-genre. Now that the folks behind Tomb Raider have chosen to steer the franchise away from its adventure roots to focus on adapting it into a ball-dropping simulator, we had a real niche gap on our hands. The developers at Naughty Dog shrewdly took note of this gap, and we don’t question for a minute that these developers’ respective hearts were in the respective right places. Uncharted is a well-studied approximation: within the first hour and in the tradition of any good pulp-adventure yarn, players have unearthed a long-lost artifact, traveled to exotic and foreboding tropical locales, and debunked a widely-held myth.

They’ve also wasted enough people to staff a four-star resort hotel.

By the time a player has completed Uncharted, even on the “normal” difficulty setting, he’ll have blown away literally hundreds of human beings. We’ll be fair: that’s hardly anything in comparison to the number of people who were murdered by the machinations of, say, Joseph Stalin or Genghis Khan. Yet the fact can’t be evaded: were protagonist-slash-angel-of-death Nathan Drake a flesh-and-blood human being, he would be responsible by his own hands for a number of deaths qualifying him for membership in an ignominious club that includes, at best and over the full course of the history of the human species, a couple of hundred members.

Yes, even ol’ Indy (and the pulp icons that were his inspiration) kills his fair share of goons with each outing. Yet can you imagine a film with a supposed “protagonist” who, with hand guns, shotguns, grenades, automatic rifles, spike-tipped Rube Goldberg contraptions, his bare fists — and much much more! — murders hundreds of human beings? Forget about relating with; would anyone even like this character?

The developers at Naughty Dog seem to believe that gamers would. Nathan Drake is undeniably well voice-acted (so well, in fact, that when putting together the aforementioned present-gen Prince of Persia title, the developers decided, what the heck, let’s just get the same damned guy) and quite the charmer. We were willing to toss a tad more hydraulic into our suspension of disbelief as at least Nathan doesn’t supplement his killing spree with a running commentary of sarcastic asides. Perhaps in fear of disenfranchising sociopathic shut-ins with an obsessive compulsion to collect, Naughty Dog “fixed” this when they rolled out so-called “achievements”. Now, “I’m getting pretty good at this!”, Nathan remarks with discernible pride, as he is player-controlled to shoot his twentieth human being in the head.

It’s too stark a contrast, between the characters’ appearances and their actions. Uncharted has been duly lauded for the beauty of its presentation. In contrast to something even as recent as the Arkham Asylum demo, wherein Batman moves like the second stick up his rear he’d sent in to retrieve the first had also gotten stuck, Nathan and his companions look and move comparably enough to actual human beings to pass the “squint test”. (Even two years after its release, we would submit that, at least in terms of character animation, Uncharted compares favorably to Madden, the present high-water mark.) Yet, for all of the realism of their appearances, these are characters who go from being the sort of neophytes that nervously crack about how firing a gun is “…like a camera: you just point and shoot” to nonchalantly striding up and blasting a man in the chest without so much as a wince let alone a moment of hesitation.

We humbly wish to draw attention to this point: Elena Fisher (Nathan’s companion) goes from leading a fairly adventurous if otherwise normal life, to being a murderer — and never so much as remarks upon the fact. Yes, they were “bad people” who were, at the very least, guilty of attempted murder (seeing as they were rather inconsiderately trying to wax Nathan and Elena and all). They were still human beings. Even if it were in self-defense, how would you, good reader, feel about taking another man’s life? Hell, even in a stoner flick like Pineapple Express, the main character has a moment of abject dread as the full scope of the reality settles in upon him: I just killed like six people!

Is it unfair to hold Uncharted up to films for comparison? Not when the obvious intent was the make a game that feels like “playing a film”. There’s certainly no dearth of debate on the prudence of making games like playable films. We at Action Button (or at least the instance of the Action Button “we” hive mind typing out this review) are of the mind that, just as the summer blockbuster is a Thing That Can Be Done with film and will therefore continue to be done, so will the game intended to emulate the summer blockbuster. Just as is the case for film fanatics, what’s for we game enthusiasts is to hope for developers to periodically succeed in this format, and that entails characters who are as realistic in their actions and responses as they are in their appearances.

 

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I’m certainly not proposing that killing and death as a mechanic be removed from video games entirely. (Another curiosity of Internet-posting game enthusiasts: for as much as they pride themselves on their intelligence, they frequently fall back on logical fallacies as basic as the slippery slope.) What I do propose is that in a game which seeks so painstakingly to recreate the “Indiana Jones” experience that the threat of death mean something, just as it does in the Indiana Jones films. If Indy takes a bullet in the gut, he’s dead, and the same goes for his enemies. This is an adventure game! Let’s have the focus on exploration and — dare I be so pat? — adventure! Keep the enemy encounters sparse; there’s brilliance in economy. And how about this for a unique fold: getting shot will kill your character. Nathan versus one, maybe two opponents, all of whom are equally vulnerable and all of whom scramble to take the best advantage of the terrain to come out on top (and alive). It would, of course, be a challenge, to create terrain and situations that make such a game mechanic enjoyable. We submit, while promising to hold off on the submitting for the remainder of this article, that the payoff for this additional think-work would be more than worth it.

The developers at Naughty Dog knew what they were doing. Uncharted is a well-researched exercise in the pulp action tradition. It’s not an accident that the protagonist kills hundreds though the protagonists of the sources of his inspiration kill perhaps ten. This was a conscious design decision, which had conscious antecedents. Why the contrast? There are only two reasons possible: (1) the developers themselves felt the game would be dull without the addition of copious bloodshed, or (2) the developers believed that the target audience of game enthusiasts wouldn’t support an adventure game that lacked copious bloodshed. Either way, the rationale remains the same: an appreciable group of gamers wouldn’t enjoy this game if it didn’t have enough bloodshed.

Which is exactly what the mainstream media says about us.

Epilogue

We’ve given Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune two stars because even though it is violence porn, it’s at least the violence analog of well-meaning, workaday “heterosexual couple of positionally advantageous giganticism” pornography, not leering, bodily function-involving Internet pornography that makes you want to become fantastically wealthy to drill a hole to the center of the earth and fill it with armed nuclear warheads. This review is partially to commemorate the imminent release of the sequel to Uncharted which, the word is, will feature a 80-to-20 action- (read: murder-) to-exploration ratio, in contrast to the original Uncharted‘s 70-to-30.

–J. Jonathan Brett

Comments

33 Responses to UNCHARTED: DRAKE’S FORTUNE

  1. It’s (1), and they are correct. To call upon Cliffy”CliffyB”B, these games are the way they are because no one has yet come up with a game mechanic as viscerally satisfying as reaching out and shooting someone.

    However, your warnings are misplaced. Your entire case hinges upon the false premise that killing someone in a video game is in any way equal to shooting someone in real life. Now, there are certainly similarities, but the psychological, ethical, moral framework is completely different. There may exist a better game mechanic to implement instead of all the killing, and it might endear the game industry to the conservative politicians, but people are generally not in a real rush to discover it, because this one actually has a pretty good ratio of strengths to weaknesses (psychologically speaking).

  2. Also shouldn’t it be “manslaughter simulator” since with few exception your videogame avatar is acting in self-defense. The weird, time tested, video game convention that is playing out in Drake’s Fortune is that all enemies are trying to kill you.

  3. Actually, killing in self-defense is neither manslaughter nor murder – it’s a complete defense to any charge of homicide. It’s not a crime at all.

    That’s little to do with the writer’s point, though.

  4. I have problems with your methodology (the killing of grunts in a game is a poor link to killing grunts IRL) but your end conclusion of making games smaller, tighter, and each action more meaningful is very sharp indeed. I’m going to go ahead and say the Arkham Asylum was ALMOST this. The sheer amount of ‘instant take-downs’ in that game, and the almost instant kill that gun enemies can give out…it had some base there. Of course, it fell off the awesome wagon, etc.

  5. I don’t believe (and hence don’t assert) that killing someone in a video game and killing someone in actual life are the same. Anyone who would try to assert that would have to have a few screws loose.

    I do believe that the act of killing another human being, even be it in self-defense, would have a profound psychological impact, and it would be nice to see characters in games who behave and react like human beings would. Particularly in games where the developers have gone to such great lengths to make the characters look like actual human beings.

    Visceral thrills have their place in video games, to be sure. Cliffy B. understood that if a player is going to be gunning down some variety of thing hundreds of times over, it would be a good idea not to make that thing resemble as closely as possible a human being.

  6. I really want to play a game where you only kill one guy. Maybe a western game where Dan Stanton, bank employee, has to work up the nerve to stand up to Grizzly McGrizzled, the meanest hombre in the west.

    Or a GTA clone. You spend the majority of the game orchestrating a gang war Fistful of Dollars style, by like stealing a drug shipment and then pinning it on the Red Dragons or something, but at the very end you have to take out the lead mob guy yourself, perhaps causing you to reflect on all the violence you’ve spent the game inciting.

    You almost never see violence in games handled in a way that isn’t meant to make you feel like an action hero. GTA4 has moments like that, where it’s not really a shootout, it’s just a straight up assassination, but when you’ve just killed fifty random people, blew up a bus, and totaled twelve cars just driving there, killing a defenseless crime boss is hardly a moral compromise anymore.

  7. I think you are making a worthwhile case in this review but you leave out an important and unobvious premise. When the game is ‘God of War’ or ‘Gears of War’ or ‘Call of Duty’ the killing fits into some kind of ground-warfare framework where the rule of proportionality can be lifted.

    Lucas and Spielberg were very careful to do this for Indiana Jones by making nearly all the bad guys Nazis, so that every one who gets waxed in the pursuit of archaeological artifacts can be written off as having deserved it for murdering thousands of Jews offscreen.

    But the bad guys in Tomb Raider are only criminals (or for the most part, defenceless animals) who are after the same things Lara is after – namely, treasure. You’re not ordered to kill them, you’re not defending your country, it’s just that they’re in between you and the antique skull. If these criminals murdered anyone before Lara came along, it was someone who she had no connection to, and for all we know *they* were murderers too, so killing them is hardly reasonable in a retributive sense, either. These facts about the context make it seem disproportionate for Lara to kill them all, when she could just a) go home to her massive mansion and untold wealth, b) sneak past them acrobatically, or at least c) shoot them in the kneecaps rather than the head.

    By the time you’ve killed 1000 men as Lara Croft, you look at her standing unscathed, and you just think if she’s such a superlative soldier, if her puissance is so unmatched, isn’t it a bit reckless and unfair for her to go into a one-on-one firefight with these poor treasure-hunters?

    The same goes for Uncharted (I guess – I’ve only read reviews) and you can justifiably call it a murder simulator if the only reason you’re on the adventure is that you’re seeking treasure… personal gain is not a motivation that can justify killing thousands of men, even if they are murderers themselves. I mean, how about you just butt out of their stronghold and find a paying job on Wall St. instead?

    The issue is proportionality, not self-defence.

    There are other options when you’re making an action-adventure, as we’ve seen in Oni and Mirror’s Edge, both of which can be played without murdering anyone. Mirror’s Edge seems to acknowledge that the enemy drones are just employees following orders, and that your main motivation is to deliver a fricking package, and so it doesn’t force you to murder anyone.

  8. Bennet, I couldn’t agree more. In something like Call of Duty, there is due context: the game is intended to simulate the experience of participation in war.

    Uncharted lacks this context entirely. Why are you killing all of these people? Because they are trying to kill you. (Save the instances where you get the drop on them.) Why are they trying to kill you? Ostensibly because their employer ordered them to do so. Substantially, because it’s a video game and that’s what video game opponents “do”. When creators, in any format, begin including elements for no other reason than “[format] always has [element(s)] that [perform(s) some function]”, we’re getting into trouble.

    Playing Uncharted, I couldn’t help but note that the Main Asshole White Guy wouldn’t need to be seeking out this treasure if he wasn’t bankrolling a private military that puts those of many third world nations to shame.

    Also, GilbertSmith, I think both of those are excellent ideas.

  9. Violence in entertainment is all about the LOLs now. It’s not about fairness, or logic, or making sense. It’s about jerking off all the little kids, big kids, and man kids who not only don’t appreciate intelligent thought, but in fact feel threatened and condescended by it.

    The first paragraph of the Free Realms review on this website is required reading for seeing what’s wrong with entertainment these days. That and A.O. Scott’s review of Funny People. Violence is but one small element in this malicious and increasingly visible web.

    On violence. Fighting is a form of communication. It is not just 1>1=1. Even when you are fighting a monster, it says something about a man who brings himself to fight against an animal instead of, say, running away like a normal person. It gets even more complicated when it’s people against people, because people’s reasons for killing eachother are emotional, and to say otherwise is to tell a plain lie. People don’t kill in videogames because it’s inherently fun. Videogames just decided to be about that one day, and the children followed along like they always do.

    All these games, man. They forget that there’s a human being behind all that violence. It’s not about the blood spray. It’s about the finger on the trigger. It’s about the gamer’s finger on the action button. Does it pull quickly? Does it rest easy as far from the trigger as possible? Or does it quiver between these poles? And why?

  10. There is no such thing as violence in a videogame. There goes your entire review. This game happens to have enemies in the form of humans. I’m pretty sure you slay (tens of?) thousands of helpless enemies in most RPGs.

    No, it needs NO less shooting. It needs more. Nearly constant shooting. Shooting is to Uncharted as Line-clearing is to Tetris. Except, of course, in Tetris’ case, the entire game is focused around its MOST strategic mechanic. And it happens to be perfect, ie. it can’t be any better (unless we speak of Tetris Dekaris, but we’ll leave that for another day).

    You didn’t mention:
    -the shooting is strategic and fun
    -the “platforming” is repetitive and quite filler, save for what you climb
    -the cover system is incredible
    -and so is the shooting
    -the story is actually good
    -the game is good.

    I guess that’s all I’ve to say. Until another day. And yeah, Uncharted 2 is going to rock.

  11. I’m reminded of the recent news story about the guy who killed a robber with a katana (in real life). The Internet was filled with congratulatory nerds jacking off about how he killed the guy. There’s even a fansite. It was pretty disturbing
    I mean… yeah, Shooting can be a good mechanic for a videogame but i prefer it when the enemies are abstracted – aliens, demons, whatever. i remember the first time I played Goldeneye. I must have been about 12 or 13 and i felt physically sick seeing the enemies react when i shot them. i got desensitized to it but i’m not sure thats a good thing
    i stopped playing God Of War partly because of how hecked up Kratos was

    “There is no such thing as violence in a videogame. There goes your entire review. This game happens to have enemies in the form of humans.”

    jeez… i hate stuff like this. its the weird myopia of internet arguments. like ‘you’re not killing black people in RE5. they’re zombies. argument over’. like people are unable to understand context or nuance

    i don’t support censorship but some self-reflection on the part of the gaming community would be great

  12. I don’t think his problem is so much the violence itself, as the fact that the violence feels bloated and out of place in the context of ‘movie-gone-videogame’. I suspect that’s probably even more of a problem than the desensitized character himself.

    The only readily-available comparison that comes to mind for me is Left 4 Dead. Regular folks, gunning down previous humans en masse. The game looks realistic enough to me. I mean, there’s the argument that the zombies are ‘no longer human’, but there’s no saying there isn’t a cure. There’s no saying there’s not still some ‘human’ left in them. To me, that would probably be more damaging than killing ACTUAL people that were trying to kill me! But no, -these- regular folk? They’re completely chill about it. So JJB, would you have rated L4D roughly the same? Not a challenge or anything, just wondering.

    I guess my point is that the ‘Bottom Line’ in this case feels a bit misleading towards the point of the review.

  13. It is culturally accepted that zombies are no longer human at all, and can not be changed back into human in any way. And it wasn’t Valve that thought this up, the movies did. If they had done it any other way, they wouldn’t have been zombies anymore, and the concept would have had to be changed/gont to waist.

  14. I can point to at least three sources that suggest otherwise, one of which is the ongoing comic “The Walking Dead” (wherein it is shown that some zombies do indeed possess human tendancies) and another being the Zombie Survival Guide (wherein it is merely suggested that there is no known cure, not that one can’t exist). But then, I’m not really an expert. It’s not a digression I want to explore while I digest my tasty Panera Bread.

    So, a different example. Gordon Freeman, anyone?

  15. zombies retaining human traits is ludicrous.

    And what about Freeman?

  16. Freeman is Johnny Nonviolent. Upstanding achieving scientist. Not much outward signs of regretting mass-murder of combine soldiers. No Alyx Vance going “you look troubled, Gordon, is something wrong?” Pretty desensitized individual, when it comes to killing people that try to kill him.

    However, (unless I miss my guess,) BECAUSE it fits better into the context of HL2 than Uncharted: The Movie: The Game, JJB would be more hard-pressed to justify the 2-star rating. The action and the story in HL2 don’t feel so seperate from each other, it’s not as black-and-white as in UDF, where it’s “listen to the story, now explore, now listen again, now kill like 55 people”. Killing, I dare say, feels more natural in HL2. Does that mean HL2 is a better murdersim? And is that a bad thing?

    I sort of hope JJB will come enlighten us!!

  17. Gordon was also under attack from space aliens from a different dimension and genuine commandos you know. Why only mention the combine?

    Secondly, there is a very clear reason why Gordon (you) doesn’t (don’t) feel anyhting when killing them: they came to kill you for no reason (of which you know of). You’re just trying to get out of your predicament, but if you don’t fight back, you’re dead! And it isn’t like you can do other things than killing them: you aren’t some super powered/skilled bloke (or to phrase it appropriately: some agent provocateur), you’re just a theoretical phisycist that can only get by with puzzle solving, an HEV suit and huge amounts of luck. And Gordon isn’t responsible for getting into those kinds of situations either…

  18. Well played, Kasparov!

    I only mentioned the combine in reference to HL2, the game with the more obvious storyline being followed. Yes, there are aliens and headcrabs and what-have-you, yet I don’t understand why that would justify feeling nothing for killing humans. If Bob shoots at me, and I kill him, I’m gonna feel sick. However, if Bob shoots at me and his pet ALIEN tries to bite my leg off? Well, heck Bob then, I couldn’t care less! ..?

    I’ve only watched some of the beginning chapters of Uncharted so I can’t speak to the situation he’s in besides just “I’m hunting treasure”. “You’re just trying to get out of your predicament, but if you don’t fight back, you’re dead! And it isn’t like you can do other things than killing them: you aren’t some super powered/skilled bloke” That whole chunk applies to UDF as well, right? I don’t see how putting yourself in the situation would make you feel any differently about killing to survive, versus being thrown into it in the first place. I don’t know.

  19. last thing i need is an emotional main character

    if he’s got to kill some dudes — for whatever reasons — then let him be a man about it

    that is IF we’re talking about a film/game in the action genre

    which we are

    and if we’re talking about killing hundreds of dudes — which we also are — then give me an iron Genghis Khan type of dude, yeah, not Aaron Average

    in that regard: big up to Manhunt, no points for Uncharted

  20. I guess the difference with Half-Life is all these combine soldiers are shown to be post-human assholes. They’ve opted out of humanity (through cybernetic implants (hinted in the tannoy if you listen)) in exchange for more money/rations and beating quotas.

    And despite that, killing these dudes remains pretty grim. There is no guitar riff, fist pump or heck YEAH when you clear a room, just the guy screaming and his EKG flatlining. A pretty stark reminder that, yeah, he was still mostly human and, yeah, you did just kill him.

    If Half-Life is a murder simulator it’s a pretty accurate one.

  21. I dunno D-BO, I think I’d rather be feeling pissed that I’m in a predicament like that, AND some heckers try to kill me for no reason that I know of. There is a point where sympathy is moot.

  22. While there are fair points in this review, in general, I don’t think they apply to Uncharted or any other similar game for that matter. First: a matter of genre. You don’t see Indiana Jones reflecting over the people he killed even if he’s just an archaeology professor. Why? because that wouldn’t fit the pulp adventure genre. That’s not the objective nor the tone the writing is going for.

    Second, movies and films are different mediums (duh) and they use different devices to engage the viewer/player. Indy kills maybe five people during a 2 hour movie, and Drake probably kills a lot more in proportion in the course of his 20 hour game. That’s justified in the sense that it’s a main game mechanic, and the player doesn’t usually psychologically register how many people has killed in this genre of games unless it’s brought to their attention with a specific purpose (the “kill count” in the ninja chapter of Live a Live is a good example), since it0s just not important for the tone of the piece.

    An action movie where the majority of the footage consists of the protagonist killing “mooks” would be as boring as an action game that consisted almost entirely of exposition and plot setup.

    So what if the developers want to give a cinematic context to their game about jumping and killing people? as long as they do it within the boundaries of the genre they chose (and, as far as I know Uncharted does) I don’t see what’s wrong.

  23. D-Bo, I haven’t played Half Life 2, so I can’t offer a comprehensive opinion. If the lead character’s motives are sympathetic and his actions believable, then yes, I would certainly give it a higher rating.

    My issue with Uncharted is that it lacks context, and the characters’ behavior and actions don’t ring true. I’m not opposed to gunning down goons as a mechanic — when it fits. It’s a mechanic the game needs to be built around. Gears of War and its sequel accomplish this. Uncharted doesn’t.

    With Uncharted, it’s clear the developers had intended to make an Indiana Jones-style adventure. (I even seem to recall the developers saying that the game’s focus would be primarily exploration, followed by puzzle-solving.) Such a game would benefit from realistic human characters. Then years passed and Big Cash Money was spent and it was determined that the game must sell. Gears of War was big, so they soldered on a similar mechanic and shipped the game out. The game wasn’t envisioned around this mechanic, and it doesn’t fit.

  24. Most of the Combine soldiers are post-human. The Civil Protection guys, being the low level soldiers you see policing the city, are actually human beings who were lured by the idea of having power over other human beings. They’re the weakest in a gunfight because they’re only used to firing upon unarmed citizens and have no real combat experience.

    So I ain’t got nothin’ against bashing those guys’ skulls in with a gravity gun propelled toilet.

  25. But yeah, it remains pretty stark. It puts you in a situation where you won’t feel guilty about it, but you probably won’t pump your fist in the air, either.

  26. Not to mention the entire beginning sequence of the game depicting their extreme brutality.

  27. jayjaybee— your comment suggests that the developers shoehorned combat into the game at the last minute, perhaps after the success of gears of war 1 year earlier. For me the combat felt pretty natural, though I agree it was excessive. I think they were always intending for there to be a fair amount of combat (all of the environments were built around it, after all) but it seems like the game went from 70/30 to 30/70 exploration to combat ratio when they realized their environmental artists couldn’t sustain a more than 5 hour game with the high standard they set visually. Which is a shame. I do hope the next one relies less on combat.

  28. SPOILERS! FOR UNCHARTED 2! I guess, but…

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    What’s interesting is that in the sequel, they actually seem to acknowledge the fact that Drake is, by all accounts, a mass murderer, and actively going out of their way to compensate for that. In fact, they do it quite nicely by making the main bad guy a Certified Rotten Son of a Bitch, which I think is a good way for games in general to establish a connection with the main character.

    For case history, Nathan Drake is far more, shall we say, charismatic than someone Mark Hammond in The Getaway, but I very much cared about that character because:

    a) Charlie Jolson, his nemesis, is a CRSoB, and…
    b) Charlie Jolson kills his wife, takes his son, and that’s just the warm up. Mark Hammond is trying to kill what was then perhaps the baddest CRSoB of the console generation, ergo, I am rooting for him.

    Ditto for Nariko vs. Bohan in Heavenly Sword. That game’s entire storyline was a fat goth chick’s (who may or may not be *obsessed* with vampires, per se, but definitely wore out the laser on her DVD player the week Twilight came out) freshman year college writing final, but I think we can all agree that Bohan was the stuff, and gave that game an honest to god incentive to see it through to the end.

    I guess the question at the core of your argument is, in Wolfenstein 3D, can you say B.J. is a mass murderer? Yes, he kills lots of fleshy beings, but those beings are Nazis. Note I didn’t say people, because Nazis were perhaps the last example of a true enemy that could legitimately be dehumanized without the use of rhetoric, propaganda, and tiny capsules as stage props before the U.N.

    The Uncharted games go out of their way to tie things to the Nazis (I more than II), but while Lazarevic is not a Nazi himself…

    1. His name is Zoran Lazarevic (LAH-ZAAAR-AHH-VICH). I defy you to find me someone with a name like that who DOESN’T start their day by waking up and kicking a kitten into a sawblade.

    2. He is a bald muscular man covered in burns and scars, especially on his face.

    3. He is a billionaire. Further, he is a billionaire responsible for a trail of genocide behind him as he exploits local conflicts to find a stone he believes will allow him to become the next Hitler, Pol Pot, or Ghengis Khan.

    4. On that note, he actually NAME DROPS Hitler, Pol Pot, and Khan in one of his evil genius monologues.

    5. His partner in crime is a guy with spiked blonde hair (probably bleached), a douchebag accent, who probably wears Affliction T-Shirts when he’s not aiding genocidal billionaires with a first edition of Mein Kampf.

    The men under Zoran’s command aren’t necessarily soldiers in a WWII game sense, but look at it: They are probably members of a PMC (which, in the minds of a lot of people, already put them on equal footing with Nazis), who chose to specialize in killing as a means of profit.

    They have chosen to work for a man named Lazaravic, who has a stated goal of finding a rock he thinks will let him take over the world. I don’t care if every one of those men had 3 kids, a trophy wife, and a dog back home. They knew what this was.

    If I’m not mistaken (it’s been a while, so I may be), Uncharted 2 avoids its predecessor’s pitfall of making the mercenaries you kill en masse Local Savage Types. If you’re the sort of person who spends time pondering these things (and the reviewer here obviously is), it’s not much of a stretch to assume the heavily tanned men with guns who shot at you in U:DF were basically forced into The Life because of Global Inequality and Exploitation, etc.

    U2 has no such conundrum. Every last one of the men you kill in that game could have gone for an MBA. They could have become lawyers, doctors, or business executives. Instead, they join a known torturer’s entourage as a paid thug.

    Uncharted 2 also delineates between People Who Deserve to Die and People Who Do Not. The very first mission sees you get assaulted by security guards in a museum, but through various Plot Rails, you only can shoot them with a tranq gun. Mall Cops do not deserve The Treatment, but Blackwater Goons in the employ of a psychotic billionaire stuffbasket do.

    The bottom line is, I’m okay with the set of morals Uncharted 2 establishes right from the outset.

    A last point is that U2 does a lot more to lighten the amount of blood directly on Nate’s hands. Through much of the game, you’ll find yourself with one, even two companions, who will actually shoot at things and hit them. This way, it feels a lot more like a group of people fighting for survival, rather than one man with a lot of guns, killin’ everything all willy-nilly.

  29. More Uncharted 2 spoilers:

    I did laugh out loud, however, when Lazarevic in his, I’m the last boss and you’ve beaten me, but we’re not so different you and I speech, says, “How many men have you killed? Just today!” I checked the handy Statistics screen to be sure. 1034.

  30. Well, Han Solo shot Greebo in cold blood and no one seems to have a problem with him. People even wear T-shirts glamorizing the fact.

  31. No, Han didn’t shoot him in “cold blood”, because Lucas went back and turned him into a sissy bobble-head toy, which is probably what you all want to do to Nathan Drake.

    Also, a T-shirt doesn’t glamorize anything unless it’s being worn over a nice set of tits.

  32. Han never shot him in cold blood–he shot Greedo in a hot-blooded, rational and clever move that served to illuminate his character, and the circumstances in which he would, and would not kill.

    There’s a difference between murder and shooting an alien punk who’s holding a gun on you and has just announced his intention to kill you, even if he hasn’t started shooting yet. In fact, waiting for someone to start shooting before you defend yourself is the literal definition of terminal stupidity.

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