We're five [and a half] games deep into the Uncharted series. We've followed Nathan Drake from his humble beginnings as a punkass treasure hunter looking to find long-lost treasure, to him for some reason fighting yetis, to doing whatever the hell you do in the Vita game that nobody has played because nobody has ever played a Vita (right Sony?), to looking for an undersea city in the desert, to his eventual destiny of joining his dead brother on a hunt for pirate treasure in the worst Goonies remake of all time. The series is equal parts fantastic and fucking terrible, and the gaming landscape is better off for having it.
By most accounts, Nathan Drake is a hero, right? Obviously as the character you control, all actions, inactions, and everything in between are meant to be justified by the journey of the game. Sure, there are missteps here and there - but these missteps largely serve to act as an opportunity for later redemption for our plucky adventurer. It's what a hero does; though stumble as he might, the hero overcomes any and all obstacles put before him to come through on the other side, devoid of any fault or flaw.
"You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain."
Let's be honest with ourselves, here: Nathan Drake is kind of an asshole. Like, a huge asshole. The reasons are too numerous to list out in terms of minor infractions, but we can at least focus on some big areas of discontent I have with this dude.
He's a thief.
I know him being a thief is basically the crux of the entire series (and before you throw out that "treasure hunter" shit, the word "thief" appears in two of the games' titles) but that still doesn't really settle it for me. Being a Robin Hood-type of thief is one thing - who can't get behind the concept of stealing from the rich to give to the poor? But Drake doesn't steal from the rich. He doesn't give to the poor. He steals whatever he thinks is valuable, and keeps it for himself. Don't believe me? In the epilogue to 4, he's got a boudoir containing various pieces of loot he's gobbled up for himself along the way. And you know all that shiny treasure randomly strewn about that you hit triangle to pick up throughout all the games? Where do you think all that stuff goes? Dude's eating lobster and having Indian-style hookah lounges in his private beach house while the owners of all that shit are wondering how they're going to pay their next electric bill. "Drake's Fortune," my ass.
He's a mass murderer.
They sure do cram a lot of generic humans to kill into these games, don't they? I get it - they're usually pirates or PMC-types or dudes just trying to make sure some asshole with only the front part of his shirt tucked into his jeans to show his belt buckle doesn't break into their auction and steal shit...but still. Across the four console games (I hear there's a Vita game in the series but the Vita is a hoax propagated by the liberal media so who knows) Drake has killed no less than a thousand different people, just playing through the story alone. Please don't count in the trophies for headshots, weapon kills, killing 1,000 enemies, etc, because now we're getting into Hitler territory and I don't have time to take the stand against this dude when the trial inevitably starts.
He's a smarmy shit.
This may be a personal gripe, but fuck you it's my personal blog. Nathan Drake is relentless in his smarmy, douchebaggy quips. And oh my God it gets old almost immediately. I know he's meant to have a "personality," as a completely silent protagonist in this type of game would probably get boring pretty quickly, but would it kill the guy to maybe shut the fuck up from time to time? Yes Drake, you just fell off of a cliff and landed on a smaller cliff 45 feet below the bigger one. No, you don't need to say, "Talk about a cliffside retreat!" afterward. It's almost as bad as someone letting Joss Whedon write an Avengers movie, turning every hero - and even the villain! - into his muse and one true love, Nathan Fillion. Oh, wait...
But honestly...I don't care about any of that. Sorry to waste three paragraphs on pointing out the three biggest complaints against Nathan Drake, but honestly, they're all easy enough to look past. I know Nathan is a thief, and since about 90% of what he steals is old shit some asshole pirate stole from someone else, it's not really something that bothers me. Yeah, he keeps all the loot for himself, but honestly if I found a Spanish doubloon worth $27,000 in an old pirate toilet, you better believe I'd use it to pay off my student debt. And yeah, dude's a complete and total psychopath, but since most of his murder is hidden behind the very flimsy excuse of, "It's self defense," I can accept it. The shooting in these games still sucks and brings down the pacing every time a sprawling adventure game turns into Shitty Mid-00s Cover Based Shooter from Now-Defunct Game Studio, but I digress. Killing people in these games is no fun at all, but it doesn't keep me up at night pondering its moral ramifications, either. And Drake is still a total douche, but at least he's not Squall, the worst video game protagonist of all time. Could be worse, yeah?
These points of contention are totally valid reasons to dedicate a heel turn blog to Nathan Drake. After four action-packed adventures (Sony really should do a handheld system and put a scaled-down version of one of these games on it - I bet it'd sell like crazy!) featuring basically the same exact gameplay loop superimposed over different exotic locations, it's easy to let any one reason, or a combination of all three, really wear down on your enjoyment of our hyperbolic hero.
I am not here today to tell you why being a thief, murderer, or dickhead caused Nathan Drake to outlive the hero of his name to turn into the villain as I now see him. I am here today to tell you why one moment in Uncharted 4 finally put me over the edge of seeing Nathan, the plucky now-late-30-something leader of our tale, go from Harvey Dent to Two-Face.
Nathan Drake is a fucking liar.
When Nathan's white trash dead brother escapes jail and somehow tracks Nate down at the place of his employment, Nate faces a choice. The now-retired (and bored) adventure-seeker is tempted yet again by the danger of the hunt and the promise of riches. (Let's not kid ourselves - the "fact" that his brother was in imminent danger was really just a front for Nate going on this final treasure hunt.) He knows he promised his wife, Elena, an honest, danger-free living and knows what's at stake if he goes on this journey. After about two minutes of apparent internal struggle, he does what we all know he'll do and decides to go on yet another needlessly dangerous hunt for buried treasure, despite the commitments he's undertaken in his own, personal life.
...which itself is not a problem. This course of action is the crux of the plot of the game, and as plots tend to do, sets the cogs of the story into motion. No, the problem here is that Nathan Drake does the worst thing a person can do in order to free himself for his swashbuckling getaway.
He lies to his wife.
I'm no prude. Sometimes you fuck up and have to find a way around a situation to make things run more smoothly in the relationship. Sometimes you have to think quickly and say you weren't staring at the waitress' ass. Sometimes those pants do make her look fat. I get it. Just like there are different levels of Hell, there are different levels of lies. The nuance may differ from person to person, but in the grand scheme of things telling a fib about taking out the trash ranks somewhere in the, "Everyone's just standing around really bored," part of Hell, whereas lying to your wife about hunting treasure against a fucking private military will definitely get you in Satan's mouth with Hitler and the guy who cut me off on the interstate the other day.
If you're not married, put yourself in the shoes of someone who is. You're sitting at home, thinking your husband is out on a business trip trying to find some salvage. He's meant to be gone a few weeks. A month goes by, and nothing. He never returns. You try to track down his flight info, but the trail goes cold. Months pass, and nothing. Years. You're never sure whether or not you should accept the fact that he's gone. You don't know if he just decided to leave and never return. If he died. If he's in pain somewhere and needs you. Now just try to imagine how that would feel to someone, and you'll get an idea as to why it upsets me so.
Marriage is a sacred bond. For real, that shit means something to me. As a married man, myself, I agreed to share my life with my wife. Every part of it. Not just the good, but also the bad, and everything in between. It's not always easy and sometimes it's painful to be open and honest with another person, but that's the sort of bond that two people who love and respect one another should have. Forget any religious or social connotations that marriage has, and consider instead the trust that two people put into one another with this kind of commitment. When that trust is broken it's usually because of one core issue - you're just damned selfish.
Think about it. If you cheat on your partner, aren't you putting your needs to get off in front of their needs? If you lie because it's easier than telling the truth, you're really just preserving your own feelings instead of considering your partner's. If you're abusive or jealous or controlling or just plain an asshole, you're really just playing into your own feelings and insecurities instead of putting your partner in equal emotional standing. I'm sure there are a billion factors that go into reasons someone might be in any way unfair or unfaithful to their partner in marriage, but at the root of so many of them is just plain being selfish.
This moment of total selfishness of Nathan taking the easy way out instead of leveling with his greatest ally in this weird fucked up world of ours is what finally pushed me over the edge. Not the constant thieving of ancient artifacts. Not the murderous rampages deep in the rainforest of Borneo. Not the nonstop mind-numbing, smartass remarks at every situation. No, Nathan Drake finally completely turned heel for me when he lied to Elena in order to selfishly play pirates with his brother, leaving her to deal with the potential consequences of his actions.
Fuck you, Nathan Drake, and the Vita game no one ever played you rode in on.