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What Inspired: The Uncharted Series

After the success of the Jak and Daxter series on the PlayStation 2, Naughty Dog decided it was time for the series to take a rest. However, that wasn't the end for Naughty Dog's career. It was merely the beginning of something big. Something that would surpass their past projects in terms of sales, recognition, and graphics.

Shortly after Naughty Dog was done with Jak 3, a team consisting of talented staff members was assembled to work on a brand new IP. The new IP would look entirely different than the Jak and Daxter series, and would be created to be a suitable new title for the new hardware at the time (Sony's PlayStation 3).
Naughty Dog had bigger ambitions and wanted to create a more sophisticated blockbuster with realistic graphics, realistic human characters and breathtaking visuals unlike cartoonish ones seen in previous games. Thanks to the PlayStation 3's advanced technology, the developer was able to make their ideas become a reality. And so their new franchise was born.

The new franchise which I'm talking about is Uncharted. A brand new IP that would come to existence back on November 16, 2007; exclusively on the PlayStation 3. Throughout the making of the game, inspiration was drawn from several games and movies. The team felt that these inspirations matched their visions and so they sought to include these in Uncharted. We are here today to talk about these inspirations.
Before we get into the Uncharted series, why don't you check other franchises by Naughty Dog that we've already talked about? Like The Last of Us and Jak and Daxter series.
The starting point: Indiana Jones

As it's already known, we see both Nathan and Indiana plundering tombs , swashbuckling through eerie hidden temples for treasures, punching enemies in the face, and tackling uncanny situations. Both of these characters share the same mutual feeling of adventure where they're surrounded by a plethora of foes and the only way to escape is by blowing things up and narrowly managing to survive in the end.

Since its first unveiling at E3 2006, and from early previews of the game, the game couldn't escape the fate of being compared to Indiana Jones, National Treasure, and the renowned Tomb Raider. Due to the similarities between Tomb Raider and Uncharted, Uncharted ended up getting the nickname of  "Dude Raider."  However, if we look up close we can notice that Uncharted manages to set itself apart from being a "Dude Raider". For instance, instead of having auto-aiming with dual handguns packed with infinite bullets seen in Tomb Raider, Uncharted incorporates a gameplay style similar to the likes of Gears of War, or Kill. Switch
There are a lot of similarities between Indy and Nate, but I'll make do with one similarity. You see, while both franchises are soaked in a fair amount of realism, they both tend to touch on fantasy, mythologies, religion, and anything supernatural. To give an illustration, Indiana Jones pursues religious artifacts like the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy Grail which are said to possess tremendous power. Meanwhile, with Nathan Drake, the first game included zombies. The second one included a yeti-like creature. Finally, the third game featured hallucinations similar to what you'd see in Dead Space 2. 

The Big Trio: Resident Evil 4, Gears of War, and Kill.Switch

It's not a surprise that Resident Evil and Kill. Switch, as well as, games like Winback have influenced a plethora of titles especially due to their groundbreaking gameplay style at the time. Kill. Switch played a major role at the making of Gears of War as the developers were fascinated with the cover system used in the aforementioned. The same thing could be said about Resident Evil as it inspired an abundance of titles such as Dead Space and The Last of Us  because of its over-the-shoulder gameplay.
When EGM had the chance to talk with Naughty Dog's Co-president Evan Wells about Gears of War's great influence on the Uncharted development, Evan had this to say:
"Certainly we all played Gears of War and liked it. It set a bar visually that we knew we wanted to compete with.... As far as gameplay, I think I've heard them cite the same game that put us on this path: Kill.Switch. Gears of War obviously took that to another level, and again, that level of polish helped push us." 
There's another evidence by Lucas Pope, former Naughty Dog developer, about how Gears of War pushed the team to change the direction they were aiming at. He says:  
“Uncharted 1 was announced, and then Gears came out. And Gears invented the modern third-person shooter. Suddenly, Gears came out and showed them how to do it. So we changed everything, six months before release.” 
Digging further, into what influenced Uncharted, we notice that Resident Evil 4 has greatly influenced the series during its initial development. Shinji Mikami's masterpiece offered Richard Lemarchand, and Naughty Dog's team an example of how atmospheric storytelling should be done. In addition,  thanks to Resident Evil, Naughty Dog was capable of including triggering events that would absorb the player into its non-stop thrill.

Resident Evil 4 was not only an influence but also a fuel that gave the development team hope of creating a title that focused entirely on the cinematic experience while giving the player a meaningful emotional journey.

A Homage to Pulp Adventure Cinema
It is not unknown anymore that the Uncharted series have borrowed a plethora of inspiration from a myriad of classic films. Not only that, but Naughty Dog has also borrowed breathtaking moments from other movies which I'll be showing down below. But first, let us read about Amy Hennig's grand vision for Uncharted during its initial development phase. She says:

“[Uncharted] was inspired by a lot of stuff,” she admits. “The movies are an obvious inspiration, the ‘80s, looking at Raiders [of the Lost Ark] and the Indiana Jones movies. We all love that stuff. But I’m a huge nut for stuff that goes back to the ‘20s, ‘30s, and ‘40s. It’s an interesting era to draw from because a lot of people who are fans of games right now really don’t know that stuff.”
She talks about other inspirations that helped Naughty Dog in their journey. She says:
“A lot of people pull from the ‘80s, and you can see a lot of the ‘80s vibe in the work that people do, because we were all children of the ‘80s. But I’ve always loved things like Buck Rogers and the old serials and old pulp novels like Doc Savage, old adventure movies we looked at, like Gunga Din, and the serials. I could see, actually, where Lucas and Spielberg got all their inspiration from, because I started seeing all the resonance in the Indiana Jones movies. Comics like Tintin, the Uncle Scrooge adventures. All that stuff informed what we were doing.”
In the end, Hennig admits how Uncharted was going to be an homage to pulp adventure cinema, but with the player in control as the hero. She says:
“But I set to figuring out the gameplay version of all those things. How do we do that? ‘How do we honor that sort of narrative tradition and cinematic tradition, but put the player in control?’ That was our concept, our opening statement. It was going to be an homage to pulp adventure cinema, but with the player in control as the hero. Obviously, that doesn’t seem very groundbreaking now, because a lot of people are doing that now, but the idea, at the time, of doing a character-centric story with the set pieces and all that stuff, and really trying to make it feel like you were in a movie playing it, was actually somewhat radical, strangely enough. It’s even hard for me to wrap my head around it, but that seemed like such a fresh idea to us at the time.”

Deja Vu?
In light of the pieces of evidences, and how Uncharted was going to be a homage to pulp adventure cinema according to Amy, it's easy to spot the references from other blockbusters in the franchise. The aforementioned focus on cinematic presentation and jaw-dropping blockbuster-style action with a blend of storytelling and heart-touching moments that make it hard not to notice Hollywood's influence all over the place. Since there are too many references, I'll just make do with a few of them down below. Enjoy.
Hellboy 2: The Golden Army
Casino Royale

There are other shots that makes it obvious that Uncharted's developers are seriously in love with Casino Royale because if they didn't, the shots wouldn't look too similar, right? 
National Treasure

The Uncharted franchise is full of attention to details, storytelling, voice acting and other traits that'll give you the feeling of watching a movie. While it may seem from these shots that Uncharted is kind of imitating these movies, it's actually drawing from them while sprinkling its own touch.

This has been proven with The Last of Us which helped lift Naughty Dog reputation thanks to the technical chops to imitate high-budget filmmaking, and craft a character worth caring about, which is a thing Hollywood’s been struggling with recently.
What Uncharted 4 Could Have Been

Uncharted 4 was a massive success despite Naughty Dog losing one of the best directors in the gaming industry, Amy Hennig.However, as it turns out, if she remained on board, Uncharted 4 would have looked a lot different than the final game.

At the time, Amy Hennig left Naughty Dog to pursue an offer from EA to help create the now cancelled Visceral Star Wars title. In the end, she ended up leaving EA as well upon the cancellation of the latter. Only God knows what are other projects we will see from her in the near future.

Back in 2019, US Gamer had the honor to interview Amy Hennig to discuss the cancellation of Visceral Star Wars, and the way she would have handled Uncharted 4. She says:

"The major differences had to do with like, I was introducing the idea of Sam as the brother. But my take on it was sort of different, that it was a little bit more-I mean I wouldn't call him the antagonist in the classic sense, but it wasn't an antagonistic force in Drake's life that he had to reconcile. So it was, you know, complicated by stuff coming up from the past."
Reading one of her answers from the interview, it seems that Uncharted 4 meant to be a little bit of a return to form similar to Uncharted 1. With most of the story taking place on an undiscovered or forgotten pirate utopia island. She says:

"And just like in Uncharted 1, it was meant to be a little bit of a return to form. This idea that a lot of the story would be taking place on this undiscovered or forgotten pirate utopia island and that the detective story that we could weave through that. So all the beats, if you look at the chapter beats—with the exception of we didn't have the flashbacks to his childhood and then we didn't have the Nadine character—but just looking at the break by break that sorted the chapters, like where they go, what was happening, that was all while I was there."
In addition, Amy Hennig and the team had other ideas for Uncharted 4, including a rope mechanic, the grappling. This one would have helped Drake climb places, and swinging from a corner to another one. Other ideas included how to figure the usage of vehicles, but that specific mechanic was challenging to pull off at the time. She says:

"And we were starting to work on like the, we wanted to add the rope mechanic, the grappling. So we thought, well, what a wonderful analog mechanic. We always loved the vines and the climbing and the swinging, like how about if we put that in his pocket? And then we were really keen on the idea of trying to figure out how to do the vehicles. It was just, it's a layout challenge because of course now you've just blown... you know, a vehicle you can stop and get out and look around any time, so the fidelity has to be amazing everywhere. It was a big challenge to solve. The guys were really into solving that."
Another planned idea from Amy Hennig that caught my attention was her take on Drake's brother, Sam. Instead of being a supporting brother as in the final game, Amy thought of putting him as an antagonistic force in Drake's life that he then had to reconcile. I'll leave you with her answer:
"So I mean, like I said the DNA, the DNA and the core story were all there. The major differences had to do with like, I was introducing the idea of Sam as the brother. But my take on it was sort of different, that it was a little bit more—I mean I wouldn't call him the antagonist in the classic sense, but it was an antagonistic force in Drake's life that he then had to reconcile. So it was, you know, complicated by stuff coming up from the past. So, it's a little bit different than him showing up and you know, "Hey bro, I got a problem." Then, of course there was an antagonistic element to Sam in the final version of U4, but it wasn't right there from the outset. So we kind of, in my story, it was a little bit more of the journey from this ghost from Drake's past being an antagonist to sort of reconciliation and reunification."