In ‘Uncharted: The Lost Legacy,’ AI Companions Act Like Real Humans
In acting more than just bullet sponges, 'Uncharted' makes their characters meaningful in more ways than one.
Image courtesy of Naughty Dog
Uncharted: The Lost Legacy is one of many games where you run around the world with another character at your side. It's often the case, however, that such characters are little more than window dressing. Maybe they'll take a few pot shots at the enemy, but by and large, you're the star of the show, and it's expected that you do all the hard work. While that's largely true of The Lost Legacy, it was refreshing how often your companion pitched in to the labors of solving this particular mystery in ways that were actually useful.
Players control Chloe Frazer, an aggressive foil for Nathan Drake last seen in Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception, but are joined throughout the entire adventure by Nadine Ross, one of the antagonists for the Drake clan in Uncharted 4: A Thief's End. These foul-mouthed women are a delight to hang with—their banter is one of the best reasons to play The Lost Legacy. (The rest of the game is great, too.)
Given how many times Nadine took pleasure in kicking Nathan's ass in Uncharted 4, it comes as no surprise that she's able to hold her own in combat, not only acting as ample distraction, but happily charging into combat to take 'em down, too.
But when I was truly happy to have Nadine around was when you have to accomplish some Uncharted-ass-Uncharted tasks, like turning five random dials to open a mysterious, ancient door. In this case, the dials were scattered around a relatively small area, but one dense enough (and with enough similar-looking jungle geography) that it was easy to imagine stumbling upon four of the five dials quickly, only to spend five or 10 minutes annoyed at not finding that last one.
But in the middle of my search, having found three of them, Nadine called out, claiming she'd found one of the dials. "That's neat," I muttered, figuring she would either describe the general location of the dial, or the game would suddenly mark it on the screen. Nope! Instead, Nadine did what a normal person would do, and turned the dial. Soon after, I found the last dial, and we moved on.
It's a small thing, I know, but besides being useful from a gameplay perspective, it grounded Nadine, an AI programmed by a bunch of humans in Santa Monica, as decidedly human herself. In the story, she's portrayed as intelligent, adept, and capable, yet so often in games, characters with the same traits are nothing more than vessels for quips and bullet sponging.
Sheer technology can only do so much; it's the application of that technology that makes the difference in the uncanny valley. While Naughty Dog is rightfully praised for how good their games look, Nadine could be a walking pile of 8-bit pixels in The Lost Legacy and the way she acted still would have done more than an expensive motion capture studio ever could.
There are other instances where Nadine performs a similar role during The Lost Legacy, but I don't want to spoil those moments. Each time, though, I smiled.