That’s apparently what happens every time the intrepid adventurer gets ‘hit,’ according to Jonathan Cooper, an animator who currently works at Naughty Dog.
That’s right, while Nathan Drake might take a few bumps and bruises across his many adventures, he has never actually taken a bullet wound. Cooper said that when he joined Naughty Dog, one of the first things he was told during development of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End was that there’s no damage indicator.
But wait, I hear you say, dear reader, doesn’t the screen get a red indicator when you’re being fired upon? Well yes, but according to Cooper it’s not strictly speaking, a damage indicator. Instead, it merely represents Nathan’s luck running out. That’s right, for all the thousands of rounds of ammunition unleashed upon Nathan, he’s never actually been struck by a single bullet.
Former Uncharted director Amy Hennig confirmed it. Hennig, who participated in the series’ creation and development across the first three games, said on Twitter, “True! That was the original intention (to stay more aligned with the spirit and tone of the films we were homaging.” And that makes sense: you never see Indiana Jones take a bullet, and conversely not many action heroes on cinema would survive the number of bullets fired on Nathan or any other video game hero.
How to handle avatar damage is a game design problem as old as the medium itself. Some address it using things like hit points and armor points that can be recovered with power ups, as in games like Doom. While games like Gears of War and Halo use regenerative systems that bring shields or health back up after time.
In this case, for Nathan Drake, he’s just surviving a near endless number of misses up until he suddenly isn’t. This revelation has left some people upset though. “Why couldn’t they just call it a middle ground,” asks one redditor, “and say the bullets were at least grazing him with his luck coming into play?”
“Saying he takes NO damage until he dies seems even more silly. Plenty of people get shot and live, you could at least let it slide for a video game instead of just calling it luck and he’s not getting hit at all which makes no sense contextually in-game with how it actually functions.”
Fair point, but traditional, “realistic” damage systems aren’t beyond Naughty Dog’s design scope though. In The Last of Us, Joel actually has to bandage and heal himself with each injury. That makes sense for the post-apocalyptic survival tone of the game.
Still, what I really want to know about is the psychic wounds left on Drake after gunning down over 2,925 rival treasure hunters, mercenaries, wolves, and other threats over the course of the first three Uncharted games. Because the fact is that Nathan Drake’s real wounds are the mental scars sustained from a career in cold, heartless murder.