After three globe-spanning Uncharted adventures with Naughty Dog's bold, daring, rakish fortune-hunter Nathan Drake, we've helped him escape from countless death-defying situations - from climbing sheer surfaces over lethal drops to outnumbered shootouts with bullet sponge goons and a collection of brutal boss fights.
Nate's charm makes him irrepressibly likeable and his luck makes him nigh-immortal, so when the E3 2014 trailer for Uncharted 4: A Thief's End revealed on older, wearier Drake ready to set out on an adventure for "one last time," it was hard to ignore the foreboding implications of both the subtitle and the game's premise.
Adding fuel to this fire is Nathan Drake's voice and mo-cap actor, Nolan North, who was asked in an interview with IGN whether A Thief's End is really going to be the last game in the series. North replied that he believes this is the case, adding that it's not necessarily a bad thing.
"It’s bittersweet but at a certain point you want to go out on top. If this is the last one indeed, and I believe it’s the last one - nothing’s confirmed, but I believe it’s the last one Naughty Dog wants to do, in which case I hope somebody else doesn’t pick up the mantle because they've done it so well for so long - but yeah, it’s one of those things where you just have to cross that bridge when you get to it. I like the idea of going out on top so we better do a hell of a job with this one… and it’s already looking pretty good."
The official synopsis for Uncharted 4: A Thief's End states that it picks up several years after Nate's last adventure, as he "embarks on a globe-trotting journey in pursuit of a historical conspiracy behind a fabled pirate treasure." It goes on to say that his quest will "test his physical limits, his resolve, and ultimately what he’s willing to sacrifice to save the ones he loves."
Between the subtitle, the talk of "sacrifice" and North's belief that Uncharted 4 will be the final game in the franchise, it's clear that Naughty Dog is trying to drum up some buzz around the question of whether or not Nathan Drake is going to be killed off in A Thief's End. Whether or not that will actually happen in the game is another matter entirely (it would be quite a grim ending for such a relatively light-hearted series), but it's quite a clever marketing strategy.
One of the common rules in the AAA video game industry is that so long as a franchise continues to make lots of money, it will continue to get sequels. This won't necessarily hold true for Uncharted, however; creative director Neil Druckmann currently has no concrete plans for a sequel to 2013's runaway hit The Last of Us, and Naughty Dog seems like the kind of studio that's more likely to create a new IP than just spend the next decade milking Uncharted dry.
How do you think Nathan Drake's final adventure should end: a happy retirement with Elena, or a funeral?
Uncharted 4 does not currently have an official release date but will launch exclusively on the PS4 in 2015.