by Jed Pressgrove
For the first few hours of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, it seemed the amoral Uncharted franchise turned to spiritual inquiry, aligning itself with the most profound aspect of the original Indiana Jones movie trilogy. By game’s end, the script rejected its own promise; protagonist Nathan Drake’s deception and immaturity were, again, sentimentalized. Uncharted: The Lost Legacy does the opposite with Chloe Frazer’s character, though from a more secular angle. For half of the game or so, the proceedings seem to be Uncharted by the numbers, with Chloe following the lead of Nathan as a “selfish dickhead,” to quote Chloe’s reluctant partner Nadine Ross. But before and after the climactic train-based action sequence, Chloe gives up her thieving instincts and injects moral conscience into the story, proving that you need goodness, not just a gender switch, to save a lost series.
There is a hint of Chloe’s better humanity in her first scene in The Lost Legacy. Before enacting the initial steps of a profit scheme to locate and steal the storied tusk of the Hindu deity Ganesh, Chloe interacts with a little girl running a store in a marketplace in India. Not content with a single transaction, the child keeps thinking of ways to extend time with Chloe. Chloe humors the kid as much as she can, and eventually the girl’s stubborn desire to befriend Chloe leads her into potential danger. No harm comes to the girl, but Chloe, forgetting her egotistical mission, is visibly concerned about what could have happened.
From there, Chloe teams up with ex-mercenary Nadine, who has no interest in doing business with two-faced people. Nadine’s frustration with Chloe’s half-truths comes to a head when Nadine learns Chloe’s been working with Nathan Drake’s brother Sam the entire time. After a period of separation, the common threat of death at the hands of an insurgent group led by Asad, who wishes to find and trade the invaluable tusk of Ganesh for a bomb, brings Chloe and Nadine back together. Riding a young elephant the duo saved, Nadine drops the “selfish dickhead” label on Chloe, who, in accepting Nadine’s usage of the male-evoking insult, starts to realize her lying ways hurt any chance of sisterhood she has.
The two, along with Sam (who, in his quips, is almost endearingly true to the douchebag legacy of the Drakes), manage to attain the tusk — but not before Asad has already traded the relic for an explosive that he intends to detonate in the middle of a city to ramp up the revolution he believes is just. Chloe feels an urge to do something when she learns about Asad’s plan, while Nadine and Sam both point out that the political conflict isn’t hers, that she accomplished her mission and can now benefit from the sale of the tusk. It’s a dilemma with the weight of a pop franchise behind it, as Nadine and Sam represent the questionable but alluring status quo of the entire Uncharted series.
But Chloe doesn’t ignore her new moral compass, saying “This isn’t our fight; it’s my fight.” What follows is something you might see in any Uncharted game — an extended scene of vehicle chases, gunfire, explosions, and other near-death experiences — but, finally, with humane conviction behind it. In this climax, The Lost Legacy becomes the game Uncharted should have been from the beginning, notwithstanding a reliance on tired action tropes.
The coda that interrupts the end credits confirms Chloe’s legacy isn’t shallow. As Chloe, Nadine, and the Indian girl from the beginning of the game eat pizza to M.I.A.’s “Borders,” Sam tries to appeal to Chloe’s former greed, explaining that a plan to give the tusk to a ministry of culture isn’t necessary. The child puts Sam in his place: “Don’t ruin the moment.” As her appearances in previous Uncharted games demonstrate, Chloe’s surface strength lies in both her ability to match the ambition of men and her sexiness (the sweaty strands of hair that stick to her neck and face through most of The Lost Legacy more than prove the latter). But more significantly, this latest (last?) sequel proclaims she can be a good person and influence, and for that to show up in the fifth entry of a modern big-budget action game is, well, damn-near miraculous.