Welcome to concept art appreciation, our new semi-regular feature that pays tribute to some the best work done by the artists behind the scenes. Before the developers can start building people out of polygons, the characters and worlds within a game need to be defined on the page by an artist. Some select games feature art so gorgeous that you just have to stand back and appreciate it outside of the game, and that’s certainly true for…
Games: Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception
Artists: Robh Ruppel, Andrew Kim, Eytan Zana, Shaddy Safadi, Bryan Wynia (and many more)
Though most AAA games have massive budgets and top-tier graphics, some find more artistic uses for those pricey visuals than others. For example, the Uncharted series put some real artistry into its blockbuster adventures. Each entry showed that an artist’s vision could still be a part of a mega-budget game, something that shined through in the many gorgeous locales and well-realized characters.
The original Uncharted was cut from the same cloth as Tomb Raider and Indiana Jones, and it sent roguish treasure hunter Nathan Drake and adventurous journalist Elena Fisher running for their lives on a tropical island. Despite being restricted to a single region, the artist found ways to make each new area feel unique. Ancient tombs, abandoned airplanes, and long canals dotted the island, and they showed off the kind of HD artistry that the PlayStation 3 made capable.
For as good as the first game looked, Uncharted 2 was a huge leap forward for the artistry of the series. This time Nathan’s journey took him all around the world, freeing the artists to design a very diverse collection of settings. There were austere museums, war-torn cities, snowy mountain tops, and ancient machinery hiding lost cities. When you look at the concept art Naughty Dog created, the potential of these colorful locations pops off the page. Uncharted 2 also added striking new characters to the series, like the provocative Chloe or the intimidating Zoran.
By Uncharted 3, the concept artists and the rest of the team at Naughty Dog are firing on all cylinders. The new characters and outfits for Nate look great. The desert locales find a way to be artistic while still looking desolate. The streets of England look spectacularly grimy. And after the many secret temples and cities that came before in the Iram of the Pillars, the art team still found a way to make it distinct to its setting and cultural background.
Millions love Uncharted for being an action-packed rollercoaster of a game, but you should take a moment to slow down and admire the scenery you’re running past. If you want to take a closer look on your own time, there are two books collecting some of the work. There’s one for Uncharted 2 and another for Uncharted 3 that can be found on Amazon. And keep a look out for the great art design in Naughty Dog’s next game, The Last of Us.