The Nathan Drake you know almost never was. But thanks to pressure from Sony during the development of the original Uncharted, Naughty Dog was pushed further and further into the realm of gritty realism with the title. Hence what we have now: a reality-based, action-adventure shooter with touches of the fantastic. For comparison, at one time Uncharted was more Tolkien inspired than grounded in realism, revealed Naughty Dog while talking to Play Magazine.
"We were talking about a more 'realistic' game in terms of how it was modeled and rendered but the concepts were much more far out. One was a forest world where the antagonists lived underground," revealed former Naughty Dog environment modeler Dan Poole.
"It had elements of Tolkien in for sure. Sony kept pushing for a more realistic game in all respects,” continued Poole. “The market had changed a lot by then. The demographic was older and gritty shooters were really dominating. Sony wanted very much to get into that market share, it pushed all of its developers in this direction."
"So the big push from Sony, not just at Naughty Dog but at all of Sony's development companies at the time, was to craft games for PlayStation 3 that were much more realistic. The pressure from Xbox's success with gritty shooters was a very real force on our direction at that time."
This actually explains a lot. Before the Uncharted series, Naughty Dog was known for creating titles with a focus on cartoon-y characters, a la Crash Bandicoot and Jak & Daxter. Personally, I always had it in my head that Uncharted was Naughty Dog’s decision to “grow up,” not that I had anything against their previous work at all. I just figured they wanted to try their hand at something more mature, hence the birth of the Uncharted franchise. But it looks like like we should be patting Sony on the back for pushing Naughty Dog in that direction. Because a world without Uncharted in it is a world I don’t want to know. I'm sure you can agree.