For as much flak as Nintendo gets for recycling the same franchises and formulas over and over again, there’s one game that’s managed to avoid the sequel treatment, much to the disappointment of many a Nintendo fan. For the last 17 years, Pokémon Snap has been repeatedly cited as one of the best games to grace the N64, and to this day it holds up surprisingly well. Still, the demand for a shiny, modernized sequel remains high.
While Nintendo continues to ignore the hunger for capturing Pokémon on film instead of in Pokeballs, I’ve found an alternative way to satisfy my photographic trigger finger. The gorgeous Uncharted 4, like The Last of Us before it, features a photo mode for taking happy snaps of your treasure-hunting adventure. By clicking in both thumbsticks at the same time, the game freeze-frames, letting you swing the camera around in 360 degrees to find the perfect shot.
Despite being an entirely optional and seemingly trivial addition to Nathan Drake’s globe-trotting escapades, photo mode completely changed the way I played Uncharted 4. Every time I entered a new area, I stopped and slowly panned the camera over my surroundings, searching not for enemies or treasure, but for grazing wildlife and sun-framed statues ripe for imortalization in my ever-expanding screenshot gallery. Even in the midst of an explosive firefight, I was more interested in positioning Drake for a good photo op than actually keeping him alive. Sorry Nate, but that shot of you getting kicked in the head by Nadine was just too good to pass up.
For as different as the two systems are, Uncharted 4‘s photo mode and Pokemon Snap share a lot of similarities in their design. Uncharted might not be on rails like Snap, but you still need an itchy trigger finger to capture that perfect moment as an explosion rips apart a wall, shattered rock flying through the air and a raging fire glaring through a cloud of dust and smoke. Scripted scenes require even keener reflexes, with crumbling caves and careening cars demanding the same level of constant vigilance that made Snap such a compelling challenge.
Uncharted 4 doesn’t explicitly score your photos like Snap did, but a similar concept lives on through the PS4 share function. Uploading your best screenshots to Twitter or Reddit and seeing the feedback (or lack thereof) mimics Professor Oak’s often pedantic judgement, which is both kind of cool and deeply depressing at the same time. If nothing else, getting grilled over the imperfect alignment of leading lines in your photos gives you an idea of what artists have to go through every day of their lives.
The greatest achievement of both Snap and Uncharted 4′s photo mode is the intimacy they engender between you and their environments. Uncharted 4 is one of the prettiest game on PS4, but if you play the game at the pace its chaotic story compels you to, all you’ll see of the breathtaking vistas and excruciatingly-detailed interiors is a shiny blur. If you take on the role of virtual photographer, however, you’ll start to really appreciate the hundreds of hours poured into crafting destructible ice sculptures and stocking underground cellars with dozens of unique food products. Compared to the previous Uncharted games, Uncharted 4′s locations linger in my memory, their nooks and crannies captured in both digital and mental form.
Uncharted 4 might not be quite the Pokemon Snap 2 I’m waiting for, but if it’s as close as we’re going to get, I can live with that. Now just hold still for a second; the sun is framing your face perfectly, and I need to capture this moment for my photo album…