Product Type: Sony PSV Games
Newest Review: ... is just as good as it usually is in the series and I had absolutely no complaints. However, despite Sony's marketing, the Vita isn't... more
For treasure hunters everywhere.
Uncharted: Golden Abyss (PSV)
Member Name: illogicology
Uncharted: Golden Abyss (PSV)
Advantages: Authentic Uncharted experience, really shows off what the vita can do, great fun.
Disadvantages: Gimmicky controls, scope feels a little reduced, no multiplayer.
In many respects, presenting Uncharted as a PS Vita launch title is a masterstroke. Firstly, the Vita is without a doubt one of the most powerful handheld consoles ever made. This is a tough sell, and pairing it with a franchise known for its jaw dropping graphics creates and instant benchmark with which to judge the console's performance. Secondly, the series has maintained a very high standard since its introduction in 2007. Introducing a console into today's market requires that kind of brand recognition on a Triple-A, big budget title.
So, on to the game itself. Uncharted: Golden Abyss follows the adventures of series protagonist, Nathan Drake. Nathan is a descendent of the great Sir Francis Drake, and has followed in his footsteps by travelling the world stealing treasures from foreign countries. This prequel finds Nathan recruited by an old friend, Dante (who seems an awful lot like Steve Buscemi) for a second opinion on a treasure hunt in Panama. Unfortunately, at the same time the area is being torn apart by the leader of a rebel group named Guerro, Drake and Dante are separated. In the middle of the action, Drake ends upon the run with Marisa Chase, the daughter of another treasure hunter who has gone missing in the area. It's a bit of a convoluted plot to summarise, but it's nicely paced out in the game and features some pretty exciting developments along the way.
The Uncharted games have always had a strong story element. Admittedly, these usually only serve to carry the player from one action sequence to the next, but they have always been exceptionally well written and amazingly cinematic. It's wonderful to see that this high level of story telling returns in Golden Abyss. The characters are all well rounded, real people and Drake feels true to his character in the previous games. The story is also pretty lengthy and will last you a good ten hours to work through. This might be on a handheld, but it's no cut down adventure done on the cheap. If I had any criticism, it's that it does still feel smaller than the last two Uncharted games. This isn't really the developer's fault, Uncharted 2 and 3 have features sequences unlike any seen on the PS3 and the Vita just can't compete. It means the adventure feels a little more subdued. Overall, it is similar in tone and in scope to the original Uncharted: Drake's Fortune back in 2007. This isn't a bad thing, and I'm glad the game was solid, but it doesn't feel as ambitious.
The gameplay is where a few criticisms start to slip in. At its core, it is the same as on consoles. Climbing and shooting are both the same, though there is a touch screen climbing mode that seems to serve no purpose other than to make the climbing sections for too easy. When fighting or exploring the jungle, however, you'll soon run into sections that ask you to swipe across the touch screen. It's awkard and jarring to constantly be taking your hands off the buttons and putting them back again, especially when the original method of control from the consoles is perfectly manageable on the Vita's inputs. There are a few more gimmicks here and there. Some work, like the touch screen grenade throwing, others don't, but I think it's fair to say the good outweighs the bad. Everything works as it should do and by the end of the game you'll probably have adjusted.
No discussion of an Uncharted game, or of the Vita, would be complete without a discussion of the graphics. I should start by mentioning that Uncharted does not run at the Vita's native resolution, like a lot of the launch titles. This means that there's more than a little aliasing, however if you spend enough time with the game then you'll soon adjust to that. What you get in return is stunning though. Golden Abyss, at first glance, looks just like a current gen console game. The character models will draw your focus at first, and they are practically perfect. Drake has a few less polygons here or there, but the textures and the lighting are superb. In fact all the characters look great, the animation is just as good as it usually is in the series and I had absolutely no complaints. However, despite Sony's marketing, the Vita isn't a PS3 in your pocket and so sacrifices had to be made. Usually it's in the brush and plantlife you'll spend so much time walking through. There's a lot of it, and it's quite an achievement but it doesn't have substance to it. Environment textures are usually pretty good, but not quite up to what you'd see in other games. Not that I want you to take these points as criticisms, merely points of reference. Play this game after one of the console titles and you'll see where the corners were cut, but judge this game on its own merits and it's absolutely astonishing what they've actually achieved.
Extra features are a little thin on the ground. There are collectibles scattered throughout the game which you can gather for trophies, these can also be traded through the Vita's "Near" app with other players. There are no multiplayer features, so if you're a big social gamer then you might want to give this one a miss. For all other vita owners, this is a true Uncharted game in both story, visuals and gameplay. It has a few flaws, stemming from control elements, but it's a remarkable achievement and an all round great game to play. Highly recommend.
Summary: A great game that does an excellent job of showing what the Vita can offer to gamers.