|System: PS Vita|
|Dev: SCE Bend Studios|
|Release: February 15, 2012|
|Screen Resolution: 544p||Blood, Drug Reference, Language, Mild Suggestive Themes, Violence|
by Josh Wirtanen
Uncharted: Golden Abyss is perhaps the most anticipated title in the PlayStation Vita's incredible launch lineup. Nathan Drake is finally bringing the adventure to a handheld console? I'm pretty much sold. Now, there's one question that longtime Uncharted fans are asking right now: Is the shift from TV screen to handheld a smooth one, or do certain aspects get lost in translation? Especially considering the development was handed off to Bend Studios rather than staying with the Uncharted veterans at Naughty Dog.
Well, for starters, Golden Abyss is a full-length Uncharted adventure. In fact, it's slightly longer than the mind-blowing Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception. Bend Studios didn't find itself trimming the edges to make this one fit into its constraints. No, Golden Abyss has room to stretch its legs.
The thing that surprised me the most, though, was just how good the gunplay feels. I'm sure the super-fans remember that, in Uncharted 3, there was a slight delay between pressing R1 and having a gun actually fire. It's a tiny delay that didn't ruin the experience by any means, but it made gunplay feel a little weird nonetheless. The gunplay in Golden Abyss, on the other hand, feels incredibly responsive. Firing a weapon feels good—part of this is the phenomenal gun sounds, but more on that later—and snapping to an over-the-shoulder view to aim is fast. The Vita's tiny analog sticks don't necessarily make the whole aiming thing as smooth as it is on the PS3, but it's still very manageable, and it's something that shouldn't take a whole lot of time to get used to.
The weird thing is that the basic run/jump controls aren't as tight as they should be. In fact, jumping feels a bit off—and it felt even more so when I hopped back into Golden Abyss after going several rounds in Uncharted 3's multiplayer. But this is nitpicky, since Golden Abyss focuses on its gunplay more than its PS3 brethren. In a typical Uncharted game, you'll go through a bunch of action sequences before you get into gunfights that slowly ramp up in intensity as the game progresses. Uncharted 2 opened with the dangling train car scene and Uncharted 3 had the barroom brawl. Golden Abyss, though, throws you into the gunplay almost right out of the gate.
But that doesn't mean the trademark Uncharted climbing sequences are absent. No, those are fully accounted for here. In fact, my absolute favorite innovation of the Vita control scheme is "painting" the edges with your finger on the touchscreen in order to make Nate do his hand-over-hand ledge climbing. If this doesn't suit your fancy, you can use the traditional Uncharted control scheme, but honestly, ledge-painting feels great. Longtime Uncharted fans will surely remember times throughout the series when they misjudged the distance or angle of a jump only to fall to their death. The ledge-painting of Golden Abyss pretty much remedies this entirely.
Unfortunately, I have my fair share of gripes with the touch controls. The big one: touch versions of quick time events. One thing I've always admired about Uncharted was its ability to introduce simple quick time events without ever being obnoxious about it. Golden Abyss tends to completely rip players from that sense of immersion with its machete finger-swiping events. Even worse is when you are in the middle of hand-to-hand combat and you see a prompt come up on the screen to swipe your finger in a particular direction. Sure, Uncharted's combat has always come with those brief "press triangle" finishes, but the finger swiping feels like it's going too far. This is exacerbated if you're one of those players who prefer the traditional face button combat to the "tap the screen to punch" control scheme. There's nothing worse than being in the middle of a free-flowing fistfight—Uncharted's melee combat typically has a great flow to it, doesn't it?—and having to completely pull one hand off the controls to swipe the touchscreen.
Now, enough about combat. I wouldn't be doing my job here if I didn't mention just how damn good this game looks. This is the best looking handheld game I have ever seen. It may not look as good as Uncharted 3, and there are some instances where they obviously took shortcuts with the long-distance scenery, but still, the amount of detail here is incredible. In fact, I often found myself stopping to just observe how great a particular piece of foliage or architecture looked.