Uncharted: Golden Abyss Review for PS Vita

Uncharted: Golden Abyss Review for PS Vita

Nathan Drake, In The Palm Of Your Hand

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.

Uncharted: Golden Abyss Screenshot

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.

Uncharted: Golden Abyss Screenshot

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.

Uncharted: Golden Abyss Screenshot

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.

It sounds great as well. As soon as you fire up the game, you’ll be greeted with the classic Uncharted score. It only gets better from there, as the gun sounds are absolutely fantastic. I played the game with headphones on, and found myself amazed at just how incredible each of the gun sounds was. When this is paired with the responsive gunplay controls, it makes firing weapons an absolute blast.

Uncharted: Golden Abyss Screenshot

However, I felt the voice work wasn’t up to the standard of an Uncharted game. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not bad here. Nolan North is as spot-on as ever, delivering Nate’s one-liners with the passion and emphasis that keeps Nathan Drake feeling more like a real-life person than a video game character. The new characters are exceptionally acted as well. It’s just the one-off characters—Enemy Gunman Number Six, etc.—who aren’t portrayed as well as they should be. I don’t know if I would even bring this up in any other game, but this is Uncharted for crying out loud; exceptional acting is one of the hallmarks of the series.

Another Uncharted hallmark that I am sad to see not included is multiplayer. I know the original Uncharted was a completely solo affair, but Uncharted 2 delivered one of the best multiplayer experiences on the PS3, and Uncharted 3 followed it up with its own multiplayer suite that I still find myself going back to regularly. Golden Abyss takes things back to the lonely Drake’s Fortune days. But even this is forgivable, as this new Uncharted title offers an incredibly entertaining solo campaign.

What really matters here is that, yes, Golden Abyss feels like an Uncharted game. If you own a Vita already, this is the game you should be playing right now. It looks and sounds fantastic, the “ledge painting” is a great new feature, and it gives us another story of our favorite treasure hunter Nathan Drake. Sure, it’s not perfect, but it’s certainly a worthy entry in the Vita’s already strong launch lineup.

You’ll forget you’re looking at a handheld game. 4.0 Control
Fantastic gunplay, at the expense of some sloppy run/jump controls. “Ledge painting” is a great new feature, but swipe-based quick time events get old pretty fast. 4.2 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
A score worthy of Uncharted and incredible gun sounds make this a treat. There are only a few minor characters who could have been voiced better. 4.3 Play Value
A full-length Nathan Drake adventure in the palm of your hand. 4.5 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.

Review Rating Legend
0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid 2.5 – 2.9 = Average 3.5 – 3.9 = Good 4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
2.0 – 2.4 = Poor 3.0 – 3.4 = Fair 4.0 – 4.4 = Great 5.0 = The Best

Game Features:

  • Experience the adventure of uniquely acrobatic Uncharted gameplay, optimized with PlayStation Vita controls.
  • Touch, and tap the screen to swing, jump, and traverse non-continuous game sections, like crumbling bridges and river crossings.
  • Rub the screen to take important imprints of in-game relics found.
  • Utilize the motion-sensing controls of the PS Vita’s internal gyroscope to balance Drake as he crosses slippery logs, and as an aiming method in shooting situations.
  • Puzzle solve as you collect the relics hidden throughout the game.
  • Epic single-player campaign that takes players through richly detailed realistic environments and undiscovered lands.
  • Through utilizing the technology of the OLED screen, Uncharted: Golden Abyss delivers the signature Uncharted cinematic experience on-the-go.

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