Uncharted – Golden Abyss Review
PS3 exclusive series, Uncharted, has come to the PS Vita. Uncharted – Golden Abyss comes however not from fan favourites Naughty Dog but from the smaller studio SCE Bend. Fans are really excited to see how this popular action adventure game will look on the PS Vita’s 5 inch OLED screen and to see whether or not SCE Bend have done justice to the much loved hero Nathan Drake.
The Good News about Uncharted – Golden Abyss
Not a sequel but a prequel, Uncharted – Golden Abyss shows the game’s protagonist Nathan Drake appearing a bit younger along with familiar old friend, Sully, with fewer graying hairs. But there’s little else in terms of a background story. Nevertheless, the main plotline is absorbing enough to get me play the game with gusto. Drake works as an historical expert for Jason Dante, a shady old friend, in the jungles of Central America. They meet Marisa Chase and team up with her to look for her famous archaeologist grandfather reported missing in an expedition. The group gets tangled with a retired general who is treasure-hunting in the same ruins where they are looking for the lost archeologist. You find yourself become immersed in the gameplay as you find what they are looking for.
The Uncharted franchise has a tradition of using only some of the most exquisitely rendered landscapes and Golden Abyss does not disappoint. In fact, I have the impression that the colors are a lot bolder and brighter on the Vita’s 5-inch OLED screen than when playing on my PS3, which I find is often the case with high resolution, smaller screens. The game is just as exquisite with its flawless movements. SCE Bend give us the same detailed motion capture in the cut-scenes that I’ve come to expect from a console game with smooth movements that are stunningly realistic even for a game display of this size. This is PS3 at its best, shrunk to fit your pocket.
The Not so Good News about Uncharted – Golden Abyss
Touch sensitive screens are great for controlling gameplay action, but Vita’s PSP-like dimensions can make it awkward for either thumb to reach to the middle of the screen especially with small hands. Aggravating this is Vita’s quick engine that makes fight scenes a bit quirky with touch control. Unfortunately, that’s the only way to control these encounters and I often end up wishing there was an alternative way to control them. A mis-touch or an over-swipe can be catastrophic for the hero, often frustrating in long fight sequences. The buttons don’t seem to work all the time and the endless cleaning of artifacts drove me mad. You have to continually swipe your finger back and forth over the screen and you have to tilt the console to turn the article round to finish cleaning it. It is very awkward.
In addition, controlling gun battles can be a challenge on its own. Being overly-sensitive to touch control for reflexes to match, aiming a gun to hit a target can be quite frustrating and requires come practice, but at least Vita’s Six-axis movement control helps to fine tune the process.
It is also clear that SCE Bend have added sequences that use the touch screen just for the sake of having a touch screen. At many points in the game I found my self just randomly having to touch the screen to make Drake do things. There was absolutely no challenge and felt more than a little pointless.
The Bottom Line
These caveats aside, Uncharted – Golden Abyss easily has the most impressive visuals and flowing movements in a portable game. Sony has claimed that Vita offers PS3-like cinema-level experiences, and Golden Abyss proves it. A strong launch is what Sony’s Vita has with a potential best seller in Uncharted: Golden Abyss. Except for a small screen that is just as gorgeous in OLED display, the game is everything I could expect from the
Uncharted franchise –fantastic graphics, a powercast headed by a thinking hero and a gameplay that showcases Vita’s competent technical abilities.
Golden Abyss proves that size does not matter when getting immersed in something as richly entertaining as this. Nothing is lost or compromised and is a real tribute to what SCE Bend Studio has done for the franchise. With 30+ chapters on over 12 hours of gaming delight, the only thing mini in this game is the screen size and the absence of a multiplayer mode. But leave that as a room for improvement in future versions. Expecting everything to be perfect on day one is just, well, too perfectionist. It’s enough to be dazzled by a mobile video game.