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Uncharted Golden Abyss – PlayStation Vita

Uncharted Golden Abyss – PlayStation Vita

coverPlatform:  PlayStation Vita

Developer: Sony Bend

Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment (SCE)

Release Date: February 15, 2012

Genre:  Action/Adventure

Nerd Rating: 8.5/10

Reviewed By: Steroid Gamer

When Uncharted Golden Abyss was first announced for the PS Vita in January 2011 it came as a shock to many fans that the game was going to be developed by Sony Bend and not the Uncharted franchise’s parent company Naughty Dog.  Being the huge Uncharted fan that I am I was pretty skeptical about another developer taking over the reins in the franchise’s latest entry.  After playing through the game, I can say with ease that Sony Bend does an excellent job at being faithful to the Uncharted franchise.

Someone should tell this guy he has a shadow.

Someone should tell this guy he has a shadow.

If you’ve been on one of series’ protagonist Nathan Drake’s adventures before then you’ll know what type of gameplay to expect.  There’s going to be plenty of shooting, platforming, puzzle solving, and some treasure hunting to do.  Since this is the first Uncharted game on the PS Vita I was hoping to get some new features in this installment.   With Uncharted Golden Abyss, Sony Bend does a really good job at keeping things familiar, but also adding a few new “gimmicks” into the mix.  The PS Vita is a unique device that has endless possibilities with its touch screen controls, rear control touch panel, camera, and more.  Sony Bend put more than enough of these “gimmicks” into Golden Abyss.  Most of the game’s controls can be utilized with the touch screen like shooting, climbing, punching, and zooming in weapon scopes.  At first, the idea of aiming Drake’s pistol by moving your Vita around the room may seem dumb, but the great thing about 90% of the motion controls is that they are OPTIONAL.  Yes, that’s right, you don’t have to use them.  This might seem like a minor detail, but it’s probably the biggest thing that takes Golden Abyss from motion control madness to the reliable control scheme familiar in previous entries.  You may feel like using the touch controls at the beginning of your adventure, but you’ll quickly find out that that aren’t as reliable as using the good ol’ fashioned joysticks and shoulder buttons.

Hope your fingers aren't greasy because there is going to be a lot of "swiping".

Hope your fingers aren’t greasy because there is going to be a lot of “swiping”.

Sony Bend does make good use of the Vita’s intriguing features in other areas.  Drake occasionally has the opportunity to complete a charcoal rubbing where the player uses their finger to swipe across the screen mimicking a real charcoal rubbing.  There are other things similar to this like solving many of the game’s puzzles, or even using the rear touch screen to zoom in your sniper.  Sure, without a doubt 100% of these are “gimmicks” and aren’t needed in the game whatsoever and could easily be replaced with standard controls, but there is something satisfying about swiping your finger across the screen and seeing Drake mimic your actions as he cuts down jungle garbage with his machete.  Some of these new additions will come up at the wrong time leaving you frustrated, (a boss fight made up entirely of finger swipes? Really?), but there are other occasions where it’s fun and a good change of pace.

3...2....1.....DRAW!!!!!

3…2….1…..DRAW!!!!!

The rest of the gameplay consists of EXACTLY what you’d expect from an Uncharted game.  Drake’s going to get in plenty of shoot-outs, climb a ton of cliffs, and solve more puzzles than Sir Francis Drake himself, which is a good thing and a bad thing at the same time.  It’s all familiar territory, and while you’re going to enjoy every second of it, there will be some instances where Déjà vu will arise.  One thing Naughty Dog has done a great job of with the console releases is improving the gameplay with each new entry subtlety adding things as the series progressed.

If Golden Abyss does one thing wrong, it’s that it doesn’t take enough chances.  The gameplay resembles closest to that of the original game, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, even though there have been two entries in the franchise since.  Sure, on one hand Sony Bend is a new developer to a beloved franchise and it’s putting the game on a brand new system so I get that “playing it safe” is a way to go.  While the gameplay is still the great thrilling experience it is in the previous games, it can feel a tad stale at times.  It would’ve meant a lot had Sony Bend try to put more new ideas into Golden Abyss (and I don’t mean more “gimmick” stuff).

No rock climbing equipment necessary.

No rock climbing equipment necessary.

Uncharted games became popular for their amazing characters and the stories they get wrapped up in.  Golden Abyss has the basic story you’d expect from a Nathan Drake adventure. Drake and his employer/somewhat buddy Jason Dante are exploring around Panama looking for gold.  Not long after the game begins players come across Dante’s other partner Marisa Chase.  The plot has a lot of predictable moments in it; betrayals, backstabbing, love-interest angles, and pretty much anything else you’d expect from this type of adventure. Honestly at first, it appears as if this journey isn’t going to be worth your time. However, the game itself, as well as its plot, significantly pick up in the third act and take you for an amazing ride. The characters break out of their own stereotypes and really start to show who they are; making the game’s conclusion a satisfying one.  The voice actors all do a superb job at making the character’s come to life and there are plenty of jokes and genuinely funny moments throughout.  Neither the story nor their characters are as interesting as any of the previous installments, but that’s in a head-to-head comparison.  Golden Abyss’s story can more than stand on its own if you give it enough time to be the late bloomer that it is.

Apparently dental hygiene isn't important to treasure hunters.

Apparently dental hygiene isn’t important to treasure hunters.

The game looks absolutely phenomenal and you can really see just how powerful the PS Vita system is with Golden Abyss.  The screen may be smaller than what you’re used to, but the environments are as detailed as ever and the variety of colors pop off the Vita’s OLED screen tremendously.  There is a huge dose of cut-scenes in Golden Abyss that look surprisingly realistic other than the occasional teeth shot (for some reason, especially Chase, the characters teeth look awful).  The accompanying soundtrack is a delight featuring some familiar tracks as well as some new exhilarating songs.

Think Nate's cover will hold up? Only one way to find out.

Think Nate’s cover will hold up? Only one way to find out.

Fans of the Uncharted franchise may have some doubts heading into Sony Bend’s entry on the Vita.  The gameplay is too familiar at times even though it’s a blast to play through and the story is very predictable in the early hours, but quickly sucks you in like a white water river would to a paddle-less canoe.  Uncharted Golden Abyss may not seem like much of a treasure at first, but if you stick with it you’ll find the adventure is well worth the fortune.

 

Written by Sean Collins

Sean Collins


Sean Collins (aka Steroid Gamer) started playing video games when he was 8 years old. His first console was a Nintendo 64 and his first game was Mario Kart 64. He fell in love immediately and has been playing games ever since.

My current systems include; N64, Gameboy Color, Gamecube, Wii, 3DS, PS3, Vita, PS4, Xbox One and Xbox 360.

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