-Annoying touchscreen quick time events
-Troublesome Sixaxis controls
Final score: 8.5 / 10
A working PlayStation Vita console
Sony may boast about the power of its PlayStation Vita handheld console, but if its games don’t really reflect this through great graphics, then it’s all for nothing. The Japanese company realized this so, in order to truly show off the Vita’s strength, its Bend studio was tasked with making an Uncharted game for the mobile console.
As such, Uncharted: Golden Abyss was born, a prequel of sorts to the games on the PlayStation 3, although its time frame isn’t exactly set in stone. It still features Nathan Drake, alongside his old time partner Victor “Sully” Sullivan, while introducing quite a few new characters from Drake’s past and once again taking him on all sorts of adventures.
So, does Uncharted: Golden Abyss have all the attributes that made previous titles so popular or is it just a pretty game? Let’s find out.
Nathan Drake is back ...
... for some new adventures
Story As I’ve said above, Golden Abyss aims at exploring Nate’s past before he started the adventures from the first PS3 game, Drake’s Fortune. It reminds people that he was still a treasure hunter, as one of his older associates, Jason Dante, employs his talents to help him uncover a long lost Spanish expedition.
Drake quickly finds out that the actual benefactor of his work is a South American drug lord but Dante doesn’t let him walk away. The game even starts with an action-filled prolog that highlights his “sudden but inevitable” betrayal.
After that, you start from the beginning and slowly progress through the story. During these adventures, you meet new characters, like Marisa Chase, who’s also a descendant of a former adventurer, just like Nate.
While it may lack established characters like Elena or Chloe, Golden Abyss’ story manages to stay interesting and will no doubt entertain most Uncharted fans. It’s filled with lots of adventures, although some of the bigger set piece moments are missing, probably because the Vita can’t render scenes of that magnitude.
Meet some old friends ...
... and make some new ones
Uncharted: Golden Abyss feels pretty much just like a regular Uncharted game from the PS3. This is testimony to the Vita’s power and its control scheme that’s almost the same as on the home console.
The dual analog sticks make aiming and shooting a breeze while the rest of the buttons control all sorts of functions. Golden Abyss also uses the Vita’s special features, like its touchscreen, both when you climb, as you can highlight ledges for Drake, and also when you’re engaged in hand to hand brawls, as you need to make certain gestures to successfully defeat enemies with your bare hands.
Aiming can be done with the Sixaxis motion controls, but it’s probably for the best if you just use the twin analog sticks. There’s also a slight auto-aim assist function, if you find aiming difficult, so Golden Abyss is very accessible to all Vita owners.
Opponents are quite smart although you won’t get to see that many of them, probably because the Vita can’t render that many characters at the same time. As such, you’ll often enter pretty large areas, eliminate some enemies, and then see that more of them quickly arrive to avenge their fallen comrades.
Thankfully, you have quite a lot of weapons at your disposal to defeat them, from trusty pistols to the AK-47 or even more powerful firearms like sniper rifles or rocket launchers. There are even some on-rails segments where you get to use a devastating grenade launcher against some unlucky foes.
Collectibles are also scattered throughout the game, ranging from treasures that glow and are usually hidden in nooks or crannies, to special bounties that randomly drop from opponents. The latter can also be earned via the Black Market feature, which taps into the Vita’s Near application. If Vita owners in your vicinity play Golden Abyss and have uncovered bounties you don’t have, a copy will automatically be transferred to you.
While you’ll mostly be happy when playing Golden Abyss, there are quite a few aspects that keep it from truly becoming a great game. Chief among which are the touchscreen-based quick time events. These are quite surprising and often require you to touch the very center of the screen. When you factor in its 5-inch size, this is a bit hard, even if you have long fingers. What’s worse, some boss battles rely only on such quicktime events, so get ready to die a lot.
There are also some all-new photo challenges that take place when you’re presented with some stunning vistas of the environment and asked to take a photo via the in-game camera. Depending on your ability to recreate a template photo, you’re rewarded with different things. Sadly, this is a bit awkward and often requires minute movements to get the perfect shot.
You’ll also get annoyed when Drake crosses over ravines on logs as he’ll often lose his balance so you need to tilt the Vita in order for him to continue on his way.
Visuals and Sound
Uncharted: Golden Abyss definitely lives up to the Uncharted name, offering some truly stunning environments and top notch graphics. There are moments when you can spot pre-rendered backgrounds but, most of the times, you’ll be busy marveling at the gorgeous game you’ve got running on the Vita’s already impressive 5-inch screen.
In terms of sound, you’ll once again be treated to some booming orchestral scores that will make your adventures feel even more epic. Voice acting is still top notch, with Nolan North reprising his role as Drake, while the new characters sound quite good. Dante’s Brooklyn wise guy accent can get a bit grating at times but, thankfully, you won’t hear him all that much.
Shoot your enemies ...
... or take them by surprise
Uncharted: Golden Abyss is a good game but it does have quite a few drawbacks that keep it from becoming great. If you look at it after playing previous Uncharted games, it’s not that impressive but, if you consider it’s the franchise’s first foray on the Vita, it’s a more than decent effort.
Gameplay feels great, although some activities get annoying very fast, like the touch-based quick time events. Fortunately, the stunning visuals, at least for a handheld game, and the story make you feel like you’re guiding Nate through another set of impressive adventures on the PS3.