Uncharted Golden Abyss (PS Vita)
When we reviewed the PS Vita in February
one of the titles which really stood out from the launch line-up was the latest Uncharted game. A new adventure based on the highly impressive PlayStation 3 franchise Golden Abyss sees us once again take control of Nathan Drake in a third person shooter with plenty of exploration and action set pieces. Although this being a Vita title means we have some significant enhancements to the gameplay mechanic through the use of our touch screen and panel.
The gameplay in Uncharted: Golden Abyss very much has the feel of a full console title rather than handheld while at the same time being specifically built for the PS Vita. As an example we move around with the left stick, performing jumps with X and draw/aim out gun with left shoulder, firing with right. This gives the game a familiar feel which lets players immediately get going, then through the course of the opening chapter we are introduced to the advanced controls. Sometimes that can mean tilting the Vita to assist with sideways jumps. Other times it can mean using the touch screen functionality to draw a path from ledge to ledge. In one of the best uses we see the game switch to a close hand to hand combat mode where we tap a punch icon on screen, then swipe the gestures that appear, to control Drake and launch some devastating moves to take out our target. Elsewhere when climbing ropes, for example, the touch panel at the back of the console comes into play, grab a rope and then swipe the left and right sides of the back panel one at a time and our on screen character begins to climb using the same hands. Swipe the opposite direction and he climbs down.
Gameplay is split into levels with automatic saves as we go and breaking up the exploration and action are lengthy dialogue based scenes which expand the story and characters, keeping us interested in their adventure.
The developers have also included various mini-games in the adventure with some seeing us rub the screen to clean items or create charcoal rubbings of ageing stone carvings and others where we must rotate and position torn documents to position and recreate the original layout or unlock combination locks.
Online functionality is also very much included in Uncharted along with trophy/achievements awarded as the game progresses and we complete sections or mini-challenges. The Black Market is our main focus in the online area as we can trade various finds in the game with other players to gather items we might have missed.
Graphics and Audio
Of all the launch titles on PlayStation Vita Golden Abyss is probably the most impressive. Marvel vs Capcom looks great, WipEout too but Uncharted has the edge due to the massive amount of detail going on in the jungle, it is hugely impressive for a handheld title. There are areas in the game where it is clear that the developer has reached some limitations and the distant scenery for example is more of a 2D image but these are often mixed with some excellent lighting effects which draw attention away. Character animations in the game and cut scenes are also impressive with plenty of detail visible too. One particular highlight is the use of water which looks good in the game but also causes Drakes clothes to show a wet effect, drying off shortly after.
On the audio front the game doesn't have the most inspiring score but it isn't intrusive, leaving the sound effects to work well. Weapon noises are decent, especially through headphone and voice acting from the main cast is particularly good during the cut scenes.
Uncharted: Golden Abyss immediately draws the player into the game storyline with an action sequence which impresses while on-screen tutorials regularly pop up giving us hints on how to use the button and touch controls. The developers have made the wise decision to allow the use of either at any time, or a combination of both and it means that we can develop our own control style to suit the scene or gameplay style.
While the main controls work well with touch, such as climbing ropes, the mini-games are not quite as successful. Rubbing the screen to do charcoal copies of artefacts is fun the first few times but time consuming after this. Puzzle solving is a little too random when using the screen, essentially we can just flick and rotate at will to happen upon the right position for an item and the tilt to balance on logs is tiresome after a few examples too.
A decent plot and voice acting which is full of character keeps the player interested past these sections though and some great visuals enhance the experience also. This is particularly beneficial because the game as a whole is so strong and importantly entertaining, as we noted above feeling very much like a traditional PS3 action game.
Finally, Online functionality is good, adding to the longevity of the game and there is plenty to do in terms of exploring and collecting for the completists too.
Uncharted: Golden Abyss suffers a little from overuse of the Vita touch functionality but other than those minor, short tasks the game as a whole impresses. Without doubt one of the best action adventures on any handheld device to date.