Uncharted--Golden-Abyss-PS-Vita-Review Uncharted: Golden Abyss PS Vita Review

   28/02/2012 at 18:39       Flying_Pig       3 COMMENTS. - Score 4/5
 - Uncharted: Golden Abyss , PS Vita, Nathan Drake, Uncharted, Third Person Action

Nathan Drake is the kind of guy I’d like to be. He travels to interesting and varied places; is a hit with the ladies and is pretty handy with an assault rifle. But on the other hand, he does seem to find trouble wherever he goes and is constantly being shot at. Suddenly, sitting in an office block, staring out across north London doesn’t seem so bad.

But anyway, while we’ve now had three Uncharted games on the PlayStation 3, the arrival of Sony’s shiny new handheld gives us the opportunity to experience Uncharted on the small screen. Uncharted: Golden Abyss was heralded as the poster boy for the power of the PS Vita, promising graphical fidelity and game play hitherto impossible on a hand held console. But, as a series known for its brilliant cinematics and epic set pieces, how much of this is lost in the translation from a 42 inch plasma to the PS Vita’s 5 inch OLED screen? And just as importantly, does the Vita possess enough power under the bonnet to do justice to what are some of the PS3’s best look titles?

Haven’t we been here before?

Uncharted, for the uninitiated, is a third-person action game, centred around the adventures of one Nathan Drake, the aforementioned ladies man. Game play is split between exploration of your environment – mainly climbing walls and jumping over gaps – and shooting bad guys. It doesn’t sound like much but it all hangs around a solid story, with a smattering of interesting NPCs and a suitably nasty bad guy.

Indeed, Uncharted: Golden Abyss will be instantly familiar to anyone who has played an Uncharted title before. Everything from the loading screens, menu music and voice-overs has been slavishly based around the PS3 versions of the game. While Sony’s Bend Studio have been responsible for making the game itself, it’s clear that Naughty Dog (developer of the PS3 titles) has been heavily involved.

What’s also clear is that the iterative improvements which Naughty Dog hae made to the Uncharted series are evident in this instalment; most obviously with the seriously tweaked hand-to-hand combat, seen in the most recent PS3 title; Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception.

Touch My Rear

What differentiates Golden Abyss from the previous games is the unique hardware. Bend Studio have liberally included opportunities to make use of the PS Vita’s front touch screen and rear touch pad, as well as the tilt sensors. However, rather than forcing the player to make use of these control methods; they are largely included as an optional extra. A prime example of this is climbing a wall – the normal method would be to guide Drake up the wall with the left analogue stick, and occasional use of the X button. However, the Vita allows you to trace the route on the touch screen for Drake to follow. It works surprisingly well and while I’m glad that you have the option of either control method, it really does make short, efficient work of a long climb.

Another great example is upon sneaking up on an enemy, you can either press the square button, as you would in Uncharted 3, or simply tap the fist icon which has appeared over baddie to execute a stealth kill.

However, it's not all good. As part of the hand-to-hand combat a great big yellow arrow will appear on the screen which you’re required to trace to execute a dodge or finishing attack. While it works well, the appearance of the arrow at a key moment is rather jarring and breaks the immersion. Another grumble is that being forced to use the tilt sensors to balance Drake as he walks along a log is annoying and pretty hit and miss.

Looking Good

Graphically, the Uncharted series has always been stunning, with Naughty Dog somehow squeezing more and more out of the PS3 with each iteration. It was always going to be a tall order for Bend Studio to replicate this on the Vita, and in fairness they haven’t quite managed it. While Golden Abyss is, undoubtedly, stunning it is running at below the native 960 x 544 resolution of the Vita’s lovely screen. Although when a game looks as good as Golden Abyss does, this fact matters little.

Perhaps it's the similar jungle and ruins environments, but personally I would say Golden Abyss is pretty close to the original Uncharted (Drake’s Fortune); which at the time was heralded as a graphical masterpiece.

Journey’s End

In many respects Uncharted: Golden Abyss has achieved exactly what it set out to do – to produce a game which has previously been impossible to do on a hand held console. Bend Studio have shoehorned a genuine Uncharted game onto the Vita and by and large produced a brilliant experience.

While Golden Abyss feels slightly constrained in places and is a little less epic that the previous games, lacking the grandiose set pieces, it feels a little churlish to criticise this game for failing to match it’s big brothers in this respect, especially when Golden Abyss gets so much else spot on.

No single title should ever warrant purchasing a gaming system for, but Uncharted: Golden Abyss presents very persuasive argument for owning a Vita, and is certainly an essential purchase for anyone who already possesses Sony’s latest hand held.

Stars
User Comments:

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NewYork - on 28/02/2012 at 23:03 wrote:
 
I wonder who bought a Vita but DIDN'T buy this game :)
 

evilashchris - on 29/02/2012 at 09:00 wrote:
 
Guh! This looks amazing! I want one now :C
 

dmukgr - on 05/03/2012 at 16:12 wrote:
 
@NewYork

Me - I'm waiting for a price drop
 


3 comment(s) in total.
        
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