So, Uncharted. On the Vita.
It has all the hallmarks to define handheld gaming in an award winning development team, Sony Bend Studios, and a well known and very well respected franchise in Uncharted with a history of killer single player games. But can it deliver on a handheld? Let’s see…
The story is set prior to the original Uncharted: Drakes Fortune and includes 2 new protagonists in Dante, who is well written as the friend no one likes, and Chase, (incoming pun alert!) the new love interest. Sullivan will join us later, but let’s leave that for now and move on. It all begins with you chasing shadows as normal, but this time through a jungle. Here you start to realise that Uncharted has used that gorgeous Vita screen to full effect. The jungle is a vibrant green with good lighting on water, and when coupled with how well the dimensions look it all starts to feel like Sony have a launch title that unlike most, may still be purchased a year on.
During the opening chapters Golden Abyss introduces you to the controls of the game, including the some of the touch screen ones. Now if you’ve ever played a Vita game this is the part you’ll be worried about. Some games can make you feel like the touch screen controls are an add-on, something that’s been thrown in because the developer feels they have to. A gimmick if you like. However the touch controls you first become acquainted with are quite the opposite. The first that feels like a welcome addition is for climbing. Instead of continually tapping the X button and holding up or sideways on the analogue stick, you just stroke the on screen ladder, and Nate climbs it. He’ll also do this when it comes to jumping to a ledge. And that includes jumping to ropes and vines that are left swinging in the open. Genius! No more dodgy camera angles or tedious climbing! But, and it’s a big but, the touch screens aren’t all a welcome addition. During the game you’ll come across relics and statues that need either cleaning or a charcoal rubbing completing, and the front touch screen is used to complete these tasks. At first using the front screen to rub away dirt is a nice idea, it brings something new to the game, however, after the tenth time, and you’ll begin to wish you hadn’t found a relic! There’s even a chapter that ends with you having to find 4 statues that all need charcoal rubbings doing and by that time you’ll wish there was a button to auto complete for you.
As the story continues you become embroiled in the chase (you were warned!) for treasure, and it moves at quite a pace. It’s not long before you become involved in the trade mark run and gun style fights that have made previous Uncharted titles so popular. Ammo is in fairly plentiful supply and the arms are varied, and it’s also during the fighting that we come across another touch screen addition. By covering behind an obstacle, you can take down a close by enemy by touching the “fist” icon when it appears, and again it works well. It doesn’t work so well however, if you’re in the middle of a gun fight. If there are bullets flying and you try to punch someone, the camera slows but the incoming bullets do not seem to. This means that either you avoid any takedowns just in case, or you take your life in your own hands trying and become frustrated when you die. It’s a small thing to become annoyed at, but it detracts from the quick and tense fighting that the game gives you. Other than that the gun fights are a fitting part of the game, they entice you to use different weapons for different situations whether it’s shotguns that enemies drop for close combat, or the dragon sniper that’s left hanging around later on for longer hits. While we mention the sniper rifle, once again another touch screen control is introduced. Unlike the charcoal rubbings, or the hand to hand, this is an addition worth having. On the right hand side of your screen a scroll bar appears when you shoulder the weapon using the left bumper. The scroll bar allows you to zoom in and out of your target area and there are multiple ways of using it. You can touch the front screen to zoom in or out, or, and I prefer this, you can use the back touch pad to slide it up and down without your trigger finger leaving the right bumper button, allowing for quicker aim and fire. It’s another nod to the fact that Sony Bend have actually thought about how they can utilise a touch pad for the good of the game rather than just “how can we add in touch screen controls to appease the hardware department.
The story itself is ok. Nothing more, nothing less. You chase (this is getting too easy now!) around South America ultimately hunting ancient Spanish relics and cities of gold. You do feel swept up in Chase’s pursuit of her grandfather who began the treasure hunt, and she’s very convincing when it comes to making you believe she cares nothing for the glory and money that Nate and Sullivan usually spend their time searching for. Dante as previously mentioned is instantly dislikable as he’s meant to be, and the leader of the opposition, is stereotypical as an ex-military general who is in it for the cash. It moves along at a good pace, and leads you in to the final chase (even I’m getting bored now!) for glory. The cut scene’s throughout can get a little boring but during them you will notice shining objects on screen that you need to touch to collect, and this leads us in to whether you will want to play the game again once completing it the first time. Throughout the game you will collect hidden treasures. Some are jade, some are Glyphs, some are photos, and all belong to one of the many different “mysteries” throughout the game. If you’re one of those gamers (and personally, I’m not) that feel the need to 100% a game, this game will take you ages! Most players will complete Golden Abyss on normal in around 4-6 hours, on hard, in around 6-10. If you decide to try and find ALL of the hidden treasures, cards, bounties and photos required to complete each mystery, your friends may never see you again!
In summation, Uncharted: Golden Abyss is a quick paced roller coaster of a ride, which delivers a decent story but excels in its fighting and visuals. It utilises the touch screens on the Vita well enough that you forgive Sony Bend for the charcoal rubbings, and applaud them for the effort made. Mostly however, it’s Uncharted. On the Vita. Enjoy.
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