Uncharted: Golden Abyss Review

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Title: Uncharted: Golden Abyss
Developer: Bend Studios
Game Type: PlayStation Vita
Download: 2.9 GB
NA Availability: 
Digital Download | Retail

EU Availability: Digital Download | Retail
PSTV Support: No

I’m coming really late to the party for some of my reviews, but I’m trying to knock out my review backlog to get out as many reviews for you guys as I can.  On that note, one of the biggest PlayStation mascots of recent years has been a character drawn from a series that took elements from another.  That mascot is someone who was featured at E3 last year: Nathan Drake from the Uncharted game series.

There’s been a huge debate around Uncharted for a long time, especially in regards to its similarities to Tomb Raider and vice-versa.  In all honesty, they are very similar but also have their differences.  Uncharted took a huge amount of elements from the 2nd Generation of Tomb Raider (Anniversary, Legend, Underworld), but added a lot more combat and shooting elements.  Then Tomb Raider rebooted taking on a lot of elements that Uncharted added.  And so on and so forth.

Uncharted has graced the PS Vita in a lot of ways over the years.  If you go into PlayStation Now, you can stream Uncharted 1, 2, and 3 onto your Vita with that service.  Natively, though, the Vita got two Uncharted games, one of which was a card-based game.  Having been a long time coming for this site, here is my official review of the PS Vita exclusive title of the series, Uncharted: Golden Abyss!

Story

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Golden Abyss takes place an unspecified amount of time before the events of Drake’s Fortune, making this a prequel to the rest of the series.  Nathan Drake is being led to a dig site by a longtime friend and fellow treasure hunter, Jason Dante.  Upon arrival with both meeting other characters, such as mutual friend Chase, Drake discovers the remnants of a mystery surrounding the massacre of a Spanish militia.

In a typical tale of exploring, being imprisoned, and tomb-raiding, Golden Abyss will feel right at home with fans of Uncharted.  The story isn’t as expanded as the plots are in games like Drake’s Deception, but the further you go into the plot, the more the story proves itself worthy of the series.  By the end of the game, you will have dived into a myth that many people will have heard of before, be it from history class, movies, or other video games.

Gameplay

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Like the previous entries of the series, Golden Abyss is a 3D platforming adventure game with third person shooting and puzzle elements thrown into the mix.  You will be spending the majority of the game platforming through extensive geographical areas, but you’ll also have sequences of solving various types of puzzles as well as fighting off enemies with melee attacks as well as various types of firearms.

The game progresses in a chapter-based fashion, but doesn’t have any sort of “base” or mission menu to go back to.  As the story progresses, you see some scenes and are sent directly to the next area.  This is the nice thing about Uncharted’s handheld outing, as it maintained the same progression and play style as the console games.  Other handheld console titles, like Metal Gear Solid Peace Walker, opted for mission-based gameplay instead.

In each area, you will have certain objectives you will need to reach in the form of a certain area.  Your progression through each area will be fairly linear for the most part, though there are a few side areas you can venture into.  These are mostly there to be able to locate and find special items and artifacts.  It isn’t hard to get lost, but there isn’t a lot of places to go outside of the main path.

Much of your progression will be climbing around on rock walls, ladders, ropes, and anything else it would be possible to climb on.  If you’ve played through any of the other Uncharted games or the 2nd Gen Tomb Raider games, you will be right at home with this type of exploration.  Unlike the latter, though, Golden Abyss won’t let you drop from ledges unless there is something below you to land on, reducing the number of times you may get accidental game overs.

Outside of the main path, there are other things to do as well.  As I said above, you can find collectible items, but you can also do side-quests with your camera.  In each chapter, there will be certain environments or objects that you will want to take pictures of for your journal.  Another thing to note is that as you play the game and do side objectives, you will be able to unlock and upgrade cards to use in Uncharted: Fight for Fortune.

Combat elements are the same the previous games and utilizes cover for most of it.  You can hide behind any object you find for cover from enemy fire.  You can fight back with your fists (or stealth attacks if you can sneak up on an enemy) or one of the two weapons you can have equipped, which are a handgun type weapon and a larger weapon.  There are a lot of different weapons throughout the game, from Desert Eagles and Shotguns to AK-47’s and Miniguns.

Surprisingly enough, Golden Abyss maintains the same length as the other games in the series.  An average first time through the story should take you roughly 8-10 hours, the same amount of time as it may take to get through one of the PS3 games.  There isn’t a huge amount of extra content to go through and Golden Abyss didn’t come with Multiplayer, but it’s got plenty of Uncharted action for a handheld gamer to dive into.

Controls

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Controls are where Uncharted can get a little extensive.  Golden Abyss was a PS Vita launch title, so it was not only an Uncharted game, but also a showcasing of what the PS Vita could do that the PSP could not.  It doesn’t use every single feature available to the Vita but it does use a few of the more unique features.

The touch screen as well as the six-axis motion controls are both used throughout the game.  You use touch to solve puzzles and go through melee attacks and boss fights.  The touch screen can also be used to tap on ledges for Drake to automatically move to that ledge.  The motion controls can be used for precise aiming as well as mini-games when you have to balance yourself on a thin ledge.  Motion controls could also be used to reach one way or the other to jump while hanging.

Outside of these features, it’s fairly standard for controls.  The Left Analog Stick is used to move and the Right Analog Stick moves the camera.  The X button is used to jump and Circle is used to drop from ledges or roll while running.  The D-Pad is used to swap which weapon you’re currently equipped with and reload your weapon.  The L trigger is used to aim and R is used to fire.  Triangle changes your view when you’re aiming.

The controls aren’t hard to learn, but the motion controls can mess you up if you’re not sitting up straight while playing.  Since the motion controls can make Drake lean to the left or right, it can make it so you can’t just straight up or down on ledges, requiring you to adjust the way you’re sitting.

Presentation

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First of all, the visual presentation is very impressive, for a launch title and for a Vita title in general.  The visual presentation is incredibly detailed and it about the same level of detail as the first Uncharted game on PS3.  It’s hard to find jagged edges and there are a ton of physics, lighting, and other effects that really shows off what the Vita could handle from Day 1.

The rest of the presentation is good as well, for the most part.  The game rarely drops frames and when it does, it’s not by very much.  The game flows well, though the initial load time to go into a chapter or saved game from the title screen can get lengthy at times.  Each time I boot the game and resume a saved game, I have to wait about 15-20 seconds for it to load.  It’s not unacceptable, but also isn’t wonderful.

Summary

Uncharted: Golden Abyss was the first game to really show off the PS Vita’s features and capabilities. On the downside, there is a long initial loading time and the motion controls can set you off depending on how you’re sitting while playing. Outside of this is a fully-fledged Uncharted title for the PS Vita that any fan of the series can get into and love.

8/10

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