Written by Micah Messer
I never thought I’d see the day when an Uncharted game was released without the Playstation powerhouse developer, Naughty Dog, being the folks behind it. Well, that day has come. I went into Uncharted: Golden Abyss knowing full well that it just wouldn’t be able to compete with Naughty Dog’s level of polish. I was terrified that the new developer, Sony Bend, would tarnish the Uncharted name. However, I was pleasantly surprised. Although Uncharted: Golden Abyss doesn’t keep up with the console titles, Sony Bend does a respectable job of bringing Nathan Drake over to a portable system.
You just couldn’t have an Uncharted game without Nolan North as Nathan Drake. Most of the other key points to the Uncharted experience are here as well, so you can expect top-notch voice acting, entertaining characters, cut scenes recorded through motion capture, clever dialogue and beautiful graphics. Speaking of graphics, holy shit! This game looks absolutely incredible. Notice that I didn’t say “for a handheld game.” No, this game just looks great, period.
Don’t mind if I do.
The story to Uncharted: Golden Abyss is a pretty basic prequel. It’s essentially just Drake helping out a friend who’s looking for treasure, but the characters are decent enough that it makes it entertaining for the most part. The newly added characters, Chase and Dante, are good personalities for Drake to bounce off of, but they never really achieve the same level of quality that Sully or Elena have. The story isn’t the same globetrotting adventure that the other games were either, and the environments, while very beautiful, can get sort of bland after a while. There’s also not nearly as many amazing action set pieces that the Uncharted games are known for, which was a bit of a disappointment. However, there’s still a healthy dose of action, gun play and witty dialogue to keep you entertained throughout this 10-12 hour adventure.
Aside from some irritating touch controls, Golden Abyss handles almost identically to its console brethren, which is a huge accomplishment. The fact that you can have a console experience in your hands at any time is truly a beautiful thing. If you’ve ever played an Uncharted game, then you know that you do a lot of jumping, shooting, and punching. Naturally, Golden Abyss has quite a bit of this. The cover-based shooting that you’re used to remains largely the same, with the Vita’s dual analog sticks doing a great job of replicating the aiming of a PS3 controller. To mix things up a bit, Sony Bend has implemented a number of new ways to control Drake. For example, the Vita’s touch screen can be used to perform almost all of these actions, as well as the gyroscope being used for aiming. For those of us who don’t give a crap, however, the traditional control scheme is also available.
There were only a handful of times that I used the touch controls when I wasn’t being forced to. Which brings me to one of the most frustrating parts of the game. I could deal with the majority of the touch controls because they were nothing more than another option– an alternate way to play the game. Nothing was forced. But when the game starts making me swipe the screen in order to do something like perform a melee counter, that’s where I draw the line. Every time the game made me use the touch screen to perform an action that could just as easily be done with a button, I just got annoyed. These mandatory touch actions were just a little too frequent for me.Thankfully, not all the touch controls are terrible. Charcoal rubbings, piecing maps together, and solving puzzles are all controlled through touch. These didn’t bother me as much, mainly because they just felt natural, rather than forced.
Why the hell would I want to do this?
Golden Abyss boasts a large number of collectables and puzzles to solve, which will keep trophy hunters coming back. There are more collectables than any other Uncharted game from what I could tell, and they’re also more varied. In previous Uncharted titles, there were a bunch of treasure pieces scattered throughout the game’s campaign. Golden Abyss has charcoal rubbings to find, photos to take, items to clean off, puzzles to solve and of course, lots of treasure. All of this adds a tremendous amount of replay value to an already lengthy campaign. Although there is no multiplayer component this time around, there’s still quite a bit for you to do in this game.
Overall Score: 80
While Uncharted: Golden Abyss does feature some irritating touch controls, and a story that ultimately feels a bit stale, in the end, it still feels like Uncharted. It doesn’t reach the quality of Uncharted 2 or 3, but it does come close to the original Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, which is pretty damn impressive on a portable device.
Genre Score (Action-Adventure): 87
The Uncharted games have always had great action gameplay, and Golden Abyss captures the essence of it quite well. While I would have liked for there to be more big action set pieces included, what’s there is still impressive.