Uncharted: Golden Abyss

Uncharted-Golden-Abyss-Boxart
9.5 Overall Score

Fun story | Beautiful visuals | Cool new features

Some Vita features feel forced

Written by on March 11, 2012 in [, , , , , , , , , , ]

Whether it’s by design or by chance, most console makers ultimately find that one major mascot that helps define their system. For Nintendo, it’s Mario. For Microsoft, it’s Master Chief. Heck, even NEC had Bonk on the TurboGrafix-16. Instead of a plumber, a soldier or a caveman, Sony’s de facto spokesperson is a globetrotting, wisecracking, roguish treasure hunter by the name of Nathan Drake. Now, the star of the hit Uncharted series is taking his exploits on the road, courtesy of Uncharted: Golden Abyss on the PlayStation Vita.

There’s one big change you’ll notice before you ever even get to the start screen. Fans aren’t greeted by the famous red paw logo of series developer Naughty Dog. Instead, the development duties of Golden Abyss have been handed off to Bend Studio, the folks behind Sony’s popular Syphon Filter games. No need to worry, though. While Naughty Dog’s name might not be front and center on Golden Abyss, that doesn’t mean the studio didn’t stick its finger in the proverbial pie, assisting in the development and giving Bend access to its original Uncharted assets. And with both Nolan North and Richard McGonagle reprising their roles as Nathan Drake and Victor “Sully” Sullivan (since, y’know, that North guy never seems to find any voiceover work these days), fans of the series are still in for a familiar Uncharted experience.

Instead of moving forward with the series, Golden Abyss takes a step backwards, telling an earlier chapter of Drake’s story before the events of the first Uncharted game. Called in by an old acquaintance, Jason Dante, Drake heads to Central America to uncover the mystery behind an ill fated Spanish expedition 400 years before. Before long, Drake finds himself at odds with a local warlord/drug dealer, saving a damsel in distress, and leaping headlong into danger, hot on the trail of the legendary “Golden Abyss”. Sure, it follows the same basic formula of every other Uncharted game (For you math students out there, take notes: Uncharted X = lost treasure + rival treasure hunter + girl + evil baddie), but that’s not a bad thing. The story still gels together perfectly and feels like another day in the life of Nathan Drake.

Gameplay, for the most part, stays pretty true to what Uncharted fans have come to expect. Of course, being a Vita game (and a launch game in particular) means that there are a whole lot of new features crammed into the game to take advantage of the system’s capabilities. One of my favorites is using the Vita as a camera to take in-game pictures for Drake’s journal. Using the rear touchpad to zoom while tilting and turning the Vita to get that “perfect” shot, helps to make it feel like you’re actually right there with Drake in the jungle. Also, using the rear touchpad to help fine tune you aim through the scope of the Dragon Sniper is a nice nuance.

Of course, there’s a problem in throwing all these new features against the wall to see what sticks. Simply put, not everything sticks. For example, I thought that using the Vita touchscreen to create a charcoal rubbing was a cool idea … the first couple of times. Eventually, though, it felt forced and out of place. The same thing can be said about the jigsaw-like paper puzzles and cleaning off random artifacts. Sorry, but if I’m trying to escape a drug lord’s camp, avoiding patrols and fighting for my life, I don’t want to stop mid-stream to piece together some wanted poster of the guy trying to kill me. I’m pretty sure I already knew what he looked like at this point.

Despite a couple of nitpicking criticisms, there’s no denying that Uncharted: Golden Abyss is a phenomenal game. Golden Abyss looks great, sounds great, and plays gr … er … just shy of great. Let’s call it “pretty darned good”. Fans of the series will feel right at home, happy to expand the history of their favorite treasure hunter, while newcomers to Drake’s adventures will be able to jump right in without feeling like they’ve skipped to the middle of the book. If you own a Vita, then Uncharted: Golden Abyss should be a staple in your portable game library.

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Author: David Chapman View all posts by

2 Comments on "Uncharted: Golden Abyss"

  1. Chris Brown March 12, 2012 at 8:14 am - Reply

    Man, this game makes picking up a PS Vita so damn tempting! Great review!

  2. David Chapman March 12, 2012 at 10:12 am - Reply

    Honestly, I had my doubts about if the Vita would be worth it, but it’s quickly become my handheld of choice, and I’m even playing it more in my downtime than most of my other consoles. SO many fun games: Uncharted, UMvC3, Touch My Katamari (which just sounds wrong), Unit 13, Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack!!!, etc.

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