The PlayStation Vita may still be a few weeks away from release in Europe and the US, however that didn’t stop us from importing one just so that we could bring you as much coverage as possible between now and the new portable’s release.
One of the first games we were desperate to try out was Uncharted Golden Abyss, which it seems, is by far the stand out title arriving on launch day. Coming from Sony Bend, we were expecting big things from the latest in Naughty Dog’s popular franchise and it has to be said that as the credits rolled in our imported copy we were not disappointed.
Uncharted Golden Abyss tells the story of Nathan Drake as he wanders through Central America with his newly found partner Marissa Chase. As always there is a purpose involved in Drake’s travels and this time we join him looking into a 400-year-old massacre of a Spanish Expedition which was led by Friar Marcus. This particular journey lead Drake on an action packed adventure in the path of Chase’s grandfather, who is thought to be closing in on the mysteries that will unfold throughout the game.
It has to be said that during the 10+ hours you will spend playing, Golden Abyss is spectacular, providing the same mixture of adventure, action and puzzle solving that you’ll find in any other games in the Uncharted series, albeit with a PS Vita twist.
Given that the game is a debut title for the PS Vita, you can understand that it should take advantage of the unique features of the handheld, but to us this is what sets this game apart from any other portable game we have played before. The first thing you will notice about Golden Abyss is just how good it looks, whether it’s the luscious greens, spectacular vistas or the classic cut scenes which you have come to expect from the series, there is no doubt that this is the best looking game you’ll ever have seen on a handheld.
As well as providing us with some spectacular eye-candy, Golden Abyss also provides some fantastic player interaction thanks to the rear and front touchscreens. This sees you solving puzzles by touching the front screen to move panels and rotate locks, while you will also find yourself rubbing the touchscreen to recreate carbon copies of important symbols. The front screen also has other uses, such as quick time events to prevent yourself falling or uses in fights against the games main bosses; where you have to swipe the screen by following the on-screen prompts in order to progress.
The rear screen is also made use of, allowing you to climb rope by moving your fingers in an up and down motion. Sony Bend even makes use of the camera at one point, requiring you to hold the Vita up to a light source in order to unveil a puzzle. It has to be said that the use of both touch-screens, and to a lesser extent the camera, is very clever. It really helps to draw you into the game even more, providing a different, but still similar experience to the games bigger brother.
As with other games in the series, Uncharted: Golden Abyss is full of combat. The similarities in this title will be obvious to anyone who has played an Uncharted title before. The enemies act in a familiar fashion, taking cover and trying to take you out. You can still tell when combat is coming thanks to the sudden appearance of cover and random weapons. The main difference with Golden Abyss is that you can use the Vita’s motion controls to your advantage, getting your sight close to the target and then using the gyroscope to get the perfect headshot.
Not everyone will enjoy using motion controls to aim, and you can switch them off, although this is something we’d advise against, because once you get used to playing in this way you will find that it actually works a lot better than you would expect. This is especially evident when using the Dragon Sniper, which lets you pick off enemies from a distance using a combination of the right stick and motion controls.
Previous Uncharted games have always had an emphasis on a strong storyline, fantastic acting and Golden Abyss is no different. Throughout the game you will always find yourself engrossed as this brilliantly told story takes yet another twist, all while admiring how such a fantastic adventure can be crammed onto such a small game card.
There are a few issues which we feel could have been improved upon; for one there is no other game mode other than the single player adventure. In fact there are no other options at all, not even the ability to view any items you have unlocked along the way. The only way it is possible to view collectibles is when you are in-game. We would have at least liked the option to view any items collected during our adventure from the main menu and perhaps a mini game or two (such as a horde mode or a solo version of the excellent co-op mode from Uncharted 2 and 3) more suited to the Vita.
Given that Golden Abyss joins us at the start of the Vita’s life, it’s hard to hold the small flaws mentioned above against it. This is a game which puts some console titles to shame thanks to its stunning looks, innovative gameplay features and non-stop action. Uncharted: Golden Abyss maybe one of the most expensive titles to arrive at Vita’s launch, however it’s worth every penny. It’d be a crime to not to own this game if you are planning to pick up Sony’s new handheld, so do yourself a favour and put some cash aside for Nathan Drake.
Rating: OutstandingReview Policy(Version tested: PS Vita [import])
Uncharted: Golden Abyss is released in February 2012 alongside the PS Vita. You can pre-order the game from ShopTo here.