Game Rant's Anthony Mole reviews Uncharted: Golden Abyss
It's pretty safe to say that the game that sold most people on the PlayStation Vita was Uncharted: Golden Abyss. Bend Studio was tasked with bringing Naughty Dog's fan-favorite franchise to a portable device, and still retain the action-movie feeling of past titles.
Did the team make a game that truly stands up to, and apart from, the PS3 series?
Uncharted: Golden Abyss is a prequel to the PS3 titles, telling yet another tale of protagonist Nathan Drake's adventures. Seeing as Golden Abyss predates the original game Drake's Fortune, Drake is accompanied by a new cast of characters. Elena, Chloe, they're all absent from this game, replaced instead by Drake's long time acquaintance Dante, and a new love interest, Chase.
While Dante and Chase are interesting and fun to be around, they're just not quite as loveable as other Uncharted characters. For example, Dante's character is very arrogant, but he just doesn't have the same charm as say, Harry Flynn from Uncharted 2. However, that's not to say Golden Abyss doesn't have a story worth telling. This is an Uncharted game through and through, and as such it's one filled with an engaging plot, some laugh out loud moments and some exemplary pacing. It doesn't have the same scope as Drake's Deception, but the story is almost as good. Bend's title focuses a lot on Chase and Drake, their relationship and who they are rather than just emphasizing the treasure. It makes for a story that players can better relate to.
Due to the Vita's technical limits players shouldn't expect Golden Abyss to offer huge set pieces like the other titles in the franchise; there's no fighting baddies in an exploding plane or on a speeding train, rather everything is much more scaled down. There are still some intense moments, but nothing on the level of the PS3 games. That said, the fact that it's all happening in the plam of one's hand makes the game all the more impressive.
But none of this would matter if the gameplay doesn't hold up, and thankfully, it does. Aiming and shooting is relatively similar to that of the PS3 titles, however it does feel a tad looser. Turning on auto aim seemed to reduce this problem but, even as a long time fan of the series, it was still difficult to line up shots as precisely as in the past.
The rest of the gameplay is the same as PS3 owners have been used to for the past five years, climbing and puzzle solving is still a big part of the game, with the former controlling largely the same as we've come to expect. Most of the puzzles are pretty straightforward, with the majority amounting to jigsaw puzzle sections wherein Drake must complete images by putting pieces together. Players will also use the Vita's touch screen to complete the majority of puzzles, reducing the amount of time spent running around.
Of course, as the Vita's flagship title, Uncharted Golden: Abyss is pretty much obliged to make use of the system's features. Touch and motion controls permeate the game, though the majority of them are pretty superfluous. For example, players can tilt the Vita in order to prepare Drake to jump to a ledge, or use the rear touch pad to climb ropes. That said, none of this really offers an advantage to the more traditional control scheme. Their inclusion certainly doesn't take anything away from Golden Abyss, but it does feel a bit pointless and players will probably find themselves reverting back to the default button controls.
There are however, times when the new controls will come in handy. When scaling walls, players gave the option to drag their finger along the screen in order to "paint" a path for our strong-fingered hero. This option is much more feasible than simply tapping the X button to move Drake, especially because it helps reduce the amount of fatigue in one's thumbs.
Those playing the game on normal difficulty will probably breeze through the campaign in about 6-8 hours, a little bit shorter than the console games. However, there is still plenty added to Golden Abyss to make it worth multiple playthroughs. Treasures once again make their return, and like always players can pick them up to add to their collection. What makes it more interesting this time around, is that some of the treasures actually help add a little backstory to the game. Players can learn more about the ancient cultures or people referenced throughout the game by finding certain artifacts.
In addition to the treasures, players can also collect "bounties". These are collectibles that enemies will sometimes drop. What this means is that players won't collect all of the bounties in a single playthrough, seeing as they drop randomly. Now, obviously not everyone has the time (or patience) for multiple playthroughs, in which case they can head over to the Black Market. The Black Market allows players to trade for bounties they haven't collected, and there's even one that can only be attained through the Black Market - note however that this secret item can also be obtained offline if one is unable to access the game due to the lack of an internet connection.
Uncharted: Golden Abyss is, to put it simply, an Uncharted game on a handheld. The series is as fun as ever, and it's well worth a playthrough, whether or not one is a fan of the franchise or just someone looking for a great Vita game to play. Bend Studio's game isn't required reading in the franchise, but it's one players won't regret. It retains what makes the PS3 games some of the most beloved titles this generation, and that makes it a game that every Vita owner should experience.
Uncharted: Golden Abyss is available now for the PlayStation Vita.
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