Uncharted: Golden Abyss

2013-03-03-132043

Platform: PlayStation Vita
Developer: Bend Studios
Publisher: Sony
Images: Taken in-game by @vdjomb

A prequel story to the popular Uncharted franchise by Naughty Dog on the PS3. This PSVita launch title surprised me greatly. Granted it did take me over a year for me to Platinum, but that’s because of the PSVita’s lack of games that I’ve been playing. (ED: Cheeky)
It’s made by Bend Studio and not Naughty Dog although they had a certain amount of control over it. They also allowed Nolan North to reprise his role as a younger Nathan Drake, as well as assisting with original assets.2013-03-03-132112

There is also the inclusion of Near functionality. This allows Treasures obtained from killed enemies to be traded with fellow gamers. Once a complete Treasure Set is gain a trophy is unlocked.

Story2013-03-03-132620

The story plays out in typical Uncharted fashion. Finding clues, solving puzzles, shooting bad guys and trying to find the location of a mythical treasure, after climbing and traversing. The story unfolds nicely and introduces the main characters Dante (an old friend of Drake) and Chase (a young woman trying locate a missing archeologist).

Along the way none of the previous female characters reappears, due to the fact this is based in a time period before the first Uncharted game. From other reviews I’ve read people really didn’t seem to enjoy the story. I rather enjoyed it, it felt like a fully fledged new adventure starring my favourite wise cracking treasure hunter. Yes, it was predictable but in a reassuringly comfortable way. It fairly lengthy and covers 34 chapters over various locations. There are also some rather clever puzzles but nothing too taxing of the old grey matter.

GFX2013-03-03-133027

Graphically this is a game to behold, and is in keeping with the series aesthetics. The lighting is spectacular. Especially the sunlight through the jungle canopy and shadows they create.

2013-03-03-132502Beautifully rendered vistas, superb character animations, awesome set pieces. At times it’s easy to forget I was playing on a portable system. The OLED screen renders the images amazingly, the colours look stunning and the images flow perfectly.

The cut scenes look incredible and help to tell the ongoing story, using Naughty Dogs motion capture studios. There are some astounding moments with fire and the water, as well as the classic Uncharted stop and stare at the scenery moments.

Controls

The controls are very similar to the series standard cover based shooting and climbing mechanics.
They have also been reworked, to use a lot of the additional features that the PSVita contains. Such as Six-Axis for aiming and balancing on logs.

The touch screen’s use is abundant, from taping to pick up items & weapons, cutting through objects with a machete or to melee an enemy.

The most unique feature is the “Paint to climb” control. Where you touch across a set of hand holds and Nate automatically follows the route you trace. It works surprisingly well and something I’ve never seen before. I rarely used it on my first play through, but on subsequent ones I used it all the time.
There are also rubbings that need to be taken to reveal hidden pieces of an ongoing puzzle. Frantically wiping across the screen to reveal them, these I found became laborious to quickly.

There is also a frustratingly shoe horned moment,  that is when you need to use the PSVita’s Rear Camera to reveal text on a manuscript. This is achieved by pointing the PSVita at a bright light source. Now try doing this in a darkened room because it simply won’t work.
One of the other interesting features is the use of the Gyroscopes. My girlfriend was really confused when I was first playing, as I stood up and started turning around aiming the PSVita at the living room walls. I then showed her that I was using the PSVita, to render environment in full 360º and using the in-game camera to capture images as clues for progressing the story. Something I’m hoping makes an appearance if there’s ever an Uncharted 4.2013-03-03-135741

My favourite has to be using the Six-Axis to aim weapons when looking down the sights. The best use I’ve seen in any game. As you tip the PSVita to adjust your aim, with tiny movements. Perfect for lining up headshots with the Dragon Sniper rifle, whilst using the Rear Touchpad to zoom in and out. Just don’t try playing it on a bus to work like I did as it makes it damn frustrating.

2013-03-03-133911Sounds

The aural signatures of an Uncharted game are all over this. As soon as the menus screen comes up and the music plays, to the use of original cast members reprising the voice work. Personally I don’t think I would have been anywhere near as engaged without Nolan North’s vocal stylings. There are also the standard gun noises, explosions, Nate’s grunts, moans, and crumbling rock noises.

“Here we go!”

I really enjoyed this game and being a launch game for the PSVita it really sold me on the potential for this powerful portable system.
I don’t think it’s a perfect game, as it’s not without some flaws. The cut scenes can be quite long but are easily skipped, which I wouldn’t recommend doing on the 1st play through, as they do look rather good. There are a few moments were the enemies can be frustratingly overwhelming on Crushing difficulty but these are not too regular. There are also a couple of moments where you end up dying due to bad level design. A specific moment springs to mind, where I was trying to avoid a barrage of rockets, every time I rolled I went straight off a ledge to my death. It’s also bit of a grind to get certain trophies in order to obtain a Platinum but it does mean it’s satisfying when you finally achieve it.
It’s not up to the standard of Uncharted 2: Amongst Thieves for either set pieces or as visually spectacular, but it does add more to the mythos. There are also some really refreshing changes to the game controls to fit the portable screen which genuinely work. It could be argued that this game is nothing more than a glorified tech demo of the PSVita’s capabilities and you’d be right but you’d miss a brilliant game with an enjoyable story.2013-03-03-134544

Score

When it was released last year, it was £40 and I would have easily said it was worth about £37. It’s now free with PlayStation Plus as part of the “Instant Game Collection”. The only price of admission would be a PlayStation Vita, Memory Card and a PS+ Membership. Not a cheap prospect but a very worthwhile one in my opinion.
If you consider yourself to be a fan of Nathan Drake and his fantastically adventures you owe it to yourself to get it.

Connor McKervey

(VDJomb)

vdjomb

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