Uncharted: Golden Abyss
Although Nathan Drakeís swashbuckling adventures are over on the PS3, Naughty Dog shows us that everyoneís favorite wisecracking everyman hasnít lost his touch. Exclusively for the PlayStation Vita, this is Uncharted: Golden Abyss.
Oh wait. This game was not developed by Naughty Dog. Uh-oh. Is it still worth checking out? Itís always scary when a quality game franchise switches developers. Has Nathan Drake finally met his end? Well as a loyal fan of the franchise, I gave it a chance. And I am very glad I did.
Though Golden Abyss was not developed by Naughty Dog, fans who have yet to play it can find solace in knowing that it was overseen by Naughty Dog. Could that possibly be the reason the game turned out as good as it did? Could BEND studio have churned out a quality entry with no influence by the original developers? Who knows. The important thing is, the gameís quality is indeed on par with the console predecessors.
Chronologically, Golden Abyss takes place before the first game, making this the first prequel in the franchise. The story is standard series fare; Fortune hunter Nathan Drake has been hired by a rich mercenary to help him locate a mystical treasure on an island.
However, as always, there is a villain on location who happens to be hunting for the same artifact. And the villain, also as always, has an infinite army of dudes with guns and bad accents. Thereís also a secondary antagonist who I wonít say but it couldnít be more obvious if he had ďANTAGONIST # 2Ē stamped on his forehead. But anyway the story is no better or worse than usual, itís just typical as all. But Iím not complaining, especially for this being a handheld launch title. As always the voice acting is top notch and the characters are funny and likeable as always (except for ANTAGONIST # 2).
And speaking of the fact that itís a launch title, it certainly does try its damndest to show off all the Vitaís features. Did you forget that the Vita had tilt sensitive motion features? Oh donít worry, the game will make sure to remind you when you have to enter a quick time event every time Drake is trying to balance on a log or something with his arms. But most of all, did you forget that the Vita had a touch screen? Oh you certainly wonít forget with this game. Every time you have to do something as simple as push through a weak spot in a wall, unlock a door, or brush the dust off of an object you uncover, it becomes a mini game with the touchscreen.
For mundane tasks such as the ones aforementioned, thereís really no harm done I guess. The problem is how they incorporated the touch screen into more important tasks, namely Melee combat. The touch screen is used during Melee combat to continuously attack after you initiate it with Square (or you can just keep pressing square). The problem is it is also used to evade incoming punches when an enemy has a grip on you. Time slows down and an arrow runs across the screen in a random direction, and you have to swipe in that direction two or three times for the command to register and dodge the attack. In the heat of combat, especially when other nearby enemies are shooting you, you can see how this becomes a problem.
Like that wasnít enough the hand-to-hand boss battles in the game consist entirely of quicktime events where arrows run across the screen and you have to quickly swipe in the desired direction three times to avoid taking damage. If you eff up three times youíre done. Iíll just tell you now itís frustrating.
The icing on the cake is that your female sidekick in this game hates guns. Nothing inherently wrong with that, but the problem is she refuses to use them for defense against the evil army thatís shooting at her! Because she doesnít use guns, many of the segments in the game revolve around protecting her since she doesnít have the sense to hide or take cover.
So based on my summary of the gameplay thus far, you might think Iím beginning to contrast what I said in the beginning about the quality of the game being pretty good, since gameplay is obviously the most important part of a video game. And although those flaws did make for a fair share of cheap deaths, I simply wanted to get all the cons out of the way first. Now onto the good.
The gunplay, for the most part, is well done. Uncharted is a third person shooter so as long as the gunplay is good, any flaws in the Melee combat can be overlooked. As always you can carry one pistol and one rifle on you, along with up to four grenades. The cover system is the same as before, you can blindfire from behind cover and all that good stuff. I have no complaints in this department. One thing the touch pad has improved is that you can zoom in now when looking through the scope of a sniper rifle for better accuracy.
When youíre not busy being a bullet magnet, you are platforming and puzzle solving. Again, no complaints in this department (mainly because the touchscreen is optional to use when platforming). The puzzles are pretty simple as always, there isnít that much brain power needed for them. Uncharted has never tried to be Legend of Zelda and thankfully so.
The soundtrack is, again on par with the soundtracks from the previous games. Fans will notice many of the music tracks and sound effects are taken from Uncharted 1. The usual actors reprise their roles for their characters and do a great job of bringing life and personality into the characters.
Graphically, the game really shows off what the Vita can do. Thereís no denying that Golden Abyss looks fantastic and shows that the Vita is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to graphics on the current handheld market. The environment of the island is beautiful and well rendered as are the character models. Atmospherically speaking it is very reminiscent of the first game (especially since a lot of the music and sound effects are from it).
Uncharted: Golden Abyss is, all in all, a good time and a must have for the Vita. It will keep you busy for quite a while, as it has the most chapters in its story compared to the games before it. There is no multiplayer mode except for an online trading service in the game called ďThe Black MarketĒ, but I have not really toyed with that. Though it often suffers from over-utilization of the touch screen and tilt functions, I can overlook that since this was a launch game and so naturally it was to be expected that the first games would be not-so-subtle tech demos.
In every other regard though, the gameís quality is on par with the PS3 games, placed between Uncharted 1 and 2 in terms of ranking in my book. If you have a Vita or are thinking of picking up a Vita but need to know what the good games are for it, hereís one of the best so far.
Overall Grade: A
+ Good story and characters
+Great voice acting
+ Gunplay is pretty well done
+ Lengthy campaign
-Too pushy with the touch pads and motion sensing functions
-Cheap deaths as a result of being too pushy with the touch pads and tilt functions