Overview - Uncharted: Golden Abyss Review
+ Captures the essence of the Uncharted console games
+ The Best looking game on the Vita
- Forced touchscreen controls that don't offer much
- Small analog sticks make for less preision
Uncharted: Golden Abyss INFORMATION
Release Date: February 14th, 2012
Developer/Publisher: Bend Studio/SCE
Uncharted is one of, if not the greatest series to grace the PlayStation, but all but one of the the Uncharted entries were developed by Naughty Dog. Uncharted: Golden Abyss was developed by Sony Bend, a developer with a good track record of transitioning AAA franchises to handhelds. In that respect, they succeed again, but how does the Vita version of Uncharted fair against its own series' such steep competition?
Story - Uncharted: Golden Abyss Review
As with most series, each progressive entry has to up the ante of the previous game, but because Golden Abyss is a prequel it can take a more measured approach. It's a relatively simple story and not the globetrotting adventure that the other games in the series are. This is mostly due to hardware limitations but it doesn't mean it's poor. Is it the least intriguing of the series, probably, but the Uncharteds have some of the best storytelling in all of video games. The most interesting thing Golden Abyss does is introduce a new character, Maria, who is a fellow treasure hunter and has quite the rapport with our protagonist, Nathan Drake. Victor Sullivan (from the other games) does indeed make an appearance, but it is Maria who provides an audience to Nate's folly. She's a fine addition and runs in the long line of more than capable females so prominent in the series. This relationship is the defining thread of the story and it helps completely stand alone from the other games in the franchise.
Technical - Uncharted: Golden Abyss Review
For a Vita game, Golden Abyss is near the top in terms of its graphics, and well, for a PlayStation 3 game it's not at the bottom. At first glance, it's not unlike its PS3 brothers (especially the first game, Drake's Fortune). The character models are nigh identical and the foliage, while less so, is still familiar and detailed enough. It's a good looking game, especially so, but perhaps the biggest issue hindering Golden Abyss in comparison is the quality of high definition. There is a lack of smoothness to both the environment and character models that, while it helps with detail, hurts the overall quality. It's nit picking because it is a Vita game, but it just isn't on the same level as the PS3 counterparts.
Music - Uncharted: Golden Abyss Review
Music in Golden Abyss is right in line with the other games, but just a lower level, which fits this game better. Even though this game is filled with thrilling stunts, frenetic action and death defying feats, they are at a smaller scale. The familiar Uncharted theme is present throughout, the subtle wind instruments and percussion, it's all there, it is just no more grand than the other Uncharted scores. Intestingly enough, Golden Abyss was one of the first video games featuring a full orchestra.
Gameplay - Uncharted: Golden Abyss Review
For the most part the moment to moment gameplay is exactly the same as its counterparts. Two analog sticks control the movement and aiming with the shoulder buttons controlling the weapons firing. The biggest difference in this is that the Vita only has two shoulder buttons. Much of the functionality has been moved to the touch screen, and it works pretty well. Tap the screen (or down on the D-pad) to reload, hit the screen to pick up a new weapon, sniping is done similar to zooming in on a picture on your smartphone and throwing grenades requires a Angry Birds-style technique. There are others, but perhaps the most annoying is when the Vita's functionality is forcibly used. Swiping during melee actions is more annoying than helpful, wiping the screen to clean objects or charcoal rubbings just waste time, even though they are easy.
Despite the like for like console to Vita control schemes there are some subtle differences. Because the analog sticks are shorter and smaller, precision shooting is difficult or frustrating. It's still solid but aiming is more meticulous and takes getting used to if you are primarily used to shooters on the PS3 or PS4
Uncharted: Golden Abyss Review Roundup
Despite some flaws that are mostly due to hardware limitations and some forced use of the touchscreen most of the game works well and is one of the best if not they best looking games on the Vita. Uncharted: Golden Abyss will always be compared to the other games in the series on the PS3 and PS4, and of those entries, it is the worst one in the series, but context is everything and when it comes down to it, Golden Abyss is the best shooter and action-adventure game on the Vita and is as close to a console experience as you're going to get.