Uncharted: Golden Abyss - Review
7.5 / 10
The Uncharted series excels in its story, and while Uncharted: Golden Abyss doesn’t quite hit that narrative level of previous Uncharted entries, it still remains a fantastic journey.
Nathan Drake is in the middle of a rivalry between he’s old friend Dante and newcomer Marisa Chase, who is the daughter of the archaeologist who has disappeared. The game begins with this premise, then steam rolls into a high speed, high stakes finale. The story is divided into two main parts. One in which Nathan Drake travels with Dante and/or Chase, and the other in which he travels with Sully. The setting is Central America and the story occurs sometime before the three main Uncharted games for PS3.
At about the halfway mark, when Drake meets up with the character Sully, (he’s previous mentor), the story takes a slight turn. It’s a great spot for the half way point to the game and marks one of the few location changes, although the location change doesn’t last very long.
The story plays out for about 7-8 hours and doesn’t feature a large cast. There are about five characters relevant to the story, but this keeps the story tight.
7.5 / 10
The well known and successful gameplay of the Uncharted series is back, but this time there are added features to take full advantage of the PS Vita’s capabilities. Uncharted: Golden Abyss uses the PS Vita’s new modes of control quite well, allowing for a deeper experience.
Touch Controls and Gyro Controls.
One thing that Uncharted: Golden Abyss does quite successfully is its ability to take advantage of the PS Vita’s capabilities in terms of its controls.
Firstly, lets talk about the games use of Touch Controls. There are many different ways to utilise the touch screen, from general gameplay to puzzles and such, but the good thing about it is that you can also use the normal face buttons if the touch controls aren’t your thing. I do however guarantee you will find yourself using the touch controls quite a lot. When climbing or traversing over nooks and crannies, you can simply drag a route with your finger and watch as Nathan Drake follows the path you directed him to go. Alternatively, you can use the analogue stick to do it manually yourself. When climbing up ropes or ladders, you can use the back touch screen on the Vita and drag your fingers up or down in a climbing manner, allowing Drake to climb. When walking over logs or beams you will have to use the Gyro controls to balance Drake so he does not fall to he’s death.
During combat, you can use the Gyro controls to aim and shoot, but it was more useful for simple, minor movements as opposed to aiming in completely different directions. The main problem with is that the Gyro doesn’t work as well as it should. This may just be the game, but it was frustrating at times.
When in melee confrontations, you can tap the enemy (or use the buttons) to attack and during certain moments you will have to swipe in the appropriate direction. If you fail to do so in a timely manner, the enemy will get the better of you. These screen-swipes also occur during exploration. When opening a door, you swipe your finger in the direction to open the door. When cutting bamboo blockages, you swipe in multiple directions to direct Nathan’s machete through the bamboo. The use of the Vita’s different control mechanisms is incorporated quite well throughout the enitre adventure.
‘Follow the arrow with a swipe of the finger to lift Chase up onto the cliff’
During the story you will find yourself solving puzzles and doing small puzzle-like tasks. It is sometimes necessary to clean an item by rubbing the dirt off it via the touch screen. In order to turn the item around, you need to use the back touch pad. Also, there are charcoal rubbings, that simply require you to just swipe across the area of the screen. Some puzzles require you to fit pieces together to complete an image, by rotating small pieces and putting them into place. The only problem though is that most of these puzzles are far too easy.
There are many extra things to do during your adventure with Nathan Drake. Most of these are optional and aren’t required to finish the story. If you’re a perfectionist however, you’ll find that collecting every item, gem and photograph can be quite rewarding.
The photograph feature is a nifty little addition to the game. During the story you will find moments when the camera icon pops up. If you choose to, you can click it and try to match an example photo by using the games controls and back touch-pad to zoom in and out. There are many optional photos to take and it’s a nice addition to those who want to take full advantage of everything the game has to offer.
8.5 / 10
The game looks good, really good. The landscapes throughout the game are very realistic and the attention to detail is most definitely present. The characters all look great and they move and interact quite realistically. The voice work is extremely well done, as is the case with the Uncharted series, and Nolan North nails it yet again as Nathan Drake.
‘The visuals in Uncharted: Golden Abyss take full advantage of the PS Vita’s graphical power.’
There is one part in the game where the level assets are reused. The section in which you travel in the beginning of the game is travelled again in almost the exact same fasion. It’s not terribly bad, but it was noticeable. It gives you a feeling that you are doing the same thing over again, as the path of blocks which you traverse are placed in the exact same position as well.
On the downside of things, there was some weird animation with the eyes of the characters and it is noticable.
Uncharted: Golden Abyss is one of the best looking games out there, with graphics that creep close to what the Playstation 3 has to offer. Its rather exciting to think about the future of the Uncharted series for the PS Vita.
Music and Sound
7.5 / 10
When a soundtrack to a game fits perfectly, it makes the experience that much better. Uncharted: Golden Abyss does a fine job of fitting its music with the moments that are played out in the game and the story. There are however no real stand-out tracks and the soundtrack takes a bit of a back seat during the game, but when the music does have the spotlight on it, its done well. The composer, Clint Bajakian (who has also worked on Indiana Jones games in the past, which is very fitting), has done a really tremendous job with the musical score of Unchartered: Golden Abyss.
Where the game really excels sound-wise though is in its voice acting. Nolan North delivers some great acting yet again.
Why you should buy this game.
- One of the best PS Vita launch titles.
- Great voice acting.
- Playing previous Uncharted games is not a requirement. Story stands alone very well.
Why you shouldn't buy this game.
- Game is short, with about 7-8 hours of play, and not much to do, besides collecting some extra items, after the story is finished.
- If you simply can’t stand Touch/Gyro controls at all.
- Not as much of a compelling story as previous games in the series.
Overall - 7.5 / 10
Uncharted: Golden Abyss was released on the Playstation Vita on the 23rd of February 2012 (Australia).
Written by Michael Villalon for ‘The VG Island’.