One of the many reasons why I opted to buy Sony’s latest handheld console is because of the Uncharted game that was released with it. I am a big fan of the franchise, loving how Naughty Dog incorporates action, suspense, mystery, romance, adventure…and even at times thriller, into this flagship title of theirs.
The thing about the Uncharted franchise that makes it amazing–and this is my personal opinion after playing Drake’s Fortune, Among Thieves, Deception, and Golden Abyss–is that, it mixes history, legends, and myths and makes something out of it. Something that would pique your interest. It gives you a glimpse of what life would be like if you were someone like Nathan Drake. It spins the stories that we have heard (and even learned about) from history into something new, powered by the words: What if…
Golden Abyss, like its predecessors–albeit Bend Studios was the one who worked with this title–brings something new into the gameplay that all Uncharted fans have gotten used to, especially if said fans are Platinum Trophy hunters, too. GA (Golden Abyss) utilizes the many functions that makes the PlayStation Vita one of the most powerful handheld, if not the most powerful handheld, in the current generation of consoles, including the touch screen, the rear touch pad, the motion and gyro sensors.
The story of Golden Abyss starts off with Nathan Drake immediately inside a temple of sorts and works it way backwards, telling how Nate got in that temple and what the whole escapade is about before the story finally brings you to the point of where game started and continues from there–a typical Uncharted retelling, if you ask me. And, for those wondering, this is set prior to the events of Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune…which is why you won’t find Elena here or any indication that Nate knows her. You can tell that this happened before the first Uncharted game since Sully looks waaaay younger here.
The controls, although simple, is very intuitive. You have the option of using the touchscreen when picking up or exchanging ammunition and guns, jumping from ledge to ledge, grabbing a rope, or punching the living daylights out of your enemies…or you can use the buttons on the Vita to do those things. The same is true with the rear touch pad which you can use to climb up and down ropes.
Of course, the touchscreen and rear touch pad is also used for puzzles and uncovering clues from artifacts. There’s also that rubbing puzzle where you rub at the touchscreen in order for Nate to do a charcoal rubbing.
Aiming can be a little tricky if you’re not used to the movement of the motion and gyro sensors since, if your hands are shaky or if you’re breathing too hard (I don’t know if that happens to anyone, but it sure as heck doesn’t happen to me), aiming might be a little…jiggly and jumpy. Of course, you can use the right analog stick to aim as well, sometimes the sensors, however, is much faster.
Uncharted: Golden Abyss, also uses the back camera installed on the Vita…and it uses it in the most creative sort of way that you can, probably, think of. I won’t go spoiling how they used it but you will find out around Chapter 12 or so (if I remember correctly). I actually ran downstairs during said chapter just to show my mom (during my first playthrough) what it was and my dad (during my second playthrough) was also a victim of my over-zealousness with how they used the Vita’s camera in this game.
The only thing that they didn’t use is the Vita’s built-in microphone. Although, I’m not sure how they could have used it…maybe something like blowing into the microphone to blow off dust from artifacts? I don’t really know how they could have incorporated it.
Now, the story of Golden Abyss is pretty fast-paced–another typical thing about the franchise. It’s also interesting although, if you are a fan of the paranormal and are hoping for the same paranormal experience given by Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, you will not find anything of the sort here…since there are no zombie-ish monsters trying to keep you from getting the treasure.
The game’s soundtrack is also something to boast about. Like always, the music is superb and the soundtrack really goes well with the game. You will also be able to hear familiar tunes from the PS3 games that are also used in this game, which makes sense. The only gripe I have is that, sometimes, the voices have a lower volume than the background music…even when using headphones or putting the volume up on the console. I am not the only one who seems to think that way too and a couple of fans have voiced out that same problem hoping that a patch would be sent out to fix this little problem. Having said that, however, it doesn’t mean that your gaming experience would be less than stellar as you can still understand and hear what the characters are saying. Plus, if you have something akin to mini-speaker, it would not pose much of an annoyance to you either.
Now, the game graphics. There are a few people who are saying that the graphics of this game doesn’t compare to the graphics from the Uncharted PS3 games. Well, that’s a big Duh! The Vita may be powerful, but it is not as powerful as the PS3 console. Even though that is the case, Uncharted: Golden Abyss can boast about its superb graphics. Unless you are very meticulous, it would be hard to notice the little kinks in the graphics department of this game.
Another thing that most gamers search for in a game is replayability, and Golden Abyss has that, too. Of course, this won’t matter much unless you’re up to getting Platinum on this game since you need at least two playthroughs in order to Platinum it. It’s also a good idea to play it in Crushing difficulty (there are five difficulty levels, five of them give you a trophy each: Easy, Normal, Hard, and Crushing (the fifth is Very Easy and completing it under this difficulty does not award you with a trophy)) since the developers of the game added a little bit of an “Easter Egg” in it.
Although I may be singing a lot of praises for this game, there are a few small bugs that can be ironed out, maybe through a patch or for the next installment of the series in the handheld department.
For one, the Black Market–a feature that uses the PlayStation “Near” social experience to exchange/trade treasures that are dropped by the enemies–can be improved upon and should be greatly explained as it lacks explanation even when you try to find out about it using the game’s manual. You can’t choose which one you can give and you can’t choose which one you want to receive or are looking for either. You are simply asked to choose what category the treasure you are searching for is and then it’s all, apparently, just luck if you get the treasure you are looking for or if you get something else within that category.
Whether or not you lose a treasure after trading it, or if it stays there still, I have no idea. Although I’ve used the Black Market, I didn’t notice whether one of my treasures when bye-bye or not after a friend of mine told me he received a “gift” (aka “a trade) from me from that game.
A bit of an update on the Black Market feature: According to Mr. John Garvin from Bend Studios: “You don’t lose a bounty when you seek one on the Black Market, the game just copies one that you have for trade.” [/message]
Another is the movement. While controlling Nate, there are times when he becomes a little “jumpy”. An example would be when you’re standing on a ledge and you nudge Nate a bit, he would start jumping until you move him away from the ledge (and imminent character death). There are also times when his character model begins to shake when you push him too much into a wall, part of the collision, I suppose. It also seems weird at times watching Nate jumping as you try to reach ledges…sometimes.
Well, that’s it for now. Overall, Uncharted: Golden Abyss is one of the strongest games ever to come out for a handheld console. It’s new, fun, fast-paced, intriguing, and it would get you hooked not only in trying to finish the game but also in trying to Platinum the game (trying to get all the trophies for the game). If you’re trying to find a reason, a game worth playing, that would make you want to buy the Vita, look no further than Uncharted: Golden Abyss. Here’s to hoping that a next Uncharted game would come out for the Vita!
Dream on; Fly on!