Drake’s back for yet another adventure. This fourth entry into the Uncharted series is a PlayStation VITA exclusive, but this time round Uncharted: Golden Abyss has not been written and developed by Naughty Dog, but by SCEE Bend Studio; with the development overseen by Naughty Dog.
The story is set some time before the events of Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune and this time round Nathan Drake has not been shacked up with his trusty partner Sully, but his old friend Jason Dante to uncover the secrets of a Central American jungle. Here we uncover the secret behind the 400-year-old massacre of a Spanish expedition as Nate follows the murderous trail of an ancient and secret Spanish section. Don’t let the fact that it has not been developed by Naughty Dog put you off though, this game is still pretty good, and because Naughty Dog were still there is the background to make sure their series is not destroyed, the game is still great fun and full of exactly what you would expect from an Uncharted game.
The gameplay is unique, the whole game has been given a makeover to make use of all the fancy controls that the PlayStation Vita has to offer. At first I was worried about this, being an old school gamer I like having the trusty analogue stick and D-Pad to move through a game’s environments. However, once I got past the small part of me that thinks games should not have, touch screen controls and tilting systems, I actually started to quite enjoy the use of the Vita’s new features. As you begin the game and have the usual introduction movie to build the solid and entertaining storyline, the first this you do is start to get used to the controls. The main movements involve using the two analogue stick and the buttons that make Drake jump and shoot etc. Pretty much the same as what we are used to on the PlayStation 3.
Where this game is different, however, is the fact that you can use the touch screen to draw your path when jumping between ledges, or use it to swipe at enemies in hand-to-hand combat. The touch screen is also used for extra new stuff like taking traces of old stone carvings which is done by using your finger to rub the screen. We also have the use of the gyroscopic tilt system. When you are climbing over a log for example, you have to make some fast adjustments to the angel your holding the Vita at to make sure you don’t plummet to your doom.
Bend Studios have actually managed really well to make use of the Vita’s features and combine them with the usual control system to make a thoroughly enjoyable control system. After a while I found myself enjoying them and starting to use them more and more. You still have the old school options, for example of using the ‘X’ button to jump between ledges, but I soon started enjoying the easy option of drawing my path.
The graphics in the game are really good, they look almost identical to what you would expect from its PS3 counterparts. Although there are moments where, if you look hard, you notice the jagged outline of the scenery, this really doesn’t bother you when you remember you’re playing Uncharted on a handheld. For many people, including me, this will be something of a dream come true, as the Uncharted series is in my top ten PlayStation games.
As normal, there are also shedloads of secret treasures to find in Golden Abyss. However, this time round the collectables are also split into what are call secrets. There are a huge number of secrets you need to find if you want to gain that all important Platinum Trophy. Each secret merges findings and areas you explore during your travels, and all have multiple treasures and clues that you must seek out to solve the mysteries. I found myself really hunting for these and while you certainly don’t need all of them to complete the game and you can still have huge fun without them, I am one of those people that like the hunt. One really enjoyable new feature of Golden Abyss, are the specific scenes you need to take a photograph of using Drake’s new camera. To take these photos, you use the Vita’s movement sensors and touch screen to look around the virtual world as if it’s in front of you and you need to zoom in and out to take that all important picture. It’s hard to explain fully all these new control features, the best way for you to understand them is definitely to have a go yourself.
To round things off, I loved this game. You will most likely hear some peoples’ opinions being surprisingly lukewarm for a new Uncharted, but I didn’t find this to be the case. If you’re a fan of the series, the same kind of epic gameplay it has made its name delivering is here in spades, and while Golden Abyss isn’t quite up to the same standard as its PS3 stablemates, if you come to it without those high expectations then this is an outstanding handheld experience. If you were to ignore all the collectable and just dash through the story, at seven to eight hours, it isn’t the longest game by any stretch, but the ride it takes you on is one that you’ll remember for a long time to come, and this makes Golden Abyss a game that’s well worth discovering for yourself.
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