Uncharted: Golden Abyss

Uncharted: Golden Abyss Review for PS Vita

On: PS Vita

The prequel to Sony's exclusive action game Uncharted, developed by Bend Studio, overseen by Naughty Dog.

Review verdict Read Review
7Out of 10
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Uncharted: Golden Abyss screenshot
Uncharted: Golden Abyss screenshot

Studio Bend has also gone to considerable effort to pad out the periphery of the Uncharted formula, with Drake's journal transforming from a gentle hints repository for some of the game's puzzles into a fully-fledged almanac of baubles, backstory and trinkets. Alongside a returning bevy of shiny treasures to find - now bucketed into various categories - there is also an abundance of turquoise to gather; so much so that even Nolan North sounds wearied when reading his various lines for picking up lumps of the stuff.

Drake even finds himself taking on the role of an exotic tourist, using an in-game camera to snap a few Kodak moments in choice spots. Then there's the Black Market metagame, which allows you to use Near to trade and exchange items with friends, building up a catalogue of tarot cards, Spanish gold and a general cache of shiny gubbins. Whether you'll actually want to is another question, as the density of collectibles in Uncharted: Golden Abyss is overwhelming to a fault.

These myriad collectibles are designed to flesh out the game's backstory, yet Golden Abyss is often at its worst when attempting to school the player with its overwrought mix of tawdry exposition and pointless chatter. While the script has touching character moments, much of the tale lacks the punch of Drake's previous efforts, and the game's signature villain lacks the psychotic menace of Lazarevic or the sinister edge of Marlowe.

The underwhelming narrative is a real shame, as without the budget, supporting cast or the raw processing power, Studio Bend's gambit should have been on intelligent writing and canny storytelling, two areas unhindered by memory and technical specifications. While Drake is still one of gaming's most likable characters, with more personality in his half-tucked shirt than the entirety of most action games, the rest of Golden Abyss' half-realised world is depressingly forgettable.

The mistake, then, was for Studio Bend to blindly chase Naughty Dog's focus on technical whizz-bang from an inferior position, a situation that would be like a handcuffed Michael Cera attempting to go ten rounds with Wladimir Klitschko. Even at its best, Golden Abyss is considerably behind the strong character work gained from Uncharted 2's Tibetan mountains or the lavish visual feast of Uncharted 3's capsizing ship sequence.

Yet Uncharted: Golden Abyss is a fine ambassador for the PlayStation Vita's impressive capabilities, and Studio Bend's heavy focus on coating its brief adventure with details and variety means there's plenty to see and do in this pint-sized adventure. This is an enjoyable game, and Studio Bend has proved itself capable of competently shepherding Sony's trusted franchises, but its limited spectacle and lacking script also make it the worst entry in the Uncharted series since the original Drake's Fortune.

Version Tested: PlayStation Vita

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8 Comments

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pblive's Avatar

pblive@ squidman

Interesting to know. I may well pick this up on release by the sound of it, 7 is good enough for me. Just depends on the deals in Gamestation now, and I still don't know what they'll be.
Posted 10:10 on 15 February 2012
squidman's Avatar

squidman@ pblive

Most of my problems with Golden Abyss are ones of character and script, so I would have given it a 7 on PS3 too, basically.
Posted 09:35 on 15 February 2012
EverTheOptimist's Avatar

EverTheOptimist

Fair enough Martin, I see where you're coming from. In a way it's more disappointing when something shows potential and doesn't quite make it. At least if it falls flat on its face you can discount it from the series!
Posted 09:21 on 15 February 2012
pblive's Avatar

pblive

I'm wondering if the fact that this version is on a handheld makes it better than if the same game was available on PS3. So, in other words, it would score less on PS3 because more would be expected of it, or is the balance the same between reviewing a handheld game and a console game?
Posted 09:17 on 15 February 2012
squidman's Avatar

squidman@ EverTheOptimist

I can see that. If I'm a bit harsh it's only because I love Uncharted 2 *so much* and Uncharted 3 is also pretty good. Golden Abyss is perfectly well made but I find it hard to not feel disappointed. As in, it's good but disappointing. I always find that kind of sentiment a bit hard to deal with.
Posted 09:09 on 15 February 2012
EverTheOptimist's Avatar

EverTheOptimist

Can I add that the summary (above) for this review seems a little harsh considering it is a 7/10 score? It might be the truth but I expected the score to be 5/10 before I clicked through. Just saying.
Posted 07:41 on 15 February 2012
EverTheOptimist's Avatar

EverTheOptimist

It sounds like Uncharted Lite, but it must have been such a difficult task for this to square up to the other entries in the series all things considered. Fair play to Studio Bend.
Posted 07:37 on 15 February 2012
thedanyrand's Avatar

thedanyrand

Sounds pretty much like what I was expecting. Still will check it out once I get a Vita but I think it was expected that the launch games might reach to far, esp with a handheld version of one of the flagship PS3 titles. Also extra points for a boxing reference, its the little touches that make this site the best.
Posted 20:53 on 13 February 2012

Game Stats

Uncharted: Golden Abyss
7
Out of 10
Uncharted: Golden Abyss
  • Impressive handheld game
  • Drake is still charming
  • Too many collectibles
  • Weak script
Agree? Disagree? Get Involved!
Release Date: 22/02/2012
Platform: PS Vita
Developer: Bend Studio
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Genre: Action
No. Players: One
Rating: PEGI 16+
Site Rank: 1,600 26
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