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

I wouldn't blame anyone for approaching Uncharted: Golden Abyss (the second new Uncharted game in three months) with a touch of resistance, but fears of this handheld adventure being a straight-to-DVD sequel in comparison with the series' PlayStation 3 blockbusters can be put to rest.

But it's not all good news, as developer Bend Studio's writers and directors can't go pound-for-pound with Naughty Dog's finest in this prequel title, and its treatment of Nathan Drake and his new (old) chums is a fragile emulation of the series' former highs. In walking the hallowed jungles and mud paths of one of Sony's most cherished franchises, the studio most famous for the characterless but mechanically sound Syphon Filter series ensure a cosy, safe but sadly unambitious stewardship for Drake's first portable outing.

This is a tale designed by committee and checklist, and so Uncharted: Golden Abyss finds itself in a handful of exotic Central American locales (check), matches Drake with a new smart-talking love interest to banter with and rescue from peril (check). Then there's a touch of double-crossing, a nefarious warlord after an ancient city of gold, and about 6-8 hours of the series' well-worn formula of action, traversal and some very gentle puzzling (check check check).

So far, so Uncharted. For a series that trades almost entirely in big-budget spectacle, Golden Abyss' downsizing remains impressive, even if it cannot compete with the more elaborate set-pieces of Uncharted 2 and 3. Drake gets to shoot, shimmy and dangle his way across some suitably exotic rainforests and mountain ranges, and the game makes good use of rocky chasms and burning buildings. Your world still crumbles in Golden Abyss, then, but in smaller pieces and much less often. Framerate is occasionally sacrificed to benefit the game's impressive fidelity, too, and in spots the system simply cannot keep up with the more hectic firefights.

As Sony's jewel of the PlayStation Vita launch line-up, Bend Studio has used the system's various doohickies and wotsits (perhaps under duress from suited executives) to crowbar in a variety of touch and gyro features. You'll be tapping to pick up treasure and weapons, swiping to clear dense overgrowth with a machete, and rubbing the screen to clean dirty objects. The latter would be the most unnecessary and unwanted addition to Golden Abyss were it not for the maddening abundance of puzzles requiring you to reassemble torn documents by spinning and placing them on a grid, a drab exercise that makes you wish the villains had just made use of a paper shredder.

Even the more fundamental parts of the game can be played with the Vita's new input methods, allowing you to climb by drawing a line across the screen, engage in melee combat, or aim with the gyro rather than the right stick. Traditional methods of control still exist - the Vita's second analogue stick is one of its biggest back-of-the-box selling points, after all - meaning those used to playing with two circular blobs and a few buttons will be right at home, but the ease and accuracy of readjusting a sniper crosshair with tactile movement should silence even the most vocal sceptics of motion controls.

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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: 1,718 118
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