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Review: Uncharted Golden Abyss (Vita)

Earlier this week I reached the climax of Golden Abyss, the Uncharted series’ debut on the Vita. From my first impressions the game seemed fantastic and without a doubt the Vita’s strongest launch game. However, after finishing it I feel this testament is actually false.

Don’t get me wrong the game is fantastic but not as good as I had hoped. For one it is wonderful in terms of visual presentation. Textures look detailed and life like and each environment looks crisp, and will leave you speechless. However, little flaws such as bland character faces detract from the great experience.

Gameplay is solid; the third person shooting is a joy to play. It takes a while to get used to due to the smaller analogue sticks but once you are familiar with them it feels fluid and smooth. The hit recognition is a little off. Some bullets completely miss targets even though the reticule is firmly hovering over them. As mentioned in my first impressions the reticule is always moving with what I presume is Nate’s breathing. This, like the small analogue sticks, takes a while getting used to. Afterwards, you won’t even notice it though. However, aiming of sniper rifles is still frustrating. The zoom gauge is continuously moving in and out, due to stupid touch and motion controls. This is really hard to get used to.

Platfroming works great. Its fluid, like the PS3 titles, and is very responsive. The ability to use the touch screen to climb may be a pointless addition. However, for me it works nicely and makes it easier for me to scale walls or reach difficult handholds which I may not trust myself with. There are minor flaws though. The climbing requires you to reach the final handhold at the bottom of a wall before you can drop to the ground. Meaning once you have reached a safe height to drop down from you still have to scale down a few more handholds before you can reach the ground. As tedious as it sounds it does become annoying fast. In some sections you are required to quickly swipe your finger upwards on the Vita screen to stop Nate from falling. Sounds easy but is remarkably hard. Many times have I swiped the screen and witnessed the Vita telling me I have done it wrong and let Nate fall to his death. This little swipe every now and then is not needed and should have been removed from the game in my opinion.

Touch controls are heavily used it Golden Abyss which has its pros and cons. The previously mentioned swipe in climbing sections is certainly a bad side of touch controls. However, touch screen features comes into great use with the archaeological side to Uncharted. The Vita screen allows you to clean artefacts, complete charcoal rubbings and solve puzzles. At first these features are innovative and offer something new, but after a while they become monotonous and annoying.

Another feature, not directly including the touch screen, was the ability to use light as a way of revealing a message on an old parchment. This was something I have never seen before and I was quietly excited by it. That was until I found out that the light where I was playing the Vita was too dim to reveal all the parchment. I know it is meant to be portable gaming, but searching your house for the strongest source of light isn’t my take on portable gaming. I must add that it was a cloudy and rainy day so natural light was also not strong enough. After I found a suitable light source the message was revealed.

I gave a brief overview of the story in my first impressions article. Since writing that article the story has changed very little. The new advancement in the story is the return on Sully back into the game, which is welcoming. The scripting then becomes witty and comical and it becomes a joy to play. However, towards the end of the game it feels like the levels have been dragged out to add more play time. The story could have been wrapped up maybe an hour or two earlier. When you do reach the climax though it is a fantastic feeling and it is ended very well and in typical Uncharted style.

After you have completed the story there isn’t much of an incentive to even keep Golden Abyss. If trophy collecting is your thing then you can replay for bounties, mysteries and treasures. If you are not into that then sadly multiplayer has yet to be integrated into the game but is a possibility in the near future.

The only online feature available is the Black Market which allows you to trade bounties with friends and other Uncharted players via the Near app. As simple as it sounds this is actually the most complex process that I have ever encountered in gaming. I have only managed to figure out how to use the system today ( I will be posting a guide of how to use it in the very near future). It would have worked very well if the Black Market feature was easy to use. This is something Bend can work on.

Overall Golden Abyss is certainly a great game and a must have for Vita owners. Bend Studios have done a wonderful job with the game. Sadly, it doesn’t feel polished. The aiming needs work and up close facial presentation and animations could be better. Some of the touch controls are pointless and frustrating, and I think they should also be optional. In addition the Black Market should also be much simpler to use.

Game Rate: 9/10