The Uncharted franchise is one of the most successful games for Sony’s PlayStation 3, and with a good number of titles sold between the first Uncharted and Uncharted 3, it came as no surprise to see a release for PlayStation’s Vita handheld console.
The release of Uncharted: Golden Abyss marked the first portable version of the franchise and also served as a launch release for the Vita. The game takes place sometime before the events of Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune (the first game), and serves to broaden the scope and depth of the entire franchise. It has to be noted that it is not entirely necessary to have played the previous titles to understand the Golden Abyss’ dynamic.
In the beginning of the title, players find protagonist Nathan Drake in Central America, fighting off henchmen of Jason Dante, who has been ordered to kill Drake at all cost. After a couple of minutes, Drake appears to have been killed, and players are presented of a flashback from two weeks before the fateful events – which serves as the start of the greater plot.
Being played on the Vita, players will have to get used to dealing with the constant action on a fairly smaller screen that what they are usually used to. After a while, the action will seem to flow naturally as players adjust, making movement and enemy elimination easier.
In terms of controls, players will use a similar button configuration on the Vita as what is used on a PlayStation 3 controller for the console version. Probably the main difference is that players will be able to use the back touch panel and will on the odd occasion be required to swipe across the touchscreen.
Thankfully the game does provide on-screen help and a short tutorial before delving into the gun fights, but if players do not remember the button combinations, a help system will provide the necessary resources.
Another difference is that gamers will be able to draw out a path for Nathan when climbing or walking on a narrow ledge. Instead of continuously pressing the buttons in the right direction to make Nathan climb, players can simply trace the path he should follow on the touch screen, and Nathan will do the rest – without any other interaction required.
Puzzles were a large part of the PS3 versions, and the Golden Abyss is no different. The title is packed with all kinds of riddles, treasures and puzzle – most of which the player will have to solve. The most frequent puzzles come in the form of reconstructing maps or cleaning objects by means of continuously swiping across the screen to reveal the necessary information.
In terms of graphics, the visuals are very appealing for a game on a handheld console. To put it in perspective, the graphics are almost identical to those on the PlayStation, but only on a smaller scale. They are packed with incredible detail and the visible textures successfully convey the feeling of being in a jungle.
The same can be said for the sound, which is just superb. While it might not be as apparent when using the default speakers, the sounds will give players a 360 degree audio description of their surroundings. Using a standard 3.5mm headphone, gamers will hear birds in the distance, little animals and all sorts of noises that go with a jungle in Central America.
Uncharted: Golden Abyss is definitely one of the most engaging Vita games on the market at the moment and is just packed with loads of action. The game can be a little heavy with the touchscreen interactions, but makes up for it in pure action and puzzle solving. It is a great investment for any Uncharted fan.
Our score: 9/10
Charlie Fripp – Consumer Tech editor