Nathan returns and starts looking for treasure in your hand.
Uncharted: Golden Abyss, developed by Sony Bend Studio, follows Nathan Drake as he takes the trail of a 400 year old mystery through Central America with his newly found side-kick Marissa Chase.
Nathan has been hired by an old acquaintance to explore and uncover the mystery behind some ruins in the Central American Jungle. The journey takes him and Marissa on a cliff hanging adventure filled with plenty of plot twists and turns along the way. Never hard done by and with enough humor to keep you entertained early on in the game, he negotiates his way through the PS Vita version with ease using the new PS Vita control system.
If you’re a fan of the Naughty Dog franchise, its easy to see that the PS Vita version looks absolutely impeccable from the moment you start the game up, impressively showing off the capabilities of the new handheld. The game begins by getting you used to the PS Vita controls fairly quickly, enabling you to feel at ease moving Nathan through his adventure. Most of the platforming is quite linear with a selections of walls to climb, which occasionally crumble beneath you, combined with some often foolhardy leaps between different environments. The game flows at a nice pace and you never feel too rushed to learn anything without a full explanation.
Climbing involves using the left analogue stick and pressing X to jump, or the player can simply stroke the PS Vita’s front touchscreen. A silver light reflects where you must touch the PS vita screen to carefully guide Nathan up and across various perils that get in his way. The tutorial recommends you highlight each section and take that given path. I used both control methods, but found touching the screen more useful when aiming for precision jumps across rocks or guiding Nathan over a hanging bridge. For the most part, I used the basic analogue sticks to move Nathan around each section, as this felt more familiar to me.
Nathan will be spending an unusual amount of time hanging from ropes during the course of his adventure. Ropes are usually highlighted and by tilting the PS vita back and forth you can swing the rope and then hit X to jump off, or if you prefer you can simply tap on the front touchscreen and he will make a death-defying leap. You can move up and down the rope with either the left analogue stick or the rear touchscreen.
The game is littered with puzzles and tasks that will require more input from the player. These range from simple tasks such as charcoal rubbings, which requires you to stroke your finger back and forth across the front touch screen until you’ve uncovered the full picture, to the more complex which may require you to move around and piece together torn pieces of paper using the front touchscreen to reveal maps and such. Whether it be examining an artifact using both the front and rear touchscreen, or trying your hand at a bit of safe-cracking, each task uses the PS Vita functions in a solid way, making you feel completely immersed in the game.
Other examples of the PS Vita functions include you pulling out your bamboo knife and using on screen stroke motions to cutaway overhanging branches and vines to hidden areas which may contain much needed weapons and artifacts. Nathan doesn’t always have time to get his trusty AK47 out to gun down every villain he comes across, in which case close combat is called for. Melee usually begins with a fist icon that appears on the front touch screen, which is then usually followed by a series of screen prompted swipes. Whilst this felt like it gave the game a different feel during close combat fights, I didn’t always find the PS Vita touch screen as responsive as I had hoped for and inevitably found poor Nathan Drake passed out on the ground or clumsily trying to get away. The fighting often resulted in a slowed down sequence, I’m guessing so you can perform the action in the required time, but sometimes the swipes were simply unrecognised by the PS Vita.
There is a heavy emphasis on gunfights in Uncharted: Golden Abyss, with the player quite often finding themselves stuck in the middle. I must admit that I was a little put off by this to begin with, being that I have always prefered the action sequences of Drake’s adventures to the gun-play, but the overall experience is well-balanced. There is a decent sized collection of weapons that become available quite early on in the game, from rifles and pistols to the odd grenade to fling at the nearest villain. In general, using a gun works quite well, with the sniper rifle being a particular highlight as you can use the rear touchscreen to zoom in on your target. However, with a smaller screen and a sensitive analogue stick, sometimes it can be quite tricky to get the targeting reticule to actually rest on an enemy, especially if they are moving.
Grenades can be used by simply touching the front screen, at which point a white arrow will indicate the distance it can be thrown. Grenades are quite handy when some heavy handed enemies appear or if you feel outnumbered. There is always the sneaky approach to conflict, which involves quietly approaching the enemy from behind and using the square button to grab their neck and take them down.
As Nathan explores the ruins and deep jungles of Central America, he will come across his fair share of collectibles. These can be found glistening in the distance or tempting you from hard to reach areas, forcing Nathan to take risks if he wants to unlock everything the game has to offer. During your exploration there will be the opportunity to take photographs of certain locations using Nathan’s camera. Each photo will require the player to zoom to a pre-determined amount for the perfect photo, which is accomplished using the rear touchscreen. As always, Nathan carries with him a journal which tracks his adventure whilst also offering helpful hints when the player needs them.
Overall, Uncharted: Golden Abyss is a thoroughly engaging action adventure that makes interesting use of the PS Vita’s varied control functions, albeit with a few teething problems. The gameplay is solid and thrilling throughout Nathan’s perilous encounters, and the well balanced storyline will keep you captivated and on the edge of your seat. The game looks absolutely stunning and is very easy to become completely immersed in. Uncharted: Golden Abyss ticks every box that fans of the franchise would expect and serves as a perfect example of what Sony’s new handheld is capable of, making it an essential purchase for all Vita owners.