"A Little Nathan Drake In Your Hands"
If there's an Uncharted fanboy around here, it would be me. I haven't felt this way about a game series since Final Fantasy in the mid-90s, so it's only natural that I approached Uncharted: Golden Abyss with great excitement. At the same time, I also knew that this was in no way part of the "holy trilogy" (Uncharted 1-3) and looked at it like I look at Star Wars Expanded Universe novels: official and licensed fan fiction. Either way, Uncharted: Golden Abyss sent a flurry of mixed feelings through me, and I knew I had to step back and look at it without Uncharted fanboy eyes to give it a fair review.
The story of Golden Abyss takes place before the first Uncharted. Drake and his buddy (a guy named Jason Dante) are out exploring for a set of mysterious ruins in the forests of Central America. As you progress, there will be other characters you meet (there will be a lady involved too, don't you worry), while twists and mysteries reveal themselves in typical Uncharted fashion. Unfortunately, the story of Golden Abyss never quite reaches amazing heights, but then again it's not completely dry or flat either. Just don't expect that rich tapestry you saw play out in Uncharted 2 or the well-delivered themes of Uncharted 3. Nolan North returns to voice Drake, and while his performance is good, the script and dialogue often falls flat. Additional voice work from the supporting cast of characters often sounds phoned in, but of course, they aren't working with the best crafted script, it seems. There won't be too much that makes you cringe though, and for most games, its above par. For fans, I think making Golden Abyss' story unfold as a pulp action-adventure side-story and not mixing in any serious changes to canon was a stellar choice as far as writing.
Overall, the gameplay in Uncharted: Golden Abyss is great. Using the Vita's two analog sticks sends chills down my spine (geeky, I know) when I'm out there controlling Nate in the jungles. The most heart-breaking part of it all, however, is using touch commands in the general platforming scenes. Jumping and leaping across vines or ropes becomes an annoying task, as I always seemed to forget how I was supposed to move my fingers. Maybe this is a personal problem, but these sort of tasks were a pain and not fun in any way, and they brought back log rolling elements too… go figure. Often, I reverted back to the glorious analog sticks. Fisticuffs fights also seem frustratingly rough and unfair with the touch commands, ending up mostly being wonky. Touch prompts pop up too, though not as often, luckily. These prompts come in the form of giant arrows which pop up, forcing you to come to a halt as you swipe the screen a few times to perform a certain action. It boggles the mind why these were even left in, as they are poorly executed and unnecessary. However, the touch screen shines during puzzles, as it is far more glorious to manipulate these puzzles with touch controls rather than sticks.
The biggest highlight in Golden Abyss is the battles. The explosions and gunfights we loved in the PS3 Uncharted games is brought over to the Vita flawlessly. With the touch screen, throwing grenades has turned from an annoying task into something easy and fun. Even more amazing is that the functionality between stick and touch controls is executed nicely here across the board. The coolest element implemented in the game (in my humble opinion) is the fact that you can aim your weapon with the right analog stick and then adjust your aim perfectly with the Vita's motion sensor. For a guy who has always had trouble sniping with analog sticks (I'm a big FPS PC gamer), it made the experience so much more fun. The map arenas where the battles take place are also filled with plenty of walls, cliff edges, and other elements which give you a great environment to gunfight in. As long as you're shooting, blowing something up, or fighting, Uncharted: Golden Abyss shines.
While graphics stand up pretty strong in Golden Abyss, you'll notice heavy framerate issues in some of those big explosive action scenes, as well as a couple of other framerate issues throughout. Fortunately, nothing here will ruin gameplay for you.
Uncharted: Golden Abyss is not short by any means either. With a fairly long campaign (over 10 hours) and plenty of treasures to collect along the way, there's plenty to do, but the lack of multiplayer will leave some feeling empty.
There is no way we could have expected Uncharted: Golden Abyss to reach Uncharted 2 or 3 levels, and that's okay. As a fan of Uncharted, I hope that they don't let the franchise run away and lose sight of itself, as Golden Abyss is the first step in the right direction. It's definitely a welcome addition to the Uncharted series, and I can only hope that any issues that cropped up this time around are fixed if they decide to create another game. No matter how you look at, especially for a portable game, Uncharted: Golden Abyss is an amazing release for a new system and will please Uncharted fanboys like myself, casual fans, and those new to the series.
GameDynamo's Score for Uncharted: Golden Abyss (PS Vita)
Three things describe Rando: Good beer, good food, and video games. On occasion, Rando flies a zeppelin through time seeking power crystals.
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