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Uncharted: Golden Abyss
Scheduled release date: TBA
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Welcome to our first game preview for the PlayStation Vita. Obviously, you’ll see a lot more for Sony’s new portable in the near future.

If there’s one game that will help sell the PlayStation Vita right out of the gate, it’s Uncharted: Golden Abyss. Although they don’t technically call it a prequel, this adventure takes place before the first title in the franchise, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, which released on the PlayStation 3 in 2007. In this gorgeous Vita iteration, we will “uncover the dark secret behind the 400-year-old massacre of a Spanish expedition.” Other characters are Jason Dante (an old friend and current rival) and Marisa Chase (the granddaughter of an archaeologist who mysteriously disappeared).

We’ll travel to Central America in search of a legendary lost city and in the process, we’ll play through some truly breathtaking environments. Many of the lush jungle landscapes remind us a lot of Drake’s Fortune and amazingly enough, Golden Abyss really doesn’t look that much different. It’s pretty incredible. All the footage we’ve seen of this game in action is absolutely mind-blowing; this is a handheld production, and the richness and detail more closely rivals the PS3 than the PSP. And we’ve learned of some eye-opening numbers, too: first, developer Sony Bend has implemented over 3,000 animations and advanced visual technology.

Secondly, creative director John Garvin made an interesting comparison to the relatively accomplished Resistance: Retribution for the PSP. The latter included 50,000 polygons per frame while Golden Abyss features 260,000; Retribution had 10 megs worth of textures, while the portable Uncharted as 160 megs. That’s a lot of beauty to jam onto a 5-inch screen, don’t you think? Also, let’s not forget the gameplay that doesn’t force you to play one particular way. There are two control options:

You can either use the dual analog sticks, which are the most accessible and familiar, or you can utilize the touch-screen functions. The coolest part is that you don’t have to commit to one throughout the entire adventure and better still, you can switch between them on the fly. So if you want to climb along a wall with the intuitive touch-screen control and then switch to the traditional dual analog approach when in a firefight, you can do that. There will be no interruption of the action. This alone is enough to intrigue the open-minded gamer who plans to experiment with the Vita.

There’s no doubt that Uncharted: Golden Abyss will be the system-selling game for the Vita’s launch. That should be some time in the first quarter of 2012 for Western regions; the Japanese release date is set for December 17. We can’t wait to try another fantastic installment in the generation’s most impressive franchise, and we’re even more excited to try the first “killer app” for Sony’s new handheld.

9/19/2011   Ben Dutka