Uncharted: Golden Abyss User Review
Sony Bend is lesser known studio that was responsible for bringing us some of the best gems on the PSP, such as the Siphon Filter entries Logan's Shadow and Dark Mirror, sporting cinematic and innovative gameplay and ad hoc and infrastructure mode online, as well. When the PSP was being vaunted as a PS2 in the palm of your hands, Sony Bend (besides maybe Nihilistic, Ready At Dawn, Studio Liverpool, and Kojima's Fox Team) were the ones who came closest to actualizing those bold claims.
So, how fitting is it that Sony Bend was brought to task along with the help of Naughty Dog to showcase the Vita with Uncharted at Launch? Big shoes to fill? Yes. How'd they do? Remarkably well.
Of course, the first question in everyone's mind is how the game looks. In one word: stunning. Sony Bend came closer to the ps3 on the Vita in their first attempt than they ever did to the ps2 on the psp. While, I wouldn't exactly say as many others that it is on par with Uncharted:DF on the ps3, I don't blame others for thinking so, because it does look darn good, where the lack of anti aliasing simply isn't apparent on the 5" screen, yet the vibrant colors and textures do, and surely offers the very best that palm top/handheld gaming has to offer. Textures, colors, lighting, shadows, seamless animation all make you want to pinch yourself just to check if you're just dreaming that this is all happening on a hand-held. Even doing the admittedly mundane minigames of charcoal rubbings (rubbing the screen with your finger) and snapping pictures never got boring to me, because they constantly remind me how much beauty is delivered on the Vita's delicious screen. There has been some criticism about the lack of variety of locales, as the game takes place entirely in the jungle, but again, such was true of the first Uncharted. And between going on Mountain tops, with breath taking sky line views, or in the depth of the jungle, or under ground, in rivers, and in caves, there is plenty of variety.
Speaking of these minigames, along with the jigsaw puzzles, and the traditional treasure hunting, they unlock trophies and mysteries to be solved. Treasures can be traded online via the black market that interfaces with the Near app that finds others near by who've also played/are playing the game.
Touch controls are demo'ed liberally, in rope climbing, ledge traversal, platforming canoeing, mallet combat, and swinging the machete to open up areas. The back touch pad also offers alternative controls in some situations (like rope climbing, and zooming in/out during photo-shooting or sniping). Motion controls can be used for aiming, which are surprisingly accurate, and must be used for steadying oneself when crossing logs, planks, and other narrow passages. All of the controls are intuitive, and responsive, though obviously shoe-in, with the exception of the platforming and pole/ledge traversal, which allows you to swipe in the general direction you wish to go rather than monotonously holding down the direction pad and button presses. I did notice the two QTE boss combat sequences were the only sections that were really frustrating. Playing on hard, you are given two strikes, or chances, for failing at the screen swipes, after which you die in the duel. Hitting pause, and restarting from the checkpoint saves you from having to watch the varied albeit lengthy death sequences. I figured out laying the Vita flat on my bed or table, then using one finger to quickly and generously (better longer than shorter) swipe with constant speed in the directions indicated in the QTE, gives the best results. However, this is rather difficult to do on the subway, or on the go, which kinda defeats the purpose. But, since there are only two of these extended sequences, the rest of the game is quite playable on the go, so you can get them out of your way at home.
Regarding the rest of the production, such as the story, the characters, the music, it all feels authentically Uncharted. People knock points from this game when comparing it to it's console counterparts, which is very telling of one thing in particular. This game gets judged as a full blown 20 Gig plus bluray console game, not a 3.5 Gig hand held one. Simply put, you forget you're playing a portable game. To me, that means Sony Bend has been successful. They were successful in delivering console experience to the hand held, and one of gaming's best console experiences at that. The lack of competitive online or coop is a peculiar omission, considering that they offered it in their PSP Siphon Filter games IIRC, and the analog aiming controls did take some getting use to with the smaller analog sticks for me since I was playing on Hard, which disables the auto-lock on. But, really, if you're looking to get a launch title to show off your PS Vita AND to enjoy, Uncharted:Golden Abyss should be a the top of any Vita owner's list. It's Uncharted, but portable, and for 35.99-39.99, it's a must buy. Congrats and thanks to Sony Bend, Naught Dog, and Sony. Uncharted:Golden Abyss is mind-blowing, and even better, a sign of things to come. Everyone knew the Vita has promise, but Sony Bend delivered on that promise with this one.
This user review does not reflect the views of the PSX Extreme Staff.