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Uncharted: Golden Abyss Review

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Replay Value:



Overall Rating:       8.9



Online Gameplay:

Not Rated




Bend Studio, Naughty Dog

Number Of Players:




The PlayStation Vita is one capable little machine and perhaps the best example of its power is Sony Bend’s Uncharted: Golden Abyss. The franchise already put the PS3’s considerable talents on display and the latest iteration is designed to make handheld gamers go, “…damn, portable stuff has come a long way.” Featuring unbelievable visuals and a gameplay mechanic that is undeniably Uncharted, this one overcomes a few minor drawbacks and becomes a satisfying, beautiful adventure.

You’ve probably seen quite a few screenshots and videos of the game, but as is the case with most Vita games I’ve tested thus far, you have to play it to believe it. I won’t say Golden Abyss is on the same level as last year’s Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception, but it’s on par with the first Uncharted, which launched on the PS3 in 2007. The detail is great, the clarity and “shininess” of the environment is amazing, the effects are awesome, and just about everything in the environment is a pleasure to behold. It's gorgeous from the start.

This series has thrived on top-notch professional voice acting, wonderfully created and implemented music, and authentic audio effects that enhance our immersion. I sense a slight scaling back in this Vita installment when directly compared to its console counterparts, but I have to emphasize the word “slight.” In other words, not all the acting is quite as honed (or so it seems to me), not all the music has this epic, memorable flavor, and maybe a minor effect sounds tinny. But again, these are small shortcomings and the overall sound production is impressive.

You’ll start your new quest with a brief prologue, which acts like a tutorial. It will show you how to use the touchscreen for platforming and melee action, which may sound awkward to fans of the franchise. But in truth, it’s highly intuitive and extremely fluid. This is because you can choose to use the dual analog sticks or the touchscreen at any given time; so feel free to climb half the wall with the analog and the second half by “touching.” Pointing to a ledge will cause Drake to leap and hang, and dragging your finger across hand-holds will allow him to move on the designated path.

When it comes to melee or stealth action, a fist will appear on the enemy, and you just touch that fist to execute an attack. Counters are handled with a clever yet equally straightforward touch mechanic: an arrow will appear on the screen, and you simply trace the arrow with your finger so Drake can perform the counter move. You can also pick up weapons and items by touching them on the screen, and tapping the gun icon in the upper left-hand corner lets Drake reload. All of this works very well.

The best part, though, is that this is definitely an Uncharted adventure. You’ve got that stellar mix of platforming, action and puzzle-solving, mixed in with a decent story, likeable characters, and quick, realistic dialogue. However, as I mentioned above, some of this often feels a touch watered down for the sake of the new portable platform. It’s just not quite as mind-bogglingly great as one might expect, given this franchise’s unparalleled reputation. Plus, it’s a little on the short side (about 7 hours in length).

Also, I should add that using the analogs for the gunplay takes a little getting used to. They’re a good deal smaller than the sticks on the Dual Shock controller, for one thing, and they’re very sensitive. But it didn’t take long and thankfully, the mindless foes don’t often provide a hefty challenge. They can still throw countless grenades with irritating accuracy but then again, that’s an ongoing issue in the series, anyway. And again, it’s minor. For the most part, the gameplay is excellent and continually entertaining, as one should expect.

The combination of the front and rear touchscreen controls and the standard stick/button controls is appealing and never feels restrictive. They even took advantage of the portable’s tilt feature; instead of leaning in a certain direction while hanging on a ledge, you can just tilt the Vita in the desired direction. And pulling your fingers away from the traditional buttons to deal with any touchscreen commands doesn’t feel awkward and doesn’t hinder the flow of the action. You’ll also enjoy the fact that exploration is an actual option, as there's treasure to find...

Uncharted has always been a linear experience and Golden Abyss certainly qualifies as “linear,” but the developers have implemented branching pathways and hidden goodies. This offers a nice contrast to the action and platforming, especially after eliminating a few waves of enemies. The puzzles feel a little watered down (Drake’s journal has been downgraded to keeping track of your progress, for instance), and yes, there were a few times when the screen didn’t recognize my finger. But I want to stress that this was rare.

You sometimes feel as if Sony Bend could’ve incorporated a few different vistas and landscapes, and there’s some serious droning when it comes to the historical elements of the storyline, but this doesn’t detract from the overall experience. It’s positive across the board, with only the slightest hint that a few small sacrifices were made. At its core, this game is tons of fun to play and is undeniably the best action/adventure title for the Vita at its launch…and perhaps the best action/adventure game handhelds have ever seen. Or is that going too far?

Uncharted: Golden Abyss presses all the right buttons and is almost guaranteed to satisfy the loyal fans. It looks fantastic, the franchise trademarks are here (most all of which are of a super high quality), and the blend of high-tech touchscreen and traditional controls is a triumph for the next generation of portable entertainment. You’ll spot a few of the aforementioned sacrifices but they’re not likely to ruin your fun. If you’re picking up the Vita this week, Golden Abyss should absolutely be on your “games to buy” list.

The Good: Fantastic graphical presentation. Great audio. Touchscreen and tilt features blend nicely with traditional controls. Top-notch gameplay execution and variety. A touch of exploration is appreciated. Patented Uncharted flair and panache is evident.

The Bad: History lessons can get a little tedious. Puzzles feel watered down. Overall, a general sense that minor sacrifices (regarding story and action) had to be made.

The Ugly: “Uncharted has never been ugly for one second.”

2/20/2012 Ben Dutka

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New Comment System

Legacy Comment System (23 posts)

Monday, February 20, 2012 @ 9:32:19 PM

I own this game and haven't even touched it yet. Hot Shots has sucked me in and I can't stop playing! Haha.

Agree with this comment 2 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Monday, February 20, 2012 @ 11:15:43 PM

Hot Shot was one of the first games that got me playing on the ps3 back in the day!

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Monday, February 20, 2012 @ 9:38:44 PM

Damn!! This and Rayman Origins make me want a Vita so bad right now!!!

With every review and presentation and video I see about the Vita, the more I want it!!

The usual 1 year wait for new hardware is going to be excruciating this year!!! This is going to be a serious test of my will power.

Agree with this comment 2 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Tuesday, February 21, 2012 @ 5:52:00 PM

only one year?? I waited 3 years for my PS3!

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Monday, February 20, 2012 @ 9:58:16 PM

This is game will be mine. I've already have Wipeout 2048 purchased from Newegg at 29.99. Heads up to all, Target has a deal where you buy 2 Vita games, get one free. I'll be getting Uncharted, Ninja Gaiden, and Rayman.

Agree with this comment 3 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Monday, February 20, 2012 @ 10:06:18 PM

I've had this game since last wednesday, one more day til the vita launches.

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Monday, February 20, 2012 @ 10:34:39 PM

LOL gamespot gave this a 7/10.

I don't understand them and IGN sometimes.

Agree with this comment 4 up, 1 down Disagree with this comment

Monday, February 20, 2012 @ 11:21:45 PM

IGN are haters.

Agree with this comment 5 up, 3 down Disagree with this comment

Tuesday, February 21, 2012 @ 12:42:55 AM

Ign gave it an 8.5. As far as gamespot goes they compared it too much to it's predecessors but the bad thing about it is that the original as good as it was when it released hasn't aged to well. I can say that this game is definitely better than the original. I've enjoyed it a heck of a whole lot better than the original but not better than its sequels.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012 @ 1:03:10 AM

I actually enjoyed the Original Uncharted more than all of them. It's my favorite game. I really wish I had a Vita just to play this game, but I just don't play on handhelds.

Agree with this comment 3 up, 1 down Disagree with this comment

Tuesday, February 21, 2012 @ 1:09:50 AM

IGN are haters because they didn't give this game the same score as the others? Neither did Ben. Is he a hater? Maybe this installment just isn't as good as the others. I mean IGN gave Uncharted 1 a 9.1, Uncharted 2 a 9.5 and Uncharted 3 a perfect 10. So Golden Abyss didn't do live up to the other ones. So what? Doesn't make IGN haters. They are a flawed site for a lot of reasons but this is not one of them.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012 @ 8:18:50 AM

To say that the IGN reviews are written by haters is just plain nonsense and irrational in every way. Usually IGN is within +/-2% of the meta score on any given review. That's two-three percent - it's nothing.
And in my experience, when they are further off the meta score it's usually on the positive side.

Last edited by Beamboom on 2/21/2012 8:20:50 AM

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012 @ 1:05:01 AM

After playing Skyward Sword I feel like most if not all PS3 games that involve puzzles are watered down(the ones I have played anyway, minus Portal 2). I mean the puzzles in Skyward Sword aren't exactly hard but they are way more intricate and better thought out. There are a lot more of them as well.

Last edited by Jawknee on 2/21/2012 1:11:20 AM

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012 @ 7:56:28 AM

True but at the same time there are so many of them I find it tedious at some point. Get tired of it and have to take a skyward break.

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Tuesday, February 21, 2012 @ 9:22:02 AM

Catherine and a few other hardcore puzzlers on PS3 have plenty complex puzzles.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012 @ 12:21:03 PM

Hmm, l'll have to give Catherine another try at some point.

Neo, not sure what you expected from Skyward Sword. Zelda games since their inception have relied heavily on puzzles. Since when did having lot of puzzles in games become an issues with gamers? Games this gen are too mindless and twitchy. Skyward Sword was a breath of fresh air.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012 @ 2:25:17 AM

i actually really enjoyed the story in this.
simply because drake actually feels like a treasure hunter, hes out looking for treasure, hes constantly remarking on history, hes digging up artefacts, hes piecing together clues, he actually feels like a adventure!
chase is a much more engaging character then any of the others too.
they could of done allot more with the bad guys, but the main characters IE drake and chase i thought were better done then ANY uncharted game!
this is another case of the student teaching the master!
i always thought this would be a dumbed down uncharted game, but in oh so many ways its actually BETTER then the additions ND have given us!
just goes to show how talented sony bend are!
in fact id go as far to say there one of the best in the industry!
syphon filter, and resistance retribution, and now this prove that!

the games got so much more purpose, in the ND series your constantly questioning why your doing this.
its a little hard to believe.
but the story in this is much more personal, and you can really tell drake really feels sorry for chase and thats why hes helping her.
drake feels so much more "real" in this.
hes much more personalized, in NDs series he was portrayed sorta like a superhero, doing things because he can.
here he has a purpose, and instead of just jumping into things stupidly hes constantly questioning what hes doing and why hes doing it, its actually strategic madness.
hes still doing the crazy sh*t he does, but he sits back and thinks about it, instead of just diving in all lackadaisical about it.
thats why i enjoyed this allot more then the others, drake feels allot more like a human in this, not like a superhero.
RAMBO would probably be the best way to describe it.
he use to think he was RAMBO a one man walking army, now hes just a everyday normal human doing what he has to to survive.

i cant understand why this is getting such low scores, if anything the characters and story are better then uncharted 2!
not as good as 3, simply because everyone had a purpose in that game, everyone had history and a agenda.
where this only drake and chase do, everyone else kinda takes a back seat.
but besides that, its nothing short of a freaking masterpiece!

Agree with this comment 4 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Tuesday, February 21, 2012 @ 1:51:19 PM

wha-wha- What!? who is this? what have you done to mr. negative?

Agree with this comment 1 up, 1 down Disagree with this comment

Tuesday, February 21, 2012 @ 7:29:49 AM

You know, I agree with 95% of this review, Ben. My one disagreement is that I feel like the aiming is *easier* with the Vita's analog sticks.

What I particularly liked was how it feels like you're actually building Drake's journal. It's always been full of beautiful pictures and strange drawings. Now we get to see how it was made, because we're doing it ourselves. I LOVE that.

Strangely enough, despite the sacrifices that had to be made for it, I feel like I'm having more fun with this game than I did with Uncharted 3!

Last edited by TheAgingHipster on 2/21/2012 7:31:01 AM

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012 @ 5:01:07 PM

Nice review thats good for a handheld game. I've been watching videos on this game and it just looks great but i'm a big UC fan. I'm saving up for a vita and this will be the first game i get.

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Thursday, February 23, 2012 @ 2:33:35 PM

Look pretty good , too bad it s the only Vita game i m interested in ( meaning that i would buy day one ).

I really want a vita but the game announced for it just don t matter much to me .All the type of games i would normally wait for a price drop before buying .

Last edited by berserk on 2/23/2012 2:34:12 PM

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Monday, March 05, 2012 @ 3:03:24 AM

Maybe I wasn't searching hard enough because I'm not reviewing the game for a magazine or website, but I truly didn't feel like any sacrifices were made to this game, story or otherwise, to make it work on a handheld. It seems like a full fledged Uncharted game to me. In fact I like it more than both 1 and 3, Among Thieves is still tops but this game has the excellent graphics I expect from Uncharted, great voice acting, a story that's fun to follow and though I didn't expect to love it, I actually really liked the way they implimented touch controls for puzzle solving, hand-to-hand combat and treasure hunting.

Last edited by Gamer46 on 3/5/2012 3:04:20 AM

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Thursday, March 29, 2012 @ 3:43:14 AM

Just finished my first playthrough and I can honestly say that I loved it.

It didn't feel cut down at all. 30 odd chapters... Excellent graphics, brilliant sound, good mixture of climbing, shooting and puzzles.

Feels pretty intense playing on the vita with headphones. Really made my trip to work and back on the train something to look forward to!

Now back to Lumines...
Lumines I seemed to hate on the PSP but on the Vita it is brilliant. Very addictive...

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