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Hands On: Uncharted: Golden Abyss

Golden rules.

Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune set the bar for PS3 exclusives with stunning visuals, top-notch gameplay and a deep story. Now Sony is set to release their latest console – the PlayStation Vita, and with it comes a new entry in the Uncharted series: Golden Abyss. A prequel to Drake’s Fortune, it will aptly show a younger Nathan Drake on the younger PlayStation console.

The game seems very similar to Drake's Fortune.
The game itself, then, has all the traits of its bigger brother, with great shooting mechanics, lush jungle environments and beautiful graphics. It’s hard to believe this game is on a handheld, really; it is completely a full entry into the Uncharted series. The main problem is, however, that there’s nothing (that I’ve seen) in Golden Abyss that vastly differs from the first Uncharted game, so if you’ve played that you’ll know exactly what to expect.

The mechanics are standard for any third person adventure we’ve played before: left stick to move Drake around, right stick to move the camera, the face buttons to jump, roll, climb and use, and, of course, L and R to aim and shoot respectively. With my hands firmly adjusted to this control scheme, I played a section which took me through a standard setting for Uncharted; desolate ruins in the jungle littered with climbing spots and enemies. I jumped, climbed and blasted my way upwards and it somehow all felt very familiar.

It looks and sounds gorgeous – and that’s not just because of Nathan Drake’s handsome appearance or Nolan North’s dulcet tones. Not to say that they aren’t great, mind – North is on top form and, graphically of course, Drake himself looks as strapping as you’d expect. It features all the sounds and voices you’d expect from a full console game, coupled with graphics that will blow you away and have you checking twice that it’s actually on a portable device – it’s really quite impressive in this regard.

The Vita does have it’s limitations in comparison to the PS3, naturally, and therefore the game’s controls don’t quite flow as well as they would if you had a DualShock 3 in hand; this where the Vita’s additions come in – the touch screen, sixaxis motion controls and the touch pad on the back. The main question is: do these add to the game or over-simplify it?

Swiping the screen to climb isn't very satisfying.
Well, it’s honestly a bit of both; the touch screen climbing – with which you simply swipe over the area you wish to climb – makes everything feel so utterly simple and automatic that it doesn’t even feel like you’re actually controlling Drake and it’s genuinely not that fun to use after you do get the hang of it. I found myself returning to the traditional method very quickly; content that I was once again making Drake move around freely, rather than feeling constrained as he glided along to the area I had touched, effortlessly.

The touch pad on the back, however, works like a charm; since you’re unable to click the stick to zoom with the sniper, you can instead slide your fingers across the pad to zoom in or out, and it feels truly delightful – as do the motion controls for fine-tuning your aiming. Other touch controls such as the ones used for fighting do feel somewhat forced and the screen prompts often get in the way, which is rather annoying. You’ll be able to ignore these for the most part, thankfully, and opt for more classic Uncharted controls if you wish; that’s the real beauty of Uncharted on Vita.

Although it worked well, mostly, the version I played felt a bit off; the aiming, changing of guns and picking up things didn’t flow as well as I had hoped, though I’m sure these will be fixed for the final release – and that’s still quite some time away.

If this is Golden Abyss now, I can’t wait to see the improved and fine-tuned mechanics when it releases next year. From what I’ve seen, it really manages to capture the magic of Uncharted and doesn’t hold back due to being a handheld title – it’s easy to see that Golden Abyss will do wonders for the Vita; much like Drake’s Fortune did for the PS3.

  1. Foxhound_Solid
    Is a smart cookie.
    Since: Dec 2009

    Great read, cheers :-)

    Comment posted on 06/10/2011 at 11:04.
  2. TSBonyman
    Since: Dec 2009

    Nice preview, trying not to get too excited about Vita or my wallet will have a heart attack.

    Comment posted on 06/10/2011 at 11:06.
  3. R4U Eldave0
    Since: Aug 2008

    Nice read. Can’t see myself getting a Vita personally but good to know it will have a solid launch-day title.

    Comment posted on 06/10/2011 at 11:11.
  4. MayContainEvil
    Since: Feb 2011

    Sounds good, I won’t be buying a Vita on release but this game does sound really good.

    Comment posted on 06/10/2011 at 11:24.
  5. skibadee
    Since: Oct 2009

    Vita will be my first handheld looking forward to owning one.

    Comment posted on 06/10/2011 at 11:26.
  6. Sympozium
    Since: Aug 2009

    This would be nice… but…but I want Monster Hunter more than Uncharted

    Comment posted on 06/10/2011 at 11:49.
    • jikomanzoku
      Since: Jan 2010

      seconded :D

      Comment posted on 09/10/2011 at 16:59.
  7. shields_t
    Since: Oct 2008

    Cracking, glad to hear it isn’t a departure from the norm. Guuted the Vita queue was sooooooo long at EGX, I’d have loved to have tried it out.

    Comment posted on 06/10/2011 at 12:08.
  8. Winkle
    Since: Nov 2009

    Surely Sony have added the option to pair a Dualshock to the Vita? it worked well with the PSP Go.

    Comment posted on 06/10/2011 at 12:20.
    • mynameisblair
      Since: May 2009

      I’m not sure but I could see that taking away from the touch controls.

      Comment posted on 06/10/2011 at 12:35.
  9. Smallville2106
    Since: Feb 2011

    Great read thanks. Sounding as good as I was expecting. Quite excited about it now. :)

    Comment posted on 06/10/2011 at 12:21.
  10. AddictedAndy
    Since: Oct 2008

    I’m all over Vita when it drops, I love Uncharted and couldn’t bear to know there is a new game out that I couldn’t play. Haven’t had a handheld console since the original Gameboy and the Atari Lynx (Which I still have in working condition).

    Comment posted on 06/10/2011 at 13:30.

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