Playstation Vita: Uncharted – Golden Abyss Impressions

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With the Playstation Vita so are aiming to blur the line between portable and console gaming and what better way to push such an initiative than with an Uncharted title. Uncharted: Golden Abyss for the Vita will not only mark the series first departure from the PS3, it is also the first Uncharted game to be outsourced to a different studio. The game is being developed by SCE Bend who are best known for creating the Syphon Filter Series and keeping the PSP alive with quality games when most other developers abandoned ship.

When I first played Golden Abyss a few months ago I was blown away by the games stunning visuals and great gameplay mechanics. However since that time Naughty Dog has released a little game called Uncharted 3 which has raised the benchmark for the entire series. The fact that Golden Abyss looks comparable to a PS3 game and is launching so soon after Uncharted 3 makes comparisons between the two game s inevitable which may not bode well for Bend’s Vita debut.

In my opinion there are three things which define an Uncharted game. A great story, excellent characters and epic set pieces. While Golden Abyss appears to be lacking in the latter, I am genuinely interested in its premise and the new cast of characters it introduces. Many people felt that Uncharted 3 followed Uncharted 2’s structure too closely and in a sense I agree. Although I still think that Uncharted 3 is a phenomenal game I’m not sure if I’d want a similar experience just 3 months later. For that reason I was pretty excited to check out the new Golden Abyss demo at Sony’s recent Vita event. In my heart of hearts I was hoping it would feel less like Drake’s Deception and more like Drake’s Fortune which was less action packed but encompassed a greater sense of adventure and discovery.

With that said, I’m sure you can imagine my disappointment when I picked up the game and my first objective was to help Drake escape from a burning building. It felt to me like Bend were saying “look at us, we can be as cool as Naughty Dog!” almost as if they’re still holding a grudge from the whole Bubsy 3D vs. Crash Bandicoot debacle. This entire sequence made the game feel like a miniature version of Uncharted 3 which is the last thing it needs to be. Instead of being wowed by the visuals or impressed that this was all taking place on a handheld, I walked away thinking Uncharted 3’s Burning Chateau was better. The second part of the demo wasn’t very memorable at all. I was sniping bad guys and creating a clear path to rendezvous with my lady friend Maria Chase then before I knew it I was back inside the burning building as the demo looped without so much as a “Thanks For Playing”.

Now that I’ve had to reflect on my experience I don’t feel like I played a bad game, I felt like I played a bad demo for a great game. I’m sure there’s a perfectly logical reason why Drake is caught up in an inferno… again, but I guess I’ll have to play the full game to find out. I’m still excited about Golden Abyss and I stand by the positive statements made in my earlier preview, I just hope I don’t have to ride on top of a train or escape a plane crash at some point.

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