Last week I finally got the chance to go hands-on with the Playstation Vita and a randomly selected game which was determined by choosing a card. Luckily for me, the game I was issued with was Uncharted: Golden Abyss, which just so happened to be the Vita game I was most eager to play. Developed by Sony’s Bend Studios (the folks behind the Syphon Filter series and Resistance Retribution), Golden Abyss is by far the most technically advanced game that I’ve ever seen on a handheld device.
Although the events in the game take place before Nathan embarks on his monumental voyage to discover Drake’s Fortune, Bend insists that Golden Abyss is not a prequel but rather an original, standalone title.
As expected Nolan North is back to reprise his role as Nathan Drake, providing both voice and motion caption work. Unfortunately the brief 10 minute demo was free of any dialog but trailers suggest that the game will retain the cinematic qualities that the series is known for. Bend have yet to confirm whether other characters such as Sully and Elena will be making a return but Drake certainly won’t be travelling alone for this adventure. Drake’s somewhat “apprentice” Jason Dante will be filling in Sully’s role as a trusty sidekick (who will inevitable prove to be untrustworthy), with the recently revealed Marissa Chase serving as Drake’s much-needed female companion. Not much is known about the story at this point but the usual “Drake searches for treasure, uncovers more than he bargained for” premise is still in place.
Aesthetically Uncharted: Golden Abyss looks very similar to Drake’s Fortune, by which I mean it’s very ‘green’. Once again Drake will be exploring temples and ancient ruins buried inside vibrant woodland environments, complete with scalable cliff faces and crystal clear waterfalls. As I alluded to earlier, the game looks absolutely stunning, making it the perfect show piece for Sony’s new hardware. On the Playstation Vita’s 5” OLED Screen, Golden Abyss looks just as good as many current generation games. Somewhere, a Nintendo 3DS is sitting in a corner crying 3D tears.
Golden Abyss also utilizes most of the Vita’s new hardware features including the touch screen, rear touch panel and six axis motion controls. I was initially worried that Sony would force Bend to shoehorn these new controls methods in to the game regardless of whether or not they add to experience but after playing the game my fears were quickly alleviated. During climbing sections you can now slide your finger across the screen to pre-select a series of ledges for Drake to navigate, then sit back and watch as he automatically traces your path. Motion controls are most predominantly used when sniping enemies. With a sniper rifle equipped, holding down the left shoulder button locks your sights in the general direction of your closest target and from there you can use tilt controls to aim for a specific part of his body . These new features may sound gimmicky but I actually enjoyed playing this way. Of course if you’re a traditionalist you could instead opt to use standard controls but I’d like to think you’re more open-minded than that, aren’t you?
Gameplay-wise Uncharted: Golden Abyss is just like every other Uncharted game. You shoot sh*t, climb sh*t, punch dudes in faces and maliciously murder hired thugs who are probably just working to put their kids through college. Eventually you’ll encounter elaborate puzzles which need to be solved (I didn’t) and if I had to guess, later on in the game enemies will be replaced by genetically modified apes or something equally stupid.
With Uncharted 3 just four weeks away it’s understandable why Golden Abyss isn’t at the forefront of every gamer’s mind but I’m extremely confident in Bend’s ability to produce a handheld masterpiece.