on February 27, 2012
I always like to lay my personal personal prejudices out there in the beginning of reviews so that people know where I am coming from and if they can relate and might have the same opinion of a product. So, having said that, please know that I am an Uncharted fan. I am mainly a PC gamer. I didn't own any of the current gen consoles until Uncharted 2 was released. I saw so many previews and reviews, and from what I could tell the game was a modern take on Indiana Jones. I had to play it, so I actually bought a PS3 just to play Uncharted 2. I stopped two levels in and went out at midnight to buy the previous game so I could play through that first. Since then I have used my PS3 mostly to watch movies, until Uncharted 3 came out. I own the collector's edition of that game. I own all the soundtracks. Like I said, I am a fan.
So, when Uncharted: Golden Abyss was announced for the new PlayStation Vita system, I immediately pre-ordered the Vita and Uncharted. (Maybe someday something else will come out on the Vita that I want to play. Vita Uncharted 2, most likely.) I mean, two Uncharted games in less than a year? Sign me up!
Graphics: I am floored by how good this game looks. I am sure there are some technical cheats to make it run well, but you cannot tell on the Vita's brilliant 5" OLED screen that this game looks any worse than any of the other Uncharted games. It looks fantastic. Some of the vistas from mountain side ledges are jaw dropping. The characters are all animated well, and they look like they do in the big screen versions of Uncharted.
Sound: The sound is good, considering it is not surround sound and is being generated by the Vita's tiny built in speakers. A good pair of headphones make the sound much more enjoyable, as the sound is much louder and clearer that way. The sound designer made good use of panning. You can almost hear things circling you, even though it is only stereo sound.
Nolan North is back as the voice of Nathan Drake, and Richard McGonagle returns as Sully. Obviously, both are top notch voice actors, but the new characters in the game are voiced competently as well. (If you are a video game fan, you'll pick out Steve Blum voicing mercenaries in the first 10 seconds.)
Gameplay: I've seen some complaints about gameplay. I have to wonder if these people have played an Uncharted game before. Yes, the touchscreen is new. Yes, you do have to use it for some things. But, for other things, you can completely ignore it if you like in favor of using the analog sticks and the buttons. Yes, it makes you tilt the Vita to the right and left a handful of times to keep Drake's balance on a log. That was also in Drake's Fortune using the PS3 controller. Yes, you have to rub the screen to do charcoal rubbings or clean off archeological finds. Those things happen quite often if you are looking for the hidden loot, otherwise there are only a handful of times where you have to do it in order to advance the game.
Yes, there is 3rd person, cover based shooting. It's an Uncharted game, that's how the combat is in all the other Uncharted games too. The difference here is that you swipe the touchscreen to do the quick-time finishing moves instead of hitting a button. You can touch the screen to melee attack people, but you can also just use the buttons until the finishing moves. Is there more or less combat than other Uncharted games? I don't think so. I found it pretty equitable to all the other games in the series. It's mostly about 3rd person combat, exploring, platforming, and a dash of puzzle solving.
I found the new interface elements to be fun and inventive. I really like using the touch screen to control parts of the game. Aiming is much easier if you use the analog stick to make major adjustments and then fine tune your aim by tilting the Vita left, right, up, and down.
Story: Just like other Uncharted games, the story is a riff on the classic Indiana Jones/pulp adventure style story. There's a girl in trouble, a shady friend, a loyal friend, a fabulous treasure and a host of bad guys trying to stop you from getting the treasure. I didn't find the story any better or worse than the other games in the series. If you really don't like this kind of story, I'm not sure why you would buy an Uncharted game in the first place. The dialogue may be just a tad bit blander than the other games in the series. This game does have a different writer, but the story was overseen by the writer of the other games. I chalked it up to Nate being younger than he is in the other games.
The game actually starts out fairly slow, and then builds to a frenetic ending. I found the pacing to be spot on, and the game is just long enough to make me feel like I got my money's worth, but not long enough to make me feel like they were dragging it out just to make it longer.
Music: The only Greg Edmonson track in the game is the Uncharted Theme song. The rest of the music was composed by another musician whose name flew by so fast in the credits that I couldn't spell it correctly if I wanted to. That's too bad, because I would love to give him credit. He did a great job of keeping the tone and feel of the Uncharted games, but with all his own pieces. Not only does the music give a great action adventure feel to the game, but some of the tracks are just fantastic, featuring booming native chants and creepy strings that made me feel like this extinct native tribe was waiting in the bushes ready to jump out and ambush Drake and friends. I'd buy the score if they ever made it available.
Overall: I was not disappointed in this game. Golden Abyss lived up the Uncharted name, and I feel the job that they did with this game justifies the extra cost of the cartridge. Sure, there's no real multiplayer to speak of (you can trade collectibles on the Vita's NEAR program), but I don't really buy Uncharted games for the multiplayer anyway. If you like the Uncharted games on the PS3, you'll probably like this too.