Nathan Drake's first handheld outing shows off the Playstation Vita's capabilities
Everyone's favourite treasure hunter is back, and this time, he's going to let you carry him around wherever you go. Nathan Drake returns to the world of Uncharted in his first handheld outing, titled ‘Golden Abyss'. However, Nate doesn't really ‘return' to anything this time, because Golden Abyss is the first game in terms of chronology — a prequel to the series. Some time before the events of Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, Nathan Drake agrees to help his ‘friend' Jason Dante uncover the secret behind the massacre of a Spanish expedition to South America several hundred years ago. During the course of his journey into the unknown, Nate encounters several characters that are (mysteriously) not alluded to in subsequent games but are memorable nonetheless, while a familiar face returns to help him in his time of need. The scene is set, and in typical Uncharted fashion, Nate and his companions will need to traverse several kilometres of deadly terrain whilst gunning down hordes of mercenaries and solving ancient puzzles.
Much ado has been made about the Playstation Vita's touchscreen and rear touchpad — leave it to a Sony first-party title such as Uncharted: Golden Abyss to effectively advertise (and show off) these features. Take climbing, for instance. Tap a highlighted ledge and Nate will climb on it, slide your finger across the screen and he will climb along the path that you just traced out. Golden Abyss also allows you to make jumps as well as climb ropes in this fashion. The rear touchpad can be used to ascend ropes as well, but this requires an ‘up-and-down' motion to be performed with both fingers. There are several mini-games that make use of the touch controls, but these tend to slow the game down to a crawl — those that involve piecing a puzzle together and cleaning up artefacts in particular. Fortunately, your frustration is minimised thanks to some very responsive controls. The Vita sports a gyroscope as well, and this is used to good effect by Golden Abyss in mini-games and during regular play. There's a puzzle in the game that also makes use of the rear camera which is pretty cool. Of course, you don't always have to use the touch controls, because the game allows you to play it (for the most part) with the traditional dual analog stick system. The action feels slick and the pacing ensures there is never a dull moment. Visually, Golden Abyss is unparalleled in the handheld universe, with the game looking very close to its series counterparts on the PS3 — some of the textures as well as water and lighting effects look incredible. The game also sports top-notch production values, great voice-acting and sound, all of which are nearly at par with its console brethren as well.
Uncharted: Golden Abyss is a fantastic launch title for the Playstation Vita which shows off the capabilities of the device. Brilliant visuals, great sound and near-console-quality production values make Nathan Drake's first portable outing feel bigger and better than your usual handheld fare. It might feel like a tech demo at times, with the game forcing the player to use the touchscreen and touchpad controls, but the integration of these controls is seamless, often enhancing the level of interactivity. The only possible complaint one could have is that some of the touch-based mini-games slow down the game's pacing occasionally, but the controls never feel counterintuitive. Golden Abyss' experience isn't one that is on par with, say, Among Thieves, but it's undoubtedly a worthy addition to the series. Uncharted: Golden Abyss is available on the Playstation Vita digitally on the Playstation Store as well as in physical memory card format.
Keywords: video games