Uncharted: Golden Abyss is most comparable to the first Uncharted game, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune which was released back in 2007, because most of the game you are in a similar jungle environment, and the gameplay mechanics feel very similar. Which is a great thing. But playing through the game I quickly realised it is much more than just Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune on the Vita.
Firstly the game looks incredible, while not on the level of Uncharted 2 or 3, it looks vastly better than Uncharted 1. From the lighting effects, to characters models, to environmental textures, everything looks great. Specifically in some of the later chapters in the game where the environment switches from the usual jungle scene, the game’s graphics really show off.
Golden Abyss doesn’t only bring over most of the gameplay mechanics from the Uncharted PS3 games (notably the ability to throw-back grenades is missing), it enhances them with the Vita’s touch screen and tilt controls. At first I was hesitant to use the touch screen mechanics and tilt controls (as most of them are optional) but once I got used to them, it easily became my preferred way of playing the game. As I said on twitter, using the Sixaxis tilt and swiping the touch screen to zoom in for the sniper rifle is the most intuitive shooting scheme I’ve ever used. As I find with all Uncharted games, initially the mechanics can feel somewhat cumbersome, but once I get used to them, a couple of hours into the game, I feel in control and am able to hit head-shots left and right with ease. The Vita specific mechanics definitely help this.
As I said in my Uncharted 3 Review, I had issues with some of the gameplay sequences. The game forced you into combat and didn’t give many options, just hide in cover and do your best to shoot wave after wave of enemies. Golden Abyss changes that and the gameplay combat is much more enjoyable, there are parts in the game similar to Uncharted 3 but I never felt cheated when I died, I could always improve my strategy, or try using a different weapon. There are many parts where you can go through an area and take down all the enemies stealthily, which is refreshing for an Uncharted game.
I always love the music and soundtrack in Uncharted games, the way the music carries the gameplay, story and what is happening on screen. Once again, the music is great as ever, it hasn’t been diminished for the portable game. I definitely recommend playing with headphones, or linking the Vita up to speakers like I did.
Going into Golden Abyss I was worried the story was going to be lacklustre. Set before the events of Drake’s Fortune there is no Elena in the game, and somewhat as a replacement there is a new female character, Chase. Chase turns out to be a really great character, with a great personality and background. Drake and Chase get along just like Drake and Elena, with witty banter back and forth they are entertaining to listen to and have some great dialogue. About half the way through the game, Sully makes a return. Drake and Sully always have humorous dialogue in the Uncharted games, and this is not missing in Golden Abyss. The story turned out to be everything I come to expect when playing an Uncharted game, an extremely entertaining story with great characters. The fact that this is a portable Uncharted game doesn’t stop it being a great story and experience, which is what impressed me the most about the game.
A completely entertaining experience, with great story, characters and dialogue, and with fresh new gameplay mechanics. Uncharted Golden Abyss is not only an amazing Vita game, but one of my favourite Uncharted games.
Notes: As any Vita owner will tell you, the screenshots don’t do the graphics justice, as the images are very compressed and have lots of jagged lines. The game looks far better on the Vita itself.