Platform: PlayStation Vita
Every new console needs a flagship title, and there’s no question that Uncharted: The Golden Abyss is Playstation Vita’s. Standing in for Naughty Dog, Bend Studio has produced a game that captures the look and feel of one of the most advanced series on full-sized console hardware, and by that we don’t mean something with the compromises of the PSP versions of God of War, Resistance or Ratchet and Clank, but a game that retains pretty much the same experience.
We won’t pretend that it’s identical. Uncharted 2 and Uncharted 3 have some of the richest, most sumptuous visuals of any game on Xbox 360 or PS3, and The Golden Abyss can’t boast the same levels of textural detail, the same surface gloss or the same sophisticated lighting. The palette of colours seems reduced, there’s a fair bit of aliasing on show, and there are signs that the game isn’t quite running at the full resolution of Vita’s 960 x 544 pixel screen.
All the same, with its verdant jungle scenery, beautifully-rendered water and convincingly animated characters, The Golden Abyss does a fairly sterling imitation of the original Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, the lighting has the same cinematic feel, and Drake and his supporting cast look solid and believable in their motion-captured cut-scenes.
What’s more, the production values are a match for the PS3 versions. The Golden Abyss is every bit as film-like and story-driven as any other game in the series. The use of dialogue, not just in the cut scenes but throughout the action sequences, is exemplary, and the acting, music and general audio help maintain the illusion.
The analogue sticks, while not quite offering the targeting precision of the PS3’s Dual Shock 3 controller in the shooty bits, still give the game a natural feel that you soon get used to. Like the best Vita games, you play The Golden Abyss and come away convinced that a handheld can do console-quality games. In this respect, it’s a case of mission accomplished.
But this wasn’t enough for Bend. Seemingly under some directive that the game had to use every feature of Vita, it packs in touch controls for investigating objects, slicing through obstacles and navigating platforms, bars and ledges plus motion controls for balancing and fine-tuned aiming. It even finds a couple of ingenious uses for the PS Vita camera.
At times this feels gimmicky, and in a way it cheapens the running, climbing and jumping portions of The Golden Abyss to have them – as they are – virtually automated at a tap and swipe of the touchscreen, but rubbing mud off a 3D object that rotates as you tilt Vita is an interesting diversion, and some of the touchscreen based puzzles work surprisingly well. What’s more, sniping using the tilt sensors actually feels a little more accurate than using the right thumbstick, once you get used to the slightly odd sensation.