In terms of gameplay, The Golden Abyss sticks fairly closely to the Uncharted template, alternating between Tomb Raider-style platforming and cover-based gunplay, with the basic formula punctuated with puzzles and the odd big set-piece. There’s a limitation on how many enemies you can have on-screen at any one time, which The Golden Abyss gets around by placing a new wave of foes onto the scene as you wipe the old ones out.
Stealth is also an option, with touchscreen-based close combat controls for surprise attacks and hand-to-hand scraps. Enemy AI isn’t exceptional, but it’s not spectacularly dumb either. As this has never been one of Uncharted’s strongest points, you could even say it’s just another way in which the handheld game replicates the full-sized console’s.
Meanwhile, the other thing that concerned us – that without Naughty Dog at the helm the storytelling would suffer – turns out to be a non-issue. The Golden Abyss takes place in the period before the PS3 trilogy, putting Nathan Drake in with new friends and enemies and the obligatory
character who could be either, but it’s close in spirit to the Uncharteds we already know and love, and neither the characters nor their words and deeds play false.
Arguably the only serious disappointment is the lack of any multiplayer features. At the time of writing we know that there are some network features, though these aren’t currently live, but these don’t extend to the full online Uncharted experience. We’ll update this review when we know more. Certainly with a lengthy campaign and masses of bonus collectibles for replay value it’s hard to complain that The Golden Abyss offers a poor package – and the original Uncharted didn’t have multiplayer either.
In short, The Golden Abyss is an impressive Vita debut, providing all the convincing many will need that Vita can do exactly what Sony claims it does. So why, you might ask, the slightly conservative score?
Well, there’s no doubting the consistent high quality of the gameplay or its production values, but somehow The Golden Abyss is missing something: those dizzying high points that have made Uncharted 1, 2 and 3 so magnificent. We’re not just talking about those incredible ‘did they really do that?’ set pieces, but about those superbly orchestrated moments of high drama that have your stomach twisting, your heart pounding and your behind hanging precariously on the edge of the seat. The Golden Abyss is never less than excellent, but beneath all that excellence there’s something slightly workmanlike. It’s a brilliant, well-crafted extension of one of gaming’s finest series, but one that lacks the genius of the originals.
Uncharted: The Golden Abyss doesn’t quite reach the lofty heights of the best Uncharteds, but it’s still an enthralling blockbuster and a hugely promising showcase for the power of Playstation Vita. If you’re investing in Sony’s new handheld, this is a must-buy game.