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Sean Pettibone

Review

Uncharted: Golden Abyss (PS Vita)

Nathan Drake is searching for lost treasure and adventure once again with the arrival of Uncharted: Golden Abyss for the PS Vita. Surprises abound in the game, with breathtaking views, dangerous encounters and unexpected plot twists making for an engaging experience throughout. It follows the standard Uncharted formula in may ways but, there are some interesting gameplay enhancements that showcase Vitaís touch screen controls effectively. The game has a solid momentum and beautiful visuals that give it a surprisingly cinematic feel thatís only slightly less elaborate than its console editions. Golden Abyss delivers the solid production values and interesting gameplay mechanics that make it an entertaining and engaging experience.

Set between the events of the second and third console game, the new handheld edition features some interesting features and takes players on a wild ride through exotic locations throughout the world. Heís chasing a group of baddies who are out to get the treasures before him, and heíll use many of the skills and tricks from previous games to grab the prize first. Itís an interesting story, but we donít want to give too much away, but its definitely an interesting tale. Players will find themselves facing many obstacles during each stage. The areas are difficult to traverse and heíll need to climb through some treacherous terrain, grab onto ledges and find his way through some seemingly impenetrable places. Most of the early game takes place in dense jungles, where he needs to find vines and climb over some huge gaps, watching for ever-present foes who are taking seemingly endless pot-shots at him along the way. Golden Abyss doesnít take too much time to get going, but once it does it achieves an interesting momentum, with a good balance between the Tomb Raider-style adventuring and more traditional FPS action. The shooting sequences are nicely done, with excellent controls and challenging opponents. As usual, players need to find cover in order to survive the assaults, with multiple foes typically attacking at once. If the player takes damage, he can hide behind something for a few moments and regain health automatically. You can also switch viewpoint if your selected weapon has a sight, increasing your accuracy. Many of the enemies will also take cover, so you need to be aware of their location and shoot them when they rise behind their protection. Most of the time, the battles are fairly easy, but there are occasions where the game feels a little cheap, and the enemies take shots at you from places where they canít be located easily. Gamers who persist will find some enjoyment in Golden Abyssí combat sequences, which are nicely suited to the PS Vitaís control system.

While the basic formula feels about right for an Uncharted title, Golden Abyss also serves as a showcase for the new Vita hardware. One of the more interesting aspects of this comes in the climbing sequences. instead of pressing buttons and manually traversing the rock formations, players can glide their fingers over a section and Drake will automatically climb and jump over them, which makes the task that much easier. There are some tricky areas in the game, but the automation makes them easier to survive, without making you feel like youíre on autopilot. You can still choose to play the normal way, and climb using the standard commands, but it feels clunky and awkward in comparison. The touch screen can also be used to pick up weapons by clicking them with your finger, and theyíre instantly added to your arsenal. Another interesting way the game uses the touch screen arrives in the various mini-games, where you can spin objects around with the back touch screen and examine them using the front screen, this makes it easier to play around with them. This is quite an effective design that helps to further immerse players into the game without feeling overtly gimmicky. These mini-games can be a little bit distracting and annoying, diverting attention away from the main storyline at points. Another task players have to accomplish in certain points during the game is balancing, where you have to tilt the console to stay on a ledge or logs. Itís a bit tricky to master this technique, and youíll probably be frustrated as Drake falls of multiple times before you get the hang of it, but the overall effect is pretty interesting. Taken together, the new controls work well with the standard interface to create a game that feels both familiar and new. Golden Abyssí structure is also well-suited to on-the-go play with its chapters just long enough to keep your interest, but not overly so things drag. Its online component is fairly interesting, and it features a Ďblack marketí where you can purchase items or trade them with other players. This makes for a fairly solid single-player experience that delivers what youíd expect along with a few surprises.

As you move along in the adventure, the game becomes more challenging with additional opponents at each turn, appearing in greater numbers and with better intelligence, they become harder to defeat. The gameís chapters are fairly well-paced throughout, and the usual Uncharted formula is evident in its characters, who interact with each other with humor and above-average dialogue. Excellent voice acting and an interesting plot help to draw your attention into the story, which is fairly interesting as you reveal puzzles and hidden plot-twists throughout. Racing through each chapter, youíll find plenty of variety in the game, which is never dull. There are some impressive set-pieces that occur from time to time, but thereís nothing quite as dramatic as the last two console games. The variety of locations ranges from burning buildings, exotic forests and beyond while the presentation and production values keep pace. Its definitely an impressive game, and it effectively shows off the PS Vitaís powerful processors. Golden Abyss is far more elaborate and cinematic than most hand-held games and its overall production values are slick and impressive throughout. Its consistency makes the experience feel like youíre watching a film more than a game at certain points. This can be seen as a positive, since the gameís presentation matches its ambition for the most part. While itís been scaled-down a little for the Vita, the overall experience matches the feel of its console counterparts to create one of the more impressive handheld games weíve played to date. Uncharted: Golden Abyss is definitely a solid game with great production values. Itís polished look is impressive and it maintains most of the elements that made the previous games so appealing. Thereís much thatís familiar but the new touch-screen gameplay mechanics help to give the game a fresh feel. Overall, itís a solid adventure title that offers a deep, polished gameplay experience on the hand-held platform.
Ė Michael Palisano

Grade: B+

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