By and large, Sony’s first party line up this generation has resembled a menagerie of experiments; some good, some bad, but mostly eclectic. Amidst the rabble of World War II-themed sci-fi shooters, rag boys and off-road racing extravaganzas lies one diamond in the rough. You know it as the Uncharted franchise, undoubtedly the most valuable series in Sony’s stable. So it makes perfect sense to launch the PS Vita with another adventure of Messrs Drake, Sully and Co. And while most launch titles are cheap cash-ins designed as an excuse to trick you into a false sense of value until the real games show up, Uncharted: Golden Abyss is anything but.
As I mentioned in our Vita review, the controls are slick. Traditional physical controls work well on their own, but gel even better with the touch functionality that the Vita brings to the table. The opening 15 minutes do a great job of attuning you to the game’s controls. Before you know it, you’ll find yourself tracing Drake’s path across the screen and punching mercenaries in the face with ease. Utilising the rear touchpad to scope out unsuspecting victims with a sniper rifle soon becomes second nature. Such variety is one of the game’s endearing traits. Furthermore, there’s a greater focus on exploration instead of shooting.
Due to the Vita’s control options, it no longer feels like a chore. You’ll use the touchscreen to piece together maps and solve puzzles that involve moving ancient artefacts. The rear touchpad lets you dust off relics and take photos. Puzzles and exploration end up feeling a lot more intuitive and integral to the game this time around. Over the course of the game, it was something I started looking forward to. However, a gamer does not live on controls alone. The production values are intact. Taking place before the events of the PS3 games, Golden Abyss has you indulging in the same blockbuster summer movie formula that Naughty Dog has so very well perfected. Except this portable adventure is in the able hands of Sony Bend, known for Syphon Filter and SOCOM franchises. Graphically, it’s close to its PS3 brethren, with slick water animation, detailed foliage and smooth frame rates all while packing in a music track that your brain deems worthy enough to grow on you.
Oh, and there’s a plot too. This time, Drake and friends— namely the attractive albeit naive Marissa Chase and the personification of the term scumbag, Jason Dante, are on a quest to uncover treasure (what else?) jungles and ruins in Central America. Without spoiling much, Sony Bend has done a marvellous job of keeping it in-line with what Naughty Dog has done. In some places, it even surpasses that. Then again, it depends on whether you’re a big fan of “that’s what she said” jokes running across two chapters. Speaking of chapters, Golden Abyss is well paced. Each chapter lasts about 15-20 minutes, making it decent for gaming on-the-go or for those lunch time breaks when you don’t have much time to spare. Some of them are just cut-scenes designed to take the story forward. Having said that, you should be done with the game in eight hours, tops.
Now, before you start lining up in the streets in protest, there’s a very deep collectible system that will have you replaying the game. Some of them are random, dependent on what treasure you find in an area; others give you a greater understanding of the back story, and if there are a few you need, you can turn on Near and get a friend to send you a copy of their finds via the game’s Black Market feature. It’s a take on the loot mechanics so often seen in RPGs.
By now you’d probably realise (if you haven’t skipped to look at the score) that Golden Abyss is a solid title. Nevertheless, I have a few reservations. Firstly, while it’s a solid interpretation of what is possible on the Vita, hardcore fans might find it all a little too similar to what they’ve experienced on the PS3. Secondly, at Rs 2,799, its steep considering that you can pick up a PS3 game with the same amount of money. Throw in the fact that you do need a memory card to play this game, and you’ll be paying at least an additional Rs 1,599. Thirdly, Sony has missed, if you could excuse the pun, a golden opportunity with the absence of multiplayer, which could have extended its stay on your Vita exponentially.
So do these grouses devolve Uncharted into the same league as Sony’s other not-so-spectacular efforts? If anything, it’s the price that does it no favours. If you’re hell bent on getting the Vita at launch, it would be preposterous not to pick up what is possibly the best launch title of the lot. Keeping all that in mind, the game is bestowed with a glorious 4 on 10.