A pint-sized Nathan Drake adventure that keeps the basic premise and flow of its PS3 predecessors, but has a feel all its own.... and that's a good thing.
I will start this by saying that I am probably the biggest Uncharted fan out there. Uncharted: Drake's Fortune was the first game I grabbed for my PS3 when I got it, and since then I have been a Nathan Drake groupie, or at the very least a tremendous a fan. So when I wanted to grab the Vita upon its launch and found out that Uncharted: Golden Abyss would be available right out of the gate, I was like a kid in a candy store.
My excitement was quickly tempered when I read the news: Naughty Dog would not make Uncharted: Golden Abyss; instead Bend Studio would develop the game. "Uh oh," I thought. "This is going to be disastrous." One of the best franchises in video game history is about to be taken in a new direction by a different studio to make an all new game in the series. I was bummed.
I decided to give the game a chance, though, and as I read and watched more and more about the game, I realized that it seemed to have many of the same qualities that made the first three games near and dear to my heart. The gameplay seemed to be the same, as did the voice actors and the grand scope of adventure. "Maybe it won't be so bad," I thought. And you know what? I was right.
Uncharted: Golden Abyss is a great game. I've read a lot of reviews that criticize the story, but I think it's quite solid, and provides a nice prequel to the first game in the series. If you've played previous Uncharted games, the formula will look familiar, and there's nothing wrong with that.
The story is actually quite long for the most part, coming in at 37 chapters. There are so many things to find and goodies to get that a second and probably even third playthrough would be in order. To give you an idea of the amount of content here, one playthrough took me almost 12 hours. That's pretty impressive coming from a portable system. I'm not a huge extras kind of person, so I can't see doing it all over, but I know completionists will love diving right back in after beating the game for the first time. If you take your time, looking for everything would probably take you around 25 hours.
The graphics are top-notch, and the game looks very much like the Uncharted games on the Vita's big brother. There are small details that remind you that the Vita doesn't quite have the capability of the PS3, such as the characters' shirts dont move as freely as they do on the big console, and for some reason the graphics on fire are pretty weak. The only other weak point is the repetitve enemies. Other than that I can't complain. The game looks really good, and details such as each finger moving individually and shadows dancing along a wall give graphics aficionados something to sit back and appreciate.
The sound takes a little getting used to, mostly because the guns don't sound as good as they might on a big screen with surround sound, but the voice acting is what has always set the Uncharted series apart. Fans of the series will be ecstatic to know that Nolan North is doing the voice for Drake, and he is once again great in his reprisal of the role.
The gameplay is fun and the guns feel good, too. Overall it feels like Uncharted, and that is of course a good thing. The motion controls are OK, and using the back pad for the ropes is pretty cool and something I found myself using quite a bit. I actually think it feels practical to use it in this way. The other motion controls are of the take it or leave it variety. When pushing a fellow traveler up to a ledge or something and swiping your finger upward to do it, it feels like something that just had to be added, but it's better than mashing the hell out of your new Vita like you would do on the controller in the PS3 Uncharted games.
Uncharted: Golden Abyss is a rich and fulfilling game that does a good job of passing as Uncharted. It's always scary when someone else takes over the creation of your favorite series, but take your hats off to Sony's Bend Studio because it did a lot of justice in bringing one of the great console franchises to the portable gaming market. Make no mistake, this is Uncharted and the Vita has the first great game in its young life. This is one hell of a game. The fact that Sony brought such a flagship title to the Vita launch is reason enough to pick up this new system. Just make sure you also grab its best game before leaving the store.