5 Reasons to Play Uncharted: Golden Abyss
In keeping with the recently established medium of lists of five, I feel that it’s only necessary to champion my recent completion of Uncharted: Golden Abyss with a truncated list rather than a full-fledged review; plus a review of a game that’s over two years old doesn’t unerringly exude the impact that you’d think!
Either way, take a moment to assimilate the sights and keep in mind that each picture was screencapped during my journey through Golden Abyss and definitely convey the overall breadth of the game – on with the list!
1) The Controls: rudimentarily speaking, Uncharted: Golden Abyss plays incredibly well on the Vita – with a quick adjustment to the thumbstick sensitivity, I found myself immediately immersed. The game feels closely modeled after its precursory installments, falling somewhere between the snappiness of Uncharted 2: Among Thieves with the intermittent aiming discrepancies of Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception – and much like Drake’s Deception, acclimating to the aiming discrepancies takes a little time, but it’s easily overlooked afterwards.
2) Replayability: Golden Abyss doesn’t allow itself to be hindered by its brevity, and instead opts to reward the player with a slew of treasures peppered throughout the game – this is where Golden Abyss truly shines. Bend Studio (on behalf of Naughty Dog) did a remarkable job when crafting the catalog of collectibles; much like the journal of previous Uncharted installments, Drake’s journal this time around receives a significant facelift with superb interactivity and a pronounced effort that displays everything in a concise manner. Every collected item looks sharp and attractive with appropriated commentary, while absent collectibles are accompanied only by an ambiguous hint on where to find them.
3) Implementation of Vita Mechanics: Uncharted Golden Abyss understandably wished to elucidate the prowess of the Vita, and did a laudable job overall – but don’t get me wrong, there are several occurrences in which I absolutely hated their decision to do this.
Having played the earlier Uncharted titles, I’m used to the swinging/leaping parkcour dynamic that comes along with Nathan Drake’s character, but even early tutorials are obtuse and unnecessarily convoluted at times.
Each commonly used action is first met with a tutorial that occupies the entire screen and presents several ways in which it can be executed; a great deal of these alternatives can make gameplay awkward, but when they’re on, they’re absolutely perfect. One gleaming example is the ability to “paint” a path for Nathan to climb, allowing the player to swipe across several climbable aspects of the terrain, with the landscape responding promptly with a confirming glint. Another amazing implementation of the Vita mechanics is the ability to take pictures and commit them to your personal journal; pictures are also of key importance when searching for specific collectibles, and rely on the physical movement of the Vita for positioning, and back panel movement for zooming features.
Aside from the picture taking, Golden Abyss also boasts even more interactivity with charcoal rubbing and the capacity to collect tattered map and land deed pieces in order to physically reassemble them for even more story clues. The principal drawback of the game’s interactivity is that hand-to-hand combat suffers, and it unfortunately relies on its diluted combat system to best the two “bosses” towards the conclusion of the game. Golden Abyss relies exclusively on a series of directionally-based screen swipes that would make any Resident Evil 6 fan yawn; the lack of tension and difficulty during these interactions tend to undermine the mostly uniform difficulty that precedes the final hour or so of gameplay.
4) Competent Cast: Uncharted Golden Abyss makes it a point to introduce new, albeit forgettable characters into the narrative, but definitely staggers when trying to fully establish an antagonist; by the time the veritable antagonist is established, the game is nearly over and you’re still waiting for a huge reveal ala Uncharted 2’s Shambhala Guardians. Despite the fact that the game represents more of an unconfirmed prequel in the series, the main thing I continually asked myself was “Where’s Sully?”. Sully is such an obvious staple in the series and I had all but assumed that Bend Studio had made an educated decision to omit his character from this presumed handheld reboot – talk about total psych-out.
Up until the abrupt inclusion of the missions involving Sully, only semblances suggested that Sully was associated with Golden Abyss, and most were in the form of hi-passed audio clips of him commenting on various collectibles found while playing. The missions involving Sully were some of my favorite in the entire game and provided just enough familiarity and banter between Nathan and Sully to feel complete. It was definitely in the game’s favor to refocus its scope and include Sully, especially because I wasn’t exactly fond of hearing Chase say “Oh look, some more of Guerro’s men” every couple minutes.
5) Visual Appeal: Sweet honey-glazed ballsacks, this game absolutely slays in the visual department; I wish I could reflect back on the number of times that I completely stopped to revel in the details of each level and the attention to detail on even the smallest of items. The visual aspect of Golden Abyss absolutely eclipses anything I’ve ever seen on a handheld, and is part of the reason why my Playstation 3 has been relegated to strictly playing movies and seasons of My Name is Earl off of my hard drive.
Just wow. A great deal of the time, Golden Abyss actually felt like it rivaled earlier installments like Drake’s Fortune; the only underwhelming aspect of the game falls more so on the story arc than it does visual representation. Most of the game takes places within a jungle setting, leaving the player to marvel at beautifully rendered scenes of jungle, and well, more jungle. This is another reason why I quickly embraced the shift with Sully because it involves the introduction of the canoe and developmental story-building alongside the sailing parts. The scenes presented while sailing are among the most beautiful I’ve seen on the Vita, and serve as another exaggerated example why this handheld is capable of some serious feats when given the opportunity to do so.
I can honestly see why Uncharted Golden Abyss was released in order to showcase the palette of faculties at the Vita’s disposal from the very beginning; I can only hope that the Vita receives the restructured campaign that it so desperately needs and is able to fully expound what it initially set out to do – provide an exemplary gaming experience and look damn good while doing it.
And lastly, eat fresh.