Well, it's been a while since I've done one of these, but my backlog of reader reviews is getting pretty obscene so I have to put this out before I get too involved in anything else. Just to preface this, I'm going to try to change-up my "reviews" a bit and make them a little more visually pleasing and useful. It's just an experiment at the moment, but each game I'm going to talk about will have the game's logo, the platform I played it on, and a youtube video of actual gameplay. That way, if what I'm saying interests you, you have some gameplay footage you can look at right there.
You have no idea how hard it was to find youtube videos from some of these games that didn't have someone doing a running commentary, and there's no such thing
as good Vita game footage b/c of the lack of a video output (but I tried to find some good ones). I'm also going to try to break these things up more into separate posts so these aren't these massive walls of text. Let me know if this stuff works for you, as it's just an experiment right now.
So without any further ado, I got a Vita last month and I've been playing a bunch of stuff on it and a particularly cool PS3 game:Vita (Platinum #58)
Some of you may remember that despite the gaming media's massive love affair with Uncharted 3 last year, when I played it I really
didn't like it. It seems appropriate, then, that Uncharted Golden Abyss on Vita rolls around, and the gaming media has spent a considerable amount of energy looking down on it with such phrases as "the direct-to-video Uncharted." However, I went into the game without inflated expectations, and I found myself surprisingly invested in the experience. I actually think it's a much
better game with better storytelling; a better villain; a more consistent gameplay flow; and quite a few moments that may not be "epic setpiece moments" but were just as exciting and felt appropriate to the Uncharted Universe.
Alright, let's get the obvious hardware-mandate stuff out of the way: Golden Abyss is an extremely gimmicky game. You'll be constantly rubbing the front touch screen to make charcoal rubbings; rotating 3D objects with the back touch to get a better look at them; tracing lines across the screen to do hand-to-hand combat finishers, cut down obstructions with your machete, and row a boat; and use the gyroscope to balance on most beams, take in-game pictures, and help adjust your aim while shooting. Even the few boss encounters are basically cinematic QTEs with finger swiping instead of button pressing. I think the only Vita hardware feature not
used in some tacked-on way in Golden Abyss is, amusingly, the microphone (which is ironic considering how games went on the DS). Yes, it's tacked-on and yes, these Vita features don't really add much to the experience. However, on the flipside I also found that they really didn't detract
from it either, and most of these Vita gimmicks were either blessedly optional (like using motion control to adjust your aim, something that often threw my aim off because I'd be subconsciously slightly tilting the Vita) or were mainly only used in optional side content. I even found some gimmicks surprisingly useful at times like reloading by tapping the screen or doing platforming by tracing Drake's route with the touch screen. I think it helps that the very first thing I did when I pulled my Vita out of the box was slap a screen protector on the thing.
With that out of the way, I found the 8-10 hour campaign very well-paced and enjoyable, and the game encourages probably more exploration and discovery within the levels than any previous Uncharted game. The storytelling is textbook Uncharted, with extensive voice acting and a reasonably-cohesive and competent script. And as you may have heard, the game just looks and sounds amazing
(especially the outdoor environments), though I definitely saw some Uncanny Valley problems during cutscenes where the camera would close-up on a character and their eyes are just dead
(which is not a problem the Uncharted games usually have). Gunplay feels very solid and accurate (especially once I turned the motion control aim-tweaking off), and aside from a few areas in the game where you have to run from gunfire or shoot goons while hanging from a rope I thought the difficulty balancing was well-tuned. And unlike Uncharted 3, most of the combat environments are designed to allow the player a variety of ways to proceed so stealth is very much an option.
My biggest problem with the game, though, is that it's more than a little buggy. I frequently ran into an issue where I needed to climb a surface, but Drake would only climb part of the way. At that point, the game wouldn't acknowledge that there were more surfaces to climb, and it often took climbing down and repeating the process to continue progress (and sometimes I even had to reload my game). That's a crippling problem in a game where you spend most
of the experience climbing
. There are also a few sections where you have to defend an NPC that can be a little annoying. Despite these issues, though, it's a real credit to Sony Bend that when I finished the game for the 3rd time for my Platinum trophy, I still wanted more
of that experience. And to give them further props, they managed to avoid the series' biggest problem: the tacked-on and silly supernatural element. Everything in this game can be explained logically, and the game ends on a very appropriate story twist.
In the end, Golden Abyss is not my favorite
Uncharted game (that would be Uncharted 2), but it's an excellent first effort from a studio that has proven itself very capable of developing handheld installments of major console games (they also made Resistance Retribution). I look forward to whatever this studio makes next.