Review of Uncharted: Golden Abyss for the PSVita console, for Way of the Rodent online games magazine. Click here for original article.
I love Uncharted, I’ll be honest. I really wish Sully was my dad. Dad, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry, but that silvering hair, the whiff of cigar smoke, the wisecracking and the stiff gait that’s possibly an indicator of rheumatoid arthritis? I just wish it had been Sully taking me to parents’ evenings once in a while, that’s all.
Having come fresh and a bit fragile from the awesomeness of the last PS3 installment in the series, Drake’s Deception, I was dubious about a handheld version. A pared down game with blocky graphics was just going to sully (ahhhh, lovely Sully) my fond memories. But there was no need to worry. Turns out there’s nothing pared-down about this full-length, stunning-looking, immersive Uncharted experience.
It’s a prequel to the rest of the series. Drake and his partner Dante are on the trail of … actually I’m not entirely sure. This is partly due to the slightly puny speakers on the PS Vita being easily drowned out by our bathroom fan (yes, I play on the toilet. What of it?), meaning I’m hazy on some of the dialogue. I can safely say it involves a golden sword of some kind, a lot of underground temple shenanigans and a trip to a jungle. There’s also a pert young female treasure-hunter and a portly evil general, who of course has an entire army of rent-a-villains at his disposal, all wearing the same shorts.
But the ins and outs of what bit of antique junk Drake’s after this time doesn’t really matter. What holds the attention are the relationships between the characters. The banter between Drake, Sully and Dante, the double-crossings and betrayals, the new alliances, they’re all here and as brilliantly written as ever. The graphics mean character acting looks truly amazing – there’s a thing Dante keeps doing with his arms that’s so real and part of him that it makes it feel like you’re recognizing an old friend every time he does it. Seeing that level of detail on a handheld console quickly starts to seem the most natural thing in the world.
There are nice bits of interaction using the PS Vita’s two touchscreens – there’s charcoal rubbing and wiping mud off artifacts, all good fun, and one proper grin-inducing moment when I had to get up from the sofa and find a light to hold a parchment up to. When it comes to combat though, the touchscreen feels shoe-horned in. You can aim by tilting the console and punch by tapping the screen, but if you prefer using the button and stick controls to do everything else, suddenly having to swipe the touchscreen to avoid a punch feels intrusive.
The traditional Uncharted treasure collection has been upgraded from an irritating distraction to a moderately addictive side-quest – instead of picking up pointless bits of bric-a-brac left lying around ancient temples, the pointless bric-a-brac now fits nicely into little back-story pages in your journal, and you also get to take photos of pretty landmarks (and the occasional oil drum, for some reason), which makes it feel a bit like Drake is on a gap year in Thailand.
I love this game;, it’s taken over my life for the last couple of days. I burnt my toast this morning playing it, even though the whole handheld thing meant I was standing right next to the toaster at the time.