Format: PS Vita
Developer: Bend Studio
The undoubted diamond in the crown of the PS Vita’s launch line-up sees Nathan Drake once more leaping, climbing and blasting his way to yet another horde of treasure.
This time he’s traipsing through the jungles of Central America, having been hired to help old friend, Dante, investigate some local archaeology. With Drake’s old friends invariably being of the dodgy variety however, it doesn’t take a genius to work out that not all is as it seems and so it proves, Drake soon being chased by a militia as he searches for a mythical city of gold.
Along the way he’ll come across Chase, an archaeologist – as opposed to treasure hunter – and she who Drake will spend the vast majority of the game helping, wise-cracking away while he’s at it. While their dialogue never quite hits the heights of the Elena/Chloe exchanges of Uncharted’s past, not least because much of their early discourse has too much of the tutorial about it, it’s performed well; Nolan North’s performance as intelligently amusing as usual.
Graphically Golden Abyss is an absolute tour de force, if this is what Vita’s launch is capable of then just imagine what its latter days might generate. The rain forest’s vistas and subtle and the use of light often breathtaking, while Drake and co’s animations are as fluid and impressive as ever.
Indeed, only an odd delay in the focusing of distant objects – something akin to the change in clarity once a preview image on your mobile phone loads in the rest of the image detail – reminds you that the system your using isn’t quite as powerful as a PS3.
When it comes to gameplay Golden Abyss delivers just about everything you’d expect, though falls short of providing anything new, at least anything new that improves proceedings.
We don’t doubt for a second that Sony’s brief to its in-house studios was to showcase Vita’s SixAxis and touchscreen controls, and so Golden Abyss isn’t without its fair share of largely unwelcome additions.
Take the numerous narrow beams which Drake must traverse to reach the next area, almost without fail these trigger a balancing act in which the player must tip the Vita in order for our hero to regain his equilibrium – a constant and unnecessary bug bear.
Then there’s the use of the touchscreen during QTE sequences whereby you usually have to draw arrows on to the screen before the guide fades away. It’s a relatively good idea but one used too frequently for it to remain a fun addition.
Touchscreen use is however nicely implemented when it comes to Drake’s monkey-like climbing skills. Once upon a climbable surface a simple trace of the finger along the nearest handholds is enough to have Drake leaping and shimmying to his destination – a clever touch which works a treat.
Shooting sections are as good as their PS3 counterparts, the smaller screen never hampering our ability to pick off henchmen, even at distance, while close-quarters fighting takes a step away from Uncharted 3′s counter-attacks, instead utilising the touchscreen for QTE input once again.
The collectors amongst us will be well serviced too, Golden Abyss providing an absolute horde of treasure to discover, and even challenges the player to take photographs of set objectives along the way. Lining up that perfect shot won’t be for everyone but at the very least provides a mildly diverting aside.
Perhaps the best complement of Golden Abyss is that it feels like an Uncharted game, no small feat given that it’s not only the first in the series developed for something other than PS3, but also the first to be outsourced; Bend Studio taking up the mantle with Naughty Dog taking a supervisory role.
Everything’s there from the creative scripting of dialogue and set pieces, to the jaw-dropping graphical splendour we’ve become accustomed to. Sure, there are missteps, a lack of stand-out chase sequences and fiendish logic puzzles for example (not to mention the afore mentioned overuse of the touchscreen), but on the whole this is solid, dependable adventuring.
Paint by numbers stuff it might be, but when the colours on offer are as rich as Uncharted’s that’s not necessarily a bad thing.