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Review

Uncharted: Golden Abyss Review

  • First Released
  • Reviewed:
  • VITA

While there's plenty of action, the adventure is lacking in Uncharted's PlayStation Vita debut.

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On paper, Uncharted: Golden Abyss sounds like it should be great. Hell, it should be better than great, but even with the original voice actors reprising their roles, luscious visuals, and plenty of opportunities to run like crazy from exploding buildings, the spark is missing. It doesn't help that Golden Abyss lacks the level of production we've come to expect from the third-person action adventure series, with lifeless writing, flaky cover detection and AI, plus an erratic frame rate. Nor does the addition of most of the PlayStation Vita's new input methods add anything significant to the experience; in some cases, they detract from it. These issues aren't easily overlooked, but get involved with the slick combat and awesome set pieces, and you'll find there's still plenty to like in Drake's latest outing.

Golden Abyss starts out promisingly enough, taking place before the events of the original Uncharted, when Drake is hired by his old friend Jason Dante to uncover the secrets of a Central American jungle. Cue an amazing discovery, a mystery to unravel, and a love interest in the form of archaeologist Marissa Chase, and you've got yourself the beginnings of a great Uncharted narrative. However, it all starts to unravel rather quickly, becoming predictable fare with just a few twists and turns to keep you on your toes. The dialogue isn't particularly snappy either, despite being well acted. Drake's trademark quips come across as forced, with developer Sony Blend's writing coming across like a decent bit of fan fiction rather than a creation from series masters Naughty Dog.

While the story might not fare so well, thankfully, the action and platforming does--for the most part. Navigating your way through the many jungles, rocky mountain ranges, and ruined temples is as easy as on the console versions, thanks to the Vita's full complement of analog sticks. The path you take is decidedly linear, but a variety of walls to climb--some of which crumble beneath you--rope swings, death-defying leaps, and stunning scenery keep the excitement flowing. It's when you use one of the Vita's more esoteric input options that things begin to falter. A tutorial at the start of the game introduces these to you gradually, but trying to remember what inputs to use can be confusing. Take using a rope, for example. You can push forward and hit X to jump to it, or you can tap on the rope. Once there, you can climb it using the left analog stick or stroke the rear touch pad with two fingers to do the same. How about swinging on it? There's the analog stick again. Or you can rock the Vita back and forth to accomplish the same thing.

Unfortunately, none of the new control methods are any better than using the traditional controls, particularly because your fingers sometimes go unnoticed on the touch screen. Thankfully, you're not obliged to use the touch or motion controls to get Nate around, but there are certain puzzles that require you to do so. These range from such simple tasks as taking charcoal rubbings of artefacts or holding your Vita up to a bright light source to view faded text to more complex tasks, such as piecing together torn-up maps or matching symbols to open locked doors. None are massively taxing on your noodle, but the controls work well, adding an extra layer of interactivity and immersion that wouldn't be possible with just a standard controller.

And yet, there are other times when the touch controls serve only to take you out of that immersion, such as chopping down some bamboo. It requires you to perform three different swipes on the touch screen, but rather than have Nate perform the actions as you swipe, he just stands there lifeless, waiting for the bamboo to spontaneously sever itself so he can proceed. And then there are fistfights, which are also based on swiping. Some are scripted and others are initiated by you in combat. Both lack the level of fluidity you might expect, thanks to some awkward slow-motion animations that change what should be an engrossing brawl into a stumbling punch-up. A lack of touch-screen precision affects the fights too, with some of your swipes mysteriously going unrecognised, causing you to lose a fight or--in the case of scripted events--sending you straight back to the beginning of the cutscene.

Things improve massively when guns are thrown into the mix, providing you with masses of bullet-fuelled action. And, boy, are there a lot of guns. There are pistols, rifles, grenade launchers, machine guns, miniguns, rocket launchers, and turrets, which give you a range of explosive ways to take out your attackers. The feel of the weapons is great, with just the right amount of recoil, and touch and motion controls that work. Swiping on the rear touch pad to zoom the sniper rifle feels natural, and tweaking your aim by moving the Vita is surprisingly effective, letting you compensate for recoil with ease. A great set of sounds accompany the weapons; grenades explode with a satisfying throaty boom, and there's nothing quite like the clatter of an empty bullet shell echoing through a cavern as you take down your last opponent.

You need to put some thought behind your actions, though; you can't just go in guns blazing. Some enemies routinely try to flank you, while others throw grenades to drive you out of cover. It's just as much about keeping moving as it is about making your way through clips. There are times when you might not want to pull out a gun at all, particularly in later levels when you're heavily outnumbered. If enemies haven't been alerted to your presence, you can sneak up behind them and take them down quietly with one swift move. This often prevents them from alerting others and drawing you into a prolonged firefight. Unfortunately, the AI drops a few IQ points when it comes to stealthy attacks, failing to recognise that its once breathing buddy has had his neck snapped only two feet away. Cover detection can also be a problem. There are moments when you're under intense fire and scramble to take cover behind a crate but inexplicably fail to do so, leaving you at the mercy of 1,000 hot shards of lead and giving you the sudden urge to curse very loudly and very often at the screen.

There's cursing to be done during action set pieces too, though it's more "f*** yeah!" than "f*** you." There are some impressive moments as temples collapse and buildings explode while you do your best to escape impending doom, even if the frame rate takes a hammering during the most action-packed sections. A canoe ride and a trip down some treacherous river rapids help to mix things up, providing some exhilarating moments. It's a shame there aren't more of them, with long, repetitive stretches of platforming draining any excitement you might have enjoyed. If you're a fan of shiny things, though, there are heaps of hidden collectibles to find, as well as a picture-taking minigame that encourages exploration, even if it's only within the game's linear confines. Collectibles that you find can be traded with other Vita users via Near (Vita's social networking and discovery service) in "The Black Market," which can be helpful in finding some of the rarer ones and earning trophies for complete collections.

Sadly, that's the closest you're going to get to any multiplayer in Golden Abyss, which is disappointing given how fun it is in Uncharted 3. But then, Golden Abyss is full of disappointments. The action set pieces are great, but there's too few of them; the voice acting is exemplary, but the narrative doesn't do it justice; the touch and motion controls work well for some actions, but they ruin others. For every moment of enjoyment you have, something comes along to spoil it. Despite its problems, though, Golden Abyss still succeeds in delivering some intense, entertaining action and combat. It's not quite the full-blown Uncharted experience on the move that you might have hoped for, but it's damn close. And for that, it should be commended.

'
The Good
Exciting, strategic combat
Great voice acting
Beautiful visuals
The Bad
Flaky AI
Some touch and motion controls detract from the fun
Dull narrative saps the drive from the characters and gameplay
7
Good
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Discussion

151 comments
Lucca202
Lucca202

Ok, just finished the game on Crushing. Whoever thought of THOSE fights was completely insane. Touch QTEs? Really? Mark is not exaggerating when he says "with some of your swipes mysteriously going unrecognised". It's pretty frustrating, especially since in Crushing you can't miss swipes.

I pretty much agree with the whole review. This is a great game, just not up to the series' (high) standards. And it breaks the momentum too often with shoehorned motion and touch controls. But still, great game, and one of the best you can go for right now if you want a Vita. 

BradBurns
BradBurns

This game is arguable better looking than it's PS3 siblings. Probably because of that OLED screen the Vita has.

Though, I was wondering if Drake was supposed to come off as a secret villain or something. I just don't understand how a guy that makes a living out stealing treasure from poor Natives is hailed a good guy. And wouldn't people be angry enough to attack you if they knew you were trying to loot their ancestral ruins.

Just a thought..

Terrencec06
Terrencec06

Just finished the game the other day. Great handheld game. Only control issues I had were with the nades.

hangman000
hangman000

"Can Golden Abyss live up to the series' excellent pedigree..........Mark Walton finds out in this Video Review" He doesnt find out,he just says what he thinks is right.

DJKrayz_basic
DJKrayz_basic

i've enjoyed the portable version of Uncharted.. it looks great, plays pretty well, and has that unmistakable Uncharted feel to it... obviously, its not as grand as the PS3 versions, but for what it is, its a solid game and worthy of owning on the Vita.. may not be the finest Vita title to date, but it ranks up there in my opinion..

canuckbiker
canuckbiker

Excellent game, I enjoyed it a lot. The story is not up to the great standards of it's predecessors, but still kept me interested and wanting more. Never had a problem with the controls myself either. To be honest I think this reviewer puts too much of his own hang ups into his reviews. I've never seen a negative score on the gears of war for it's awful story lines.

jakesnakeel
jakesnakeel

Just finished this game.  Enjoyed it.  I didn't experience any imprecision on the touch screen controls, ever.  I wonder if it was fixed in a patch.

Generic_Dude
Generic_Dude

The reviewer doesn't think like I do so he is wrong, and probably stupid. /sarcasm Grow up, people.

MattTrevi
MattTrevi

7!? This game is not perfect, but a 7 is far too low. I have played so many mediocre games that have been scored around 7, but this game deserves much better! It has got to be because of the comparisons to the console 'Uncharted' games. This is a portable game! It is an amazing feat that we can play this game on the go. A 7 is too low.

 

8.5/10

Migreed
Migreed

I agree with this review

yixingtpot
yixingtpot

the reviewers are bribed, nothing touches this game on hand helds and it's better than most console games on the market now. It deserves no less than a 8.5 at the very lowest. Great sound, great voice acting, great controls unrivaled on hand held devices, great length, decent story, innovative control interface. NO glitches, the game plays smooth with no hitches at all. Graphics are stellar, nothing on the portable market that even comes close other than other Vita games. 7 is an insulting score to any intelligent person.

yixingtpot
yixingtpot

Just finally got my Vita, I had already bought the 32GB card and Hot Shots Golf so I finally plucked down the money for the system and it's awesome. I bought Golden Abyss last night and I'm a few chapters in, the touch screen stuff is ok, I don't mind it so far and I think you can just turn it off? haven't checked. It's very strange having a fire fight on this tiny screen lol, the gun sounds are actually much better than the PS3 originals. The controls with these tiny analog sticks is kind of flailing, but I'll get used to it or adjust them. I've noticed that the hit detection seems a tad off with hand guns going for head shots with enemies under cover, but I just waited to shoot them in the chest etc. So far the story is ok, the voice acting is great, the level designs are gorgeous... I've taken tons of screen captures and it's cool the way the Vita create sub folders for each game. The sniping six axis aiming is great and should be added to the main series relative to PS3/Sixaxis. If the game holds up I'd give it around 8.5 simply because it's insane that a hand held can do any of this amazing stuff. Vita rocks, buy one... developers need to support this little beast system.

payamyari
payamyari

i give 9 to this game and this review is not correctly

kounterfeit
kounterfeit

i give it an 8.5 only negative is some the the FORCED touch screen stuff. completelt unnecessary to boost someone up and to do a couple of other things. other than that the game is fine. after getting used to the thumb sticks aiming is also fine.

simpletaste
simpletaste

I do agree with this review in most aspects. I would also give it a 7.0-7.5. Following this game when it was first announce, in interviews, the developers promised that the touch controls would be optional and I put them up on their word, which sadly they didn't deliver. Not having the option to use a regular control scheme really hurts them. The touch screen stuff breaks the pacing, the characters introduced are hard to care about, and the story portrays Drake in a way that makes him unintelligent and gullible. It has a lot and I mean a lot of dialogue which at some points I just wanted to yell "shut the F up" and there was times in the middle where I wanted to put a couple of bullets in peoples legs so I wouldn't have to see them in the end game. All in all this game is NOT better than the first game. Fans of the series you will probably like this game enough to defend it and give it an 8.0 - 8.5, but when it came down to it, I, myself was disappointed.

SicklySunStorm
SicklySunStorm

There are glitches too which mar the mysteries - *SPOILER* the Ring of Earth page in the journal - I had completed numerous charcoal rubbings and yet they all kept just disappearing, like I had never done them. I now know it's a known bug and I'll have to play it right through perfectly without missing any to be able to get them again. Annoying, but a decent game so at least I'll have fun doing it. Overall, it is a truly excellent game and an indicator of what we could see on the handheld, and I am very happy with it, but it does indeed have some flaws which just shouldn't be present in an Uncharted game.

SicklySunStorm
SicklySunStorm

So far, I'm really enjoying this game - but as GS's review points out, there are some flaws that spoil the party, It does indeed have oh so beautiful graphics for the most part, but the explosions and consequential impact on objects around them in the environment, are very underwhelming and visually pretty basic with a rather blocky looking white/orange/red burst of fire. Some of the dialogue is also just outright terrible - the quality control for the script must have been none existent... case in point *slight SPOILER* at the start where you do your first charcoal rubbing with Chase nearby, and she acts all surprised like Drake is some sort of Academic demi-God by figuring out to do a charcoal rubbing - something so basic, I was doing it in primary school, so for a fairly seasoned tomb raider, she seems pretty dim. There are moments where the script is great - the camaraderie between Drake and Sully being intact - but it's those times when it's off that you're pulled out of it and you can feel that this quite Uncharted.. Unsharted, maybe? And don't get me started on the stupid sensitivity of some of the charcoal rub puzzles - some do just fine, but then occassionally you get one you've rubbed all visually and yet you're stuck at 97-98% and you have to keep poking and rubbing randomly to find the damn spot that needs doing.

GodOfSyn
GodOfSyn

This game is pretty awesome, just finishing it up myself. The best part of the Vita is that if you are done playing a game such as Uncharted Golden Abyss, you can Remote Play your ps3 over the internet form anywhere and if you have your Uncharted 2 or 3 disk in, you can play that from your Vita, pretty cool feature that I think Sony should really try to sell, because to me its just way to dang cool of an idea, and latency isn't that bad either, though I'm sure it varies depending on the connection your on but still!

grand17
grand17

this review is stupid, i played the game in store and it was awesome

Triangels
Triangels

Sony claimed they will bring to our hands Console quality gaming with VITA, so far only game can proves this from Technical Side is Uncharted Golden Abyss, u dun get wrong if u wanna show off your VITA power with this games to people around u - but i think a 8.5 is a better score for this game. Gameplay is not bad and borring , its fun and awesome just like uncharted 1 ! in fact they could port Uncharted 1 - anyway ... i like this game .

trenks
trenks

This game is pricy for a poor guy like me, but definitely worth every penny..

mark_unix
mark_unix

@wcwj26 time for you to get out your cave and buy uncharted 2/3...

Granpire
Granpire

I'd agree that this review is far from the best-written on Gamespot, but I think the rating and the arguments for it are valid.

VendettaRed07
VendettaRed07

@darksjeiK He's reviewing a portable game that costs 50$

EllieStranger
EllieStranger

@DarksjeiK Isn't the hype over the Vita that it's a PS3 in your hands? Idiot.

DarksjeiK
DarksjeiK

someone remind this dude he's reviewing a portable game..

painpas
painpas

Wow Hallgren you went all in. LOL! I don't know if it is just me but, I played the demo for this game last night and am angry I cannot buy it on my budget right now. The game is shocking to your senses. The Vita will have a fine stay by my side at all times. This reviewer must have been so critical. From what I played, I can honestly say I have never seen a portable game this gorgeous. UMVC3 is a shock too don't get me wrong and wipeout has some fantastic immersive tracks but the beauty of this game was staggering. People just love to complain and good on you Hallgren for speaking your mind.

TheAcejoel99
TheAcejoel99

Annoying, bad, or stupid use of motion or touch seemed to be the biggest issue. News flash, DON'T USE THEM! You don't dock a game for have options you can avoid. There are dozens of stupid control schemes in shoots, don't use them! Its like saying "I can make the contrast funny on my screen and if I do it than its hard to see stuff! FIX THE CONTRAST. He was LOOKING for things wrong with the game. Its uncharted in my hands and its shiny, sorry if that makes a game awsome to me.

hallgren
hallgren

Lets face it Gamespot gives you a lot of news, info and content on this site and they always will because they have the ability to do so. They give us a ton of daily news which i like, game guides, previews, videos and they give a ton of coverage of the big events throughout the year, especially E3. The big problem with this site is that the people who built this site into something special are gone! We know who they are so there is no need to mention names, but those people brought this site to life with exciting shows, great coverage and great reviews! My biggest problem with the site the way it is now is that one the reviews just aren't as good as they used to be which is a big bummer for me! The second and more important part for me is that this site has no personality and nobody who brings this site to life like it used to be in the past! You can have all the content you want and I am not knocking that but if you have nobody who can deliver that content in an exciting way than it just becomes boring and not enjoyable! As far as reviews go on this site I just don't trust them! It's unfortunate that Gamespot is part of Metacritic because they shouldn't be, they do more harm to developers and publishers with the scores they post. I know this new group of people on the site have tried but they just fall short! New Gamespot Review Score 4.5!!!!!

tinytuny
tinytuny

what the hell is gamespot doing ? ign give 8.5 to this game and this is uncharted you are forgetting something !

kingofmetal16
kingofmetal16

@wcwj26 Ease of use? That is just nuts! The Wii sucked us in with its gimmick of "you are the controller" when really it just really became an annoyance. Also, try playing an FPS on the Wii. I would just like to say that i love nintendo... Well I loved them up until around the time N64 came. There was nothing wrong with the console and it had some good games but it just didn't capture my imagination like the NES or SNES did. That's where Sony stepped in and took over until the release of the 360. The 360 and the PS3 are pretty much even matched and, though I have a PS3, the 360 does have a lot of good games, as does Sony. As for casual gamers, well yeah, it would sell more in that category but you are also forgetting that the 360 released the Kinect add-on, which in my opinion is better that the Wii. Anyone who doesn't agree with me... BITE ME!

wcwj26
wcwj26

@kingofmetal16 'nintendo will eventually lose everything and end up like atari and sega'...... are you high or something??? Whether you want to admit it or not he Wii changed the game industry with its ease of use. Im not a fan boy of either of the big 3 but the fact the Wii U is backwards compatible with Wii software and hardware, throw in the casual gamers who play crap like Just Dance and outnumber hardcore gamers by about a 1000-1 and you got a console that WILL make Nintendo alot of money! It's SCEI that needs to worry, there the one with two products sitting at the bottom of the pile!

wcwj26
wcwj26

@mark_unix Dress it up anyway you want mate, its a Tomb Raider clone at it's core!

spammehardo
spammehardo

Not really surprised gamespot never liked the original psp. Why would they like the vita? Games like brave story new traveler, kingdom hearts birth by sleep, Monster Hunter, jeanne d'arc reviews among many others were all underrated for psp by gamespot. I could imagine they would have all easily got 9's if they were on the DS.

earlmccormick88
earlmccormick88

Oh yea that's right Gamespot should just handing out 8's and 9's to every game because you are a diehard fan and don't want to hear the negatives of the game. 7 is not a bad grade! Do you not see the word next to 7? It says "Good"

privateguy
privateguy

7.0!?!?! what happened GameSpot?

habsfan120
habsfan120

This review is a joke! This game is amazing!

payamyari
payamyari

@ Raziel_0 yes. the producer of this game's sony bend

MEDzZ3RO
MEDzZ3RO

@mark_unix Perhaps as far as home consoles are concerned, yes, if the Wii U fails to capture the audience the Wii had but in the portable market, I highly doubt it. The 3DS has now sold over 16 million units, more then the DS had sold in the same time on the market. Games like Mario Kart 7, Monster Hunter 3G and Resident Evil: Revelations are proving to be slow burners, consistently selling well week after week. If you'd have made that statement when the 3DS initially launched I may have agreed with you but since then it's changed.

kingofmetal16
kingofmetal16

@mark_unix you have a point, but I think it'll be the home console where nintendo will fail. They might be able to hold on to their handheld for another few years after the fall of the wii u (let's face it, even saying the name makes you cringe) but nintendo will eventually lose everything and end up like atari and sega.

mark_unix
mark_unix

the 3DS is already starting to look more and more dinky, right now it might not seem like it but Nintendo will go where Sega went (and just make games for the playstation/xbox...)

Bgrngod
Bgrngod

@Lucca202 I had a hard time with this myself and did a google search that revealed a few suggestions that resulted in getting the last fight done on crushing in one try.

1) You can make multiple attempts at a swipe, so even when it turns red if you are trying several swipes it might turn green before "failing".

2) You can do short swipes, they don't have to match the on-screen arrow.

3) You can do them anywhere on the screen, they don't have to be in the center.

The trick here was to do 2-3 swipes for each arrow as short and quickly as possible.  As long as you got one to register as a success, it would move on and not fail you.

Bgrngod
Bgrngod

@BradBurns None of the enemies in any of the uncharted games are "natives protecting their ruins".  At least, not the ones you go shooting down.  They are almost always competitive fortune hunters that are trying to kill Nate and his pals.

Lucca202
Lucca202

@BradBurns Also, I'm thinking Nate is a good guy because he always hesitates to pull the trigger on the Big Bad. I mean, good guys do that, right? They don't just kill others like that.

...well, unless you count the thousands of murders he commits on the way there. Just repeatedly pulling the trigger. Coldly. Thoughtlessly. Cruelly.

....I think I need to sit down.

Lucca202
Lucca202

@BradBurns If you get a LED monitor/TV for your PS3 they look just alike. I recommend it, too: it does wonders to a game. I don't regret getting mine.

canuckbiker
canuckbiker

 @Generic_Dude Funny, I thought they put in a comments column so people could share there own opinions, I guess it's just for show

Uncharted: Golden Abyss More Info

  • First Released
    • PlayStation Vita
    In Uncharted: Golden Abyss you will uncover the dark secret behind the 400-year-old massacre of a Spanish expedition as Nathan Drake follows the murderous trail of an ancient and secret Spanish sect.
    8.3
    Average User RatingOut of 764 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate Uncharted: Golden Abyss
    Developed by:
    Naughty Dog, Sony Bend
    Published by:
    SCEA, SCE Australia, SCEI, SCEE
    Genres:
    Adventure, Action, 3D, Open-World
    Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
    Teen
    All Platforms
    Blood, Drug Reference, Language, Mild Suggestive Themes, Violence