Uncharted NGP Hands-On

We get a hands-on demo of Nathan Drake's Next Generation Portable adventure; touching and tapping ensue.

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One of the games showcased for the NGP at Sony's PlayStation Meeting in Japan was a new entry in the Uncharted series. The eye-popping demo showcased the NGP's graphical muscle and its touch functionality. We were able to spend a little time with the demo of the upcoming game and tried to wrap our head around the fact that the incredible-looking game was running on a portable gaming device.

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The demo let us play through the short sequence that Shuhei Yoshida showed off onstage during the presentation. We guided Nathan Drake through a series of environmental obstacles and dealt with a few enemies before winding down the action with some photography. The demo opened with Nathan walking away from a jeep and heading off into a jungle. The early issues to be dealt with weren't too taxing--some running and jumping over obstacles were the biggest issues. Vine swinging required a little more effort, tilting the NGP to get a swing going, but it was manageable and also served to highlight the stunning viewing angles of the NGP screen.

Enemies didn't appear to pose too much of an issue at first given the "touch to incapacitate" mechanic in the demo, which brings up a small fist for you to tap on to take out enemies automatically. The touch mechanic also let us have Drake pick up a rifle toward the end of the demo as an enemy across a ravine opened fire. We got a taste of the gyro functionality in the device as we shifted our aim by physically moving the device. The gyro support was very responsive and worked best when we used smooth, deliberate movements, which offered us very precise aiming. Once our enemies were taken out, we were able to call up a camera mode, because why wouldn't Nathan Drake want to document his travels? This switched our view to a camera viewfinder. We used the integral gyros to move around and the front touch screen to zoom in or out. Once we hit the right shoulder button to snap our shot, we got a "camera challenge complete" message, and the demo ended.

The action in the demo made use of most of the controls on the NGP--analog sticks, touch screen, and face and shoulder buttons--pretty smoothly. Although the demo required us to hop between different control mechanics--buttons, touch screen, and gyro--everything worked well together and felt right. We're also happy to see that some of the touch-screen mechanics, such as jumping over objects, can be done with a button too, if that's what you prefer. At the same time, we liked the idea of "swiping" to a location and having Nathan walk or climb there automatically.

The visuals in the demo were ridiculously close to the original Uncharted on the PlayStation 3. The environmental detail was very high, as was the detail on Nathan, who animated smoothly. Texture quality was extremely sharp and was further complemented by the NGP's screen, which was stunning from any angle. Most impressive was the game's frame rate and camera movement, both of which were very smooth. The most nitpicking we can do is call out some minor aliasing bits on some plants and an odd texture or two, which are things you'd have to be looking for. Other than that, the game looks like Uncharted on the PS3, which isn't too shabby for a first-generation showcase of the NGP's power.

Overall we're very impressed by the NGP's power and the potential of an Uncharted game on the system, based on what we played. Though what we played was clearly a nascent slice of this new game, it hit all the notes we'd want an Uncharted game to hit on a portable system, right down to short bits of banter from Nathan as he goes about his business. While no release information has been given on Uncharted NGP yet, plan on more from us as we get it.

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