Uncharted: Golden Abyss
Uncharted: Golden Abyss Hands-On Preview - Drake Finds Uncharted Territory on Vita
Written Thursday, December 22, 2011 By Lee Bradley
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Before we get stuck into the finer points of this Uncharted: Golden Abyss preview, let's get one thing out of the way first. It's Uncharted! On a handheld! How freaking amazing is that!? Good, now let's move on.

Golden Abyss represents not only the first time that Uncharted has appeared on a handheld, but also the first time that creators Naughty Dog has handed the series over to an exterior studio. As such, a number of question marks are left hanging over the project. Can Sony Bend possibly recreate the magic?

The preview build we've been toying with is essentially two sequential levels, giving us a decent overview of the platforming and sniping elements of the game, as well as a quick peek at some of the unique Vita functionality that Bend is squeezing into Drake's latest adventure.

It all starts with a fire. Coming to in a grungy room with barred windows, Drake clambers to his feet, clearly hurt. We've got no context to how he got there, or what is going on. All we know is that the building is on fire, there's a girl calling his name and he's trapped. Business as usual then.

The immediate feeling is one of familiarity. Drake handles and reacts exactly how you would expect. Identifying subtly glinting environmental objects, he clambers and climbs, reaches out for ledges, falls and clings by his fingertips in the way that we know and love.

Even the little details that Naughty Dog is famous for are present and correct. Move near to the flames, which grow in intensity as the level progresses, and Drake will shield himself from the heat, bringing his forearm up over his eyes. He wheezes and stumbles. He's vulnerable and human, basically, which is why we love him so much.

The new stuff comes in the form of features that only the Vita could pull off. While wandering around one of the rooms looking for an exit, I chanced upon a strange marking on the wall. A click of a button and I was prompted to take a rubbing of it for Drake's collection, something achieved by methodically dragging your finger back and forth across the slick touchscreen.

Similarly, at one stage – with the flames licking up around him – Drake had to cut his way through an obstacle with his machete, an action executed by following on-screen prompts to quickly slash your finger in the direction indicated. It's kind of like a swipey QTE. Just like the wall rubbings, it adds little to the experience, but neither does it detract from it.

Far better are the Mirror's Edge-eque balancing moments where you use the gyroscope to keep Drake upright and moving across a precarious, narrow surface. Understated but meaningful, it's exactly the right combination of novel and useful.

Of course, Drake escaped in the end. At the very last minute he reached the open window from which his new love-interest Marissa was calling and scrambled to safety just as the entire building was engulfed by fire. Phewph!

Next came the shooting. As soon as Drake escapes from the building, which turns out to be a dilapidated warehouse of sorts deep in the jungle, Marissa gets dragged off by a goon who holds her captive at distance. But guess what!? There's only a neat row of sniper rifles stacked up against the wall next to you. Handy.

After picking off the goon through the scoped sights of the rifle (while carefully avoiding putting a cap in your girlfriend's head), Drake then has to negotiate a fairly rote sequence in which he guides Marissa back to safety by picking off the snipers lining the rooftops. Their positions are revealed, predictably, by red dot tracer lights. One by one you take them out. Inch by inch Marissa makes it back to safety.

Next came the climax of the demo and the moment that I realised that Uncharted may struggle to work on a handheld. With Marissa back at your side, all of a sudden a convoy of vans rumble towards the building, stopping at distance for gunmen to jump out of. I was expecting a grand shootout. That's not what I got.

Instead, two men jumped out, I shot them and then I was prompted to put a few bullets into one of the trucks, which was rather handily stuffed with explosives. So I hit it, the entire convoy went up in flames and the demo was over. Job done.

Now, if this was a home console Uncharted game, there would have been a protracted combat sequence where the tension ratchets up - Drake and Marissa in increasing, nail-biting peril - until the final, climactic scene erupts in a giant orgasmic squall of fire and our heroes survive by the skin of their teeth.

Boil the Naughty Dog Uncharted games down and the individual elements - the combat and the platforming - may not be entirely perfect, but the way in which they are mixed, matched, paced and structured usually is. Naughty Dog are the master choreographers. Based on this little snippet, Uncharted: Golden Abyss is lacking.

But it's not Sony Bend's fault. The disappointment of this sequence is not necessarily a failing of the developers. Uncharted: Golden Abyss has to pan out in relatively bite-size vignettes. Its sections have to be short and sweet because it is a handheld game, not necessarily designed to be played at length. It lacks the requisite space to breathe.

What this means is that Bend simply can't ape the ebb and flow of the PS3 Uncharted titles. They have to find another way that fits the platform. And that's our only misgiving about a game that is otherwise remarkable. The best thing about the games Golden Abyss has to impersonate is nigh on impossible to achieve, given the format.

But hey, I'm being nitpicky here. It's Uncharted! On a handheld! How freaking amazing is that!?


User Comments
Forum Posts: 7
Comment #1 by khiladi123
Thursday, December 22, 2011 @ 04:24:05 PM
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I'll wait for it to be ported on ps3

Forum Posts: 29115
Comment #2 by mjc0961
Thursday, December 22, 2011 @ 04:32:38 PM
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"He's vulnerable and human, basically, which is why we love him so much."

Of course. This game does take place before Uncharted 2, which turned him into Superman.

Forum Posts: 1832
Comment #3 by AlejandroM
Thursday, December 22, 2011 @ 04:52:24 PM
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@2: I've always wondered why people consider him the "everyman". Drake is many things but an Average Joe is not one of them. I don't know of many people who's biggest issue is racing a war monger to the Tree of Life or questioning if his dangerous escapades are worth the lives he endangers.

Forum Posts: 719
Comment #4 by Scorpkahn
Thursday, December 22, 2011 @ 05:08:17 PM
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What I want to know. Where in the series is this set?

Forum Posts: 68
Comment #5 by KyLeKhAoS
Thursday, December 22, 2011 @ 05:41:58 PM
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@4 It is set before the events of the first game, Uncharted: Drake's Fortune.

Forum Posts: 87
Comment #6 by claas
Friday, December 23, 2011 @ 06:02:01 AM
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I'd rather play tetris.

Forum Posts: 277
Comment #7 by XWafty CrankerX
Friday, December 23, 2011 @ 08:58:12 AM
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So, how powerful is this Vita anyway i console terms, is it a xbox and a half, 6 wiis, half a ps3.

Forum Posts: 57
Comment #8 by NeoXenosyde
Friday, December 23, 2011 @ 09:17:19 AM
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Wooo #1 and #6 must of got their chrimbo pressies early, dear Santa I would like a flame shield and a dose of sarcasm, if you have played the final build of the game, then you can leave you're negative comments, however you haven't played the game so your comments are moot!

I'm sure it will be a fine addition to the series, not quite as epic as the PS3 ones but a close relative to them.

Forum Posts: 58
Comment #9 by Datdamdemon
Friday, December 23, 2011 @ 10:43:20 AM
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@8 there was nothing negative about their comments they simply said they would wait to get it or rather play something else. Just because you dislike something doesn't make it negative... or wait does it?

Forum Posts: 87
Comment #10 by claas
Friday, December 23, 2011 @ 10:56:54 AM
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but his unbias comment aint moot, even tho he aint played it either, but is sure it will be a fine addition to the series.
derpppp, fan boy much.

Forum Posts: 11
Comment #11 by timewarp
Friday, December 23, 2011 @ 06:54:13 PM
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To be fair Claas you did come onto a page about Uncharted saying you'd rather play Tetris so you did come off as a bit of a troll and besides why did you pick tetris? One of the most fun addictive and generally innovative games ever to be released? That'd be like mocking a film by saying you'd rather watch Die Hard.

To be honest I'm a little worried it won't have the variarty of settings Uncharted 2 and 3 had.

Forum Posts: 29
Comment #12 by K-I-L-L-A
Saturday, December 24, 2011 @ 11:38:51 AM
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Forum Posts: 96
Comment #13 by bmxnick76
Saturday, December 24, 2011 @ 04:42:05 PM
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Agreed with 11

Forum Posts: 1155
Comment #14 by uchihaayub
Sunday, December 25, 2011 @ 10:45:56 AM
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@11 You have basically said what I wanted to say.

Forum Posts: 0
Comment #15 by gabrielswe
Monday, December 26, 2011 @ 11:39:58 AM
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Forum Posts: 78
Comment #16 by fitroi78
Thursday, December 29, 2011 @ 04:58:02 AM
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this is the game that sealed the deal on me getting a Vita.

Forum Posts: 0
Comment #17 by straw4ahead
Thursday, December 29, 2011 @ 11:01:36 PM
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Uncharted is a day one must have game for the Vita.

Forum Posts: 362
Comment #18 by deviousdave
Thursday, January 12, 2012 @ 07:02:07 PM
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I am getting a vita mostly for this and the assassins creed game they say will come to the vita

Forum Posts: 3
Comment #19 by XxEnd LeSS713xX
Monday, January 16, 2012 @ 01:22:33 PM
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Forum Posts: 375
Comment #20 by bushisprez
Monday, January 23, 2012 @ 05:41:00 AM
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I feel like so many people are going to be let down when they find out that Vita is going to turn out like the PspGO and not sell well. The best games at launch are just reports from consoles. And Uncharted although no doubt will be awesome will not sell the handheld if Japan had anything to show for it already. Plus trophies aren't going to be a big deal on that thing and they basically killed backwards compatibility by making it digital only, so your umds are useless. I would bet Naughty Dog ports it to the PS3.

Forum Posts: 117
Comment #21 by four_2113
Monday, January 23, 2012 @ 08:22:58 PM
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@20, a lil' research would do you some good. Which games are ports? Not a single one, from what I have seen. And as far as sales go, that remains to be seen. I for one will not be disappointed, and will be enjoying my Vita Feb. 15th!

Forum Posts: 122
Comment #22 by tbone452123
Sunday, February 05, 2012 @ 10:14:03 PM
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picked up mine today, just waiting to get my hands on my Vita on the 15th!!!

Forum Posts: 124
Comment #23 by Fatboyrick
Monday, February 20, 2012 @ 08:18:56 PM
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I will be buying this 1st thing when i get my vita

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Game Info
SCE Bend Studio


US February 14, 2012
Europe February 22, 2012
Japan December 17, 2011

Players: 1
ESRB: Teen
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