Uncharted: Golden Abyss Hands-On Preview -- Nathan Drake In The Palm Of Your HandBy Nikole Zivalich - Posted Jun 10, 2011
Uncharted: Golden Abyss marks Nathan Drake's debut on a handheld console. The PlayStation Vita game will incorporate never-before-seen gameplay mechanics, like touchscreen on both front and back panels. Familiar gameplay mechanics like six axis motion controls will be used in Nathan's next adventure. But Golden Abyss isn't actually Nathan's "next" adventure. The game takes place before the events of the PS3 Uncharted series. This doesn't mean Golden Abyss is a prequel though. I guess it's best to describe it as a story that takes place prior to those events, stays true to the series' cannon, but doesn't set up any of the subsequent games.
On first glance at Uncharted for Vita, you have to wonder how they were capable of making a game in the Uncharted series look even better than it did on the PS3. SCE Bend Studios wanted to make sure if they took on an Uncharted game they'd be able to duplicate the same cinematic quality. From first hand experience, they succeeded, and then some. The Vita is a powerful machine, a machine that can easily handle a project as ambitious as Uncharted: Golden Abyss. Bend Studios had access to the same set-up as Naughty Dog, ensuring this adventure wasn't lacking anything.
I will admit that the controls-- dual thumb sticks, left and right bumpers, four core button, d-pad, and touchscreen, all with their own unique gameplay functions--were intimidating. I only had the chance to be intimidated for a moment, as I walked up a short flight of stairs before the Vita, Uncharted equipped, was in my hands. The first thing I saw was Nathan, a younger, dirtier Nathan. I have no complaints here, just the occasional swoon. This time Nathan wasn't several feet away, the distance of my couch to my TV. He was mere inches from my face; right where he belongs. Over the course of his travels, Nathan hadn't acquired an eclectic taste in fashion. He was wearing the same thing he's always worn. Still not complaining.
I played two parts, the first was a level set on the cliffs of some tropical forest, and the other location was a crumbling temple. The forest level was there to demonstrate how cinematic they were capable of making the backdrop, and the ruins were there to demonstrate combat. For the forest level, Nathan had to follow an old friend, Dante. He leads you up a mountain-side, scaling cliff ledges, one after another. There were two ways to approach the climb. I could use the joystick to steer Nathan forward, clicking X along the way to grab hold of ledges and lift myself up. The second, less traditional way, is new to the Vita. The dev guiding me along called it "painting the path." With the tip of my finger I was able to highlight where I wanted Nathan to climb. Ledges that were in my assigned path had a slight glow. This was an odd concept to get used to, but once I did I stopped using the more traditional joystick in favor of "painting."
I scaled enough of the mountain to reach a waterfall. As I walked to the ledge to see how beautiful they made the scene I was prompted to take a picture. One of the sub-quests of the game is to take pictures of certain places on your adventures. Using the Vita's Sixaxis controls I was able to move the device to take the picture as if I was actually holding a camera. Using the back touchscreen I could make the camera lens zoom in, similar to zooming in and out of the iPhone.
Next up was the combat part of the demo. I skipped ahead to another part of the level the devs called Snake Temple. Spoiler alert, I didn't actually see any snakes. The scenery demo before was pretty and all but I wanted to test out Uncharted: Golden Abyss' gun mechanics. If an enemy drops a gun near you it will appear on the screen, from there all you have to do it tap the screen to equip it. Guns I came across included an M4, an Uzi, a shotgun and my favorite: the sniper rifle. The sniper rifle worked the same way as the camera, I could slowly move the Vita up, down, left and right to to get the site lined up with the enemy. With the back touchscreen, I zoomed in before taking my shot. It was like my skill had actually killed the guy, it was great.
Like any game with guns, using the right gun for the right type of battle is key. Sometimes more important than choosing a gun is finding cover. Uncharted: Golden Abyss operates with the same button functions, circle lets you hide behind cover. If you're not in a gun fight you can tap the enemy to melee attack. A similar idea is used when you're scaling ledges with enemies near by, just tap to grab them and send them plummeting to their death.
Uncharted: Golden Abyss doesn't feel like a small version of Uncharted, it feels, looks and plays like a game on the same level as Naughty Dog's games. I was a non-believer until I saw the game for myself but this game is shaping up to 100% match the quality of its predecessors. I can't wait to see more.