Uncharted: Golden Abyss [Review]

Uncharted is a franchise for the Playstation 3 developed by Naughty Dog (best known at the time for the Jak and Daxter games). It is an action adventure game series inspired by Tomb Raider and the Indiana Jones movies. The game is about a contemporary Indiana Jones (minus the bull whip and fedora unfortunately) with a stupid haircut completing Tomb Raider-esque climbing puzzles. Naughty Dog must have understood that Tomb Raider was mostly just a bad climbing simulation at best; so they took it upon themselves to make the game awesome by implementing much better gunplay, a great story, funny dialog, and Victor Goddamn Sullivan. So, now Naughty Dog has enlisted Bend studio; the developers who made Resistance Retribution, (AKA: one of the best PSP games ever) to get the franchise on the PS Vita by making Uncharted: Golden Abyss. The question everyone is asking is: “How did it turn out?”. Unfortunately, the answer is... not very well at all.

Uncharted: Golden Abyss is an action-adventure game which was made in 2012 for the Playstation Vita. It was developed by Bend Studio and published by Sony Computer Entertainment. It is currently selling for $39.99 new and $24.99 pre-owned at Gamestop. Its also currently available for download on the Playstation Network Store for $35.99 or for free if you're a Playstation Plus member (prices and status on PSN may vary in different regions or at later times).

The game’s premise is the usual Uncharted deal; treasure hunter Nathan Drake is hunting some treasure in South America while fighting some bad guys. If you've seen an Indiana Jones movie its basically just that; except with more shooting and climbing. If you have never seen an Indiana Jones movie, but have played any of the pre- 2013 reboot Tomb Raider games, then it’s basically that. Except, you can actually enjoy it without having to play the game with only one hand.

During my playthrough of Uncharted: Golden Abyss I found disappointment around every corner; especially in the combat. The combat consists mostly of mediocre cover-based shooting and some straight up atrocious hand to hand combat. The problem with the hand to hand combat is that whenever I wanted to punch an enemy, I would end up being forced to perform this sequence of quicktime events (which lock Drake in place so he can’t move or run away), while every enemy in the room reduced me to a thick red paste with a stupid haircut. The shooting isn't very good either. It mostly consists of shooting goons behind cover in boring environments. Dozens of games have done cover-based shooting better. There are no really good aspects of the combat to write home about.

Another thing about Uncharted: Golden Abyss that irritated me were the climbing bits. Now, I was never a fan of Tomb Raider-like climbing segments ,but the ones in this game are especially bad. I think that the developers tried to fix everything that was wrong with climbing sections, but ended up overdoing it. For instance they noticed that at times it could be unclear where to go next so they made the climbing needlessly linear. Every time I was climbing I noticed there was only one direction I could move in. I couldn’t even jump off a ledge unless I was at the lowest part of the climb.   Another thing that annoyed me was how 80% the ledges were painted gold. I guess the developers were worried that players would be unsure if the ledge they are going to jump onto is actually a ledge instead of part of the wall texture. Yeah they had a good intention ,but that didn’t stop the levels from looking hideous.

Now, considering that Uncharted: Golden Abyss is an Uncharted game, its expected to have a good story. This makes it especially disappointing to find out that it indeed does not. The game opens in medias res ( that means starting out with a brief flash forward and then spend some time explaining how we got there, like in Uncharted 2 with the train crash) with Drake fighting off some goons working under someone called Jason Dante. After leaving us dealing with a cliff-hanger, the game cuts to the beginning; where Drake and Dante are working together in Central America to find some ancient native american treasure. Yes, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that Dante’s moral compass isn’t facing due north, but the game could have at least tried to surprise us. After a little bit of climbing we are introduced to Drake's love interest for this game, as well as one of the main villains, a woman with less personality than a cardboard box, and a fat general whose actions make no sense whatsoever. From that point on-wards, the game stumbles through a half baked plot on par with some Indiana Jones fanfiction written while the author was drunk. The story lacks any of the charm its predecessors had; it’s not exciting, fun, or worthwhile.

Now lets move away from the horrible story and bad gameplay so we can talk about one of my biggest problems with the game in general; that it’s a tech demo. The game frequently takes the player away from the action so that it can shove the PS Vita’s gimmicky tech in their face so hard that they end up with a black eye. A good example of this is when Drake is walking on top of a log in order to cross a chasm and starts to lose his balance, requiring the player to save him by using the PS Vita's gyroscope to balance Drake out. Yeah it was pretty interesting the first time, but when the game forces the player to go through this five or six times it loses any novelty and becomes a chore. I could probably go on for a long time talking about how badly the developers incorporated the Vita’s gimmicks into this game, but for the sake of brevity I’m only going to bring up two more things. First off: the game (for what seems to be every other level) concocts (and I kid you not) some reason for Drake  to perform charcoal rubbings on stuff.  For those of you who missed that day in art class ,charcoal rubbings are when you put a piece paper on a textured surface and rub it with a crayon or a piece of charcoal so you can copy the texture on the paper. The game replicates the almost sexual thrill of this adrenaline rush inducing activity by having the player rub their fingertip on the screen (and smudge it up). Other than showing off the existence of the Vita’s touch screen (which the packaging and start menus of both the game and the console already inform us of) what does having these sections in the game accomplish? Despite how annoying the charcoal rubbings get, they still don’t take the prize for most ridiculous  use of the Vita’s touch screen, that would be our next item. Okay, so during at least two separate instances in the game makes the player to input a code into a combination lock. Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure that inputting a code into a lock isn’t gameplay; its what high schoolers do every day with their lockers!

So that’s Golden Abyss for you; not worth your time, money or even the space on your Vita’s memory card (especially when you consider those things are overpriced and can barely hold shit). This isn’t a game that I can recommend to anyone. If you have a PS Vita there are better games out there. Just stay away from this.

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