Upon starting the game the player is immediately greeted with the familiar (the series theme music) and the new (navigating the main menu is performed entirely by touching and sliding the screen). Aiming can be toggled between the right stick or the gyro function of the system in the options menu and throughout the eight to ten hour adventure, all of the Vita's input methods will have been used. Make no mistake, in much the same way that early DS games made use of that system's unique controls, Uncharted: Golden Abyss is very much a launch title.
The first section of the game acts as a tutorial and it is here that even series veterans will want to pay attention. Essentially, anything that can be performed using traditional button and stick controls has an optional alternative input choice – ledges and handholds can be traversed by touching or drawing a path on screen, ropes can be climbed using the back touch panel, items can be picked up by touching them on-screen, control of the aforementioned right stick aiming can be handed over to gyro controls and so on. Without doubt, many players will be put off by this but for the most part it is entirely optional, meaning that it can be used as required and not all the time.
The gunplay can be performed using the standard third person shooter controls of left shoulder button to aim and right to shoot, but grenades and some melee attacks are touchscreen based. The grenade count in the bottom right of the screen can be tapped to throw a grenade to the centre of the screen or held down and dragged to allow more precise aiming. Fisticuffs are mapped to either the square button or by tapping enemies, although where in the console versions of the games the face buttons would successfully perform Quick Time Events, in Golden Abyss they are now handled by tracing the on-screen direction onto the screen. They appear frequently enough to keep the player on their toes, but it is at times awkward to move fingers and thumbs from the face buttons to the touch screen in time.
It's not just the combat and traversal controls getting an optional makeover either - the puzzles in the game also make extensive use of the system's input methods only these aren't optional. Thankfully, however, the touch controls are responsive enough that it doesn't feel frustrating or awkward using them. Whether it's opening safe locks, piecing back together pictures that have been ripped up or copying an image using paper and charcoal, the touch screen gets a good workout over the course of the game. Without giving anything away, there are one or two more unique puzzles which are a clever touch and are definitely one of a kind and only able to be seen in a Vita Uncharted game.
The game itself, aside from the new input methods, is standard Uncharted fare. Taking place before the events of the first game and featuring many of the cornerstones of the series including a female romantic interest, an easily identifiable main enemy, double crossing and plot twists and the search for an ancient treasure. The usual gunfights, terrain traversal, puzzle solving, set pieces, banter between characters and stellar voice work that the PlayStation 3 games feature are all here in abundance as well. In terms of location, the setting of the game has most in common with the first console game, although Drake does get a change of scenery every so often, just don't expect the globe trotting of the second and third entries in the series. One area where the game excels particularly well is the balance between the gameplay elements mentioned previously. Whereas Uncharted 3 saw complaints from some quarters of too many shootouts, they are kept in check here and don't outstay their welcome with equal attention being given to these and the quieter, more relaxing sections. The issue of enemies taking too many bullets to down and only having a couple of skins hasn't been solved though and another potential negative is that most who play the game will find it necessary to constantly readjust the sensitivity of the right analogue stick for aiming as it feels different from any of its console counterparts. With such an abundance of control methods available though, most players will find and settle on one, even if it results in them playing the game in a way they are not quite used to.
As well as the adventure taking, on average, the same amount of time as the other games, there are also quite a few optional extras in the way of hidden treasures scattered throughout the environments and pictures to take of certain scenes or items during each chapter of the game. These, along with the multiple difficulty levels (and also the inclusion of trophies on Vita), allow for a good amount of replay value, even if the multiplayer from the console games is missing here.
Being the latest entry in a flagship PlayStation series launching along with shiny new hardware, Uncharted: Golden Abyss was always going to be a game that incorporated as many of the new control and input methods of the new system as possible and it succeeds in this, ticking more or less every box of what the Vita can do. Some people will be resistant to such changes being implemented to what is a series that falls firmly under the "core gamer" umbrella but the new controls all work well, are responsive and many of them are optional, meaning that the central gameplay is still largely unaffected. It remains to be seen how developers will implement these new controls in future Vita titles over the years to come but as an early attempt they work very well here and this is a game well worth picking up with the Vita come American and European launch.
- Retains the feel of the console Uncharted game.
- A lengthy game full of collectible extras.
- Touch screen inputs are responsive.
- Not all touch input is optional which may put some off.
- Aiming may need to be tinkered with a bit.
- No multiplayer.
Buy this at Play-Asia