Giant Bomb Review

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Uncharted: Golden Abyss Review

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  • VITA

Uncharted: Golden Abyss feels like a made-for-cable version of a proper, big-screen Uncharted adventure.

Many of the weapons found in the previous Uncharted games appear here, as well.

When you think about the various things that make up one of the games in the Uncharted series, what do you come up with? For me, the checklist includes the basics, like low-risk climbing sequences and standard cover-based gunplay. Then you've got Nathan Drake, lovable scamp that he is, cracking wise and such. Set him in a treasure hunting adventure with pseudo-historical references, surround him with a lady or two, and mix in at least two double-crosses because Drake can be a bit of a simp. Then, break up the climbing and shooting with a few puzzles. Oh, and don't forget to lay in a few huge, cinematic "set-piece" moments that are driven by the developer's technical mastery of the hardware at hand. That's sort of the thing that holds all the rest of it together, right?

Sony's Bend Studio gets its first crack at a portable Uncharted prequel with Uncharted: Golden Abyss on the Vita. It pulls together a lot of the things that you'd expect to see and hear in an Uncharted game, but it's missing the things that help set the franchise apart from other action games. In their place, the developers have inserted a bunch of mediocre minigames that have you touching or rubbing the screen or rear touch panel in various ways. If the goal was to use every single piece of functionality that the Vita has to offer, then the developers deserve a huge pat on the back. But the overall quality of the final product suffers as a result of these inclusions, leaving behind an Uncharted game that feels like a carbon copy of the genuine article.

The missing elements are noticeable ones, too. You won't see any huge, technical showpieces in Golden Abyss. Or, at least, none that resemble the insane scope found in the PlayStation 3 games. You won't find any sinking ships, speeding trains, or collapsing buildings here. The thing that's become something of a calling card for the Uncharted franchise is missing, and without those huge sequences, the game lacks punch. You'll occasionally see some pillars fall over or some other basic destruction, but it never quite feels like an Uncharted game. Instead it feels like Drake going through the motions, performing his base-level tasks under decidedly ordinary circumstances.

There are some majestic background images to see when you get up high, but tilting the Vita to stay balanced on logs is no fun.

The game has Drake paired up with a woman named Marisa Chase as they stumble around South America in an adventure that eventually connects to Esteban the Moor, Marcos de Niza, and the Seven Cities of Gold. An ex-general attempting to lead a revolution and a greedy treasure hunter called Dante are also in the mix, with the former wanting to find the mythical gold to fund his revolution while the other is trying to get paid. Though the ruins change a bit over the course of the game, the vast majority of the action is set in jungles and caves.

By and large, the game controls like you'd expect an Uncharted game to control. When shooting, the left trigger aims and the right trigger fires. The analog sticks on the Vita are no surprise, either. For the most part, you can opt to play the game almost exactly like you'd play Uncharted on a PlayStation 3, at least whenever you're shooting people (and there are a ton of people that need shooting) or climbing around. Golden Abyss also offers a lot of optional ways to control the action. By default, for example, any time you zoom in with a sniper rifle, you can tilt the Vita to aim. Considering this asks you to occasionally tilt the system so far that you can't see the screen anymore, I turned that off pretty quickly. You'll tap the ammo counter in the upper-left to reload your weapons, and grenades are tossed by either tapping the touch screen or holding over the grenade icon and dragging them out to the center of the screen, which lets you aim your tosses a bit. Melee attacks can either be done via an on-screen icon or by tapping the enemies directly. Some melee sequences lead into a quick little screen-swiping sequence where you're forced to swipe in a specific direction to succeed. See a bit of bamboo blocking your path? A knife icon appears on-screen, and when you touch it you'll be asked to swipe the screen three times before Drake will begin cutting. The game's big boss fights are, essentially, touch-based Quick Time Events where you need to swipe the screen correctly to keep the momentum moving in your direction. Need to give your partner a boost up onto a ledge? Swipe the screen! None of these things are difficult, but they really pile up and take you out of the moment.

At some point, the action just begins to feel like a series of touch-based minigames with some shooting and climbing mixed in to break up the touches. In addition to swiping all over the place, you'll also have to rub the screen to take charcoal etchings of symbols or clean up skulls, helmets, swords, and other clues you find along the way. You'll even get to open combination locks with the touchscreen, after which your partner appears to be genuinely impressed by your ability to... work a combination lock, even though she just handed you the combination to the safe. That's just dumb. Optional "mysteries" can also be solved by taking photos. Whenever you end up in a spot where a key photo can be taken, a camera icon appears on-screen. Tap it, and you'll get a camera out and see a version of the photo you're supposed to be taking. It's up to you to maneuver yourself into position to take that exact photo in order to get credit. If you're too far off the mark, the game reports that your grade is 95 percent, but you need a full 100. This, too, feels like insanity. You'll also have to stop when crossing logs and narrow beams to "play" a bad balance sequence by tilting the Vita.

Again, no one touchscreen moment is awful (actually, the game encouraging you for doing something as dead simple as opening a combination lock is pretty close), but they add up to make the entire experience feel like it's half Uncharted, half lame iPhone compilation. The only genuinely cool moment I experienced that involved the Vita's additional control features was a bit where text was revealed on an otherwise-blank piece of paper by holding the Vita up to a light source. You can also optionally use the touchscreen to climb ledges by swiping along the path you want Drake to take, which is fine, but it's not like the existing control scheme for that is especially challenging or slow.

You can opt to use tilt and touch to climb around.

Perhaps looking for those huge, Uncharted moments on the Vita is a bit much to ask. It's hard to know where the system will ultimately fall with regards to technical strength and graphical capabilities, but for something that Sony has tried to compare to the PlayStation 3 on a technical level, it doesn't take long to see that this ain't no PlayStation 3 game. The lush jungle settings are vibrant and really sell the quality of the Vita's screen, though as you spend time with this full-length adventure, it's easy to pick out a flat-looking texture here and there. More damning, perhaps, is the game's unstable frame rate, which gets worse as you play deeper into the game and the game begins to throw larger environments at you with more frequency. It looks fine, and it's probably one of the more technically impressive games available at launch, but it certainly leaves room for improvement. Again, that's assuming that the Vita is capable of more than this.

The entire experience is anchored by Nolan North, who reprises his role as Nathan Drake. The writing isn't as sharp and the situation isn't as dire as some of the previous Uncharted games, but Drake's considerable charm is still on display and prepared to make fans of the series feel they're right at home. The supporting characters are also nicely done. The whole thing feels like a "B Team" sort of feel to it, but there's just enough Uncharted here to ensure that the experience isn't a total loss. It helps that there isn't any sort of other experience like this available on the Vita right now, though even that is tempered by the game's $50 retail price tag. It's not especially difficult to find a copy of Uncharted 3 for somewhere around that price these days, and paying a price so close to the full console experience to get something that feels watered down and rough around the edges doesn't feel like a particularly good deal. But if you're already sold on the Vita and you're in need of some games, Uncharted: Golden Abyss decently approximates many of the things that have made the franchise so successful in the past.

Jeff Gerstmann on Google+
135 Comments
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Posted by algertman

But is he gay?

Posted by jetsetwillie

this has always seemed like the type of game that belongs on the big screen with proper controls to me.

not the type of game to play on the shitter

Edited by Scrumdidlyumptious

Seems like exactly what I expected. It's only been 3 months since I played Uncharted 3 so I'll pass on this.

And Virtua Tennis 4 is a better graphical showcase than this game supposedly.

Posted by Alexandruxx

I'll never get Giant Bomb's hate for handhelds. I don't want to seem like a raging fanboy, but Jeff was always against this Uncharted product, and considering how he never said ANYTHING about Uncharted 3, I believe he didn't like that one either.

So why in God's name do you make Jeff review this game when you know how he feels about the Uncharted series as a whole (even tho he liked 2) ?

Posted by timeforheroes

@Alexandruxx: This seems like a completely fair review. It's almost like you're asking why they didn't give the game to an Uncharted fanboy just so that you can read the 5 star review you clearly want.

Edited by CaLe

@Alexandruxx said:

I'll never get Giant Bomb's hate for handhelds. I don't want to seem like a raging fanboy, but Jeff was always against this Uncharted product, and considering how he never said ANYTHING about Uncharted 3, I believe he didn't like that one either.

So why in God's name do you make Jeff review this game when you know how he feels about the Uncharted series as a whole (even tho he liked 2) ?

Jeff made Jeff review this game. Don't get your panties in a bunch, he gave it a fair shot like he does with any game he reviews. I'd prefer that than someone coming at the game from a fanboy mindset.

Posted by Alexandruxx

@timeforheroes said:

@Alexandruxx: This seems like a completely fair review. It's almost like you're asking why they didn't give the game to an Uncharted fanboy just so that you can read the 5 star review you clearly want.

Yeah.

Just as Drew reviews Dirt games, Jeff racing sims, and Brad Starcraft 2, so could Brad review this one, since clearly the ones that are most interested in a game review it. They even said that on their podcasts (one example being Arkham City)

Posted by stinky

@Alexandruxx said:

I'll never get Giant Bomb's hate for handhelds. I don't want to seem like a raging fanboy, but Jeff was always against this Uncharted product, and considering how he never said ANYTHING about Uncharted 3, I believe he didn't like that one either.

So why in God's name do you make Jeff review this game when you know how he feels about the Uncharted series as a whole (even tho he liked 2) ?

giantbomb, please re-review this game until this user gets the score he wants.

Posted by zombie2011

Kinda saw this coming, the games the Vita has are all games i would rather play on a T.V.

Edited by Alexandruxx

@CaLe said:

@Alexandruxx said:

I'll never get Giant Bomb's hate for handhelds. I don't want to seem like a raging fanboy, but Jeff was always against this Uncharted product, and considering how he never said ANYTHING about Uncharted 3, I believe he didn't like that one either.

So why in God's name do you make Jeff review this game when you know how he feels about the Uncharted series as a whole (even tho he liked 2) ?

Jeff made Jeff review this game. Don't get your panties in a bunch, he gave it a fair shot like he does with any game he reviews. I'd prefer that than someone coming at the game from a fanboy mindset.

And I'd prefer them to stick to their fucking rules. They always have games reviewed by the ones that are the most interested in them.

Arkham City got a 5 because Jeff reviewed it. Uncharted 3 got a 5 because Brad reviewed it. Replace the reviewers and both those games would have gotten 4s.

I am not pissed about the score. I don't even plan on buying the Vita anytime soon. It's just that whenever a big console release comes along, they send the fanboys to review them, but when this comes along they send a non-fanboy. Which is good I guess, but why the fuck don't they do that at all times then?

Posted by chickdigger802

@Alexandruxx said:

@timeforheroes said:

@Alexandruxx: This seems like a completely fair review. It's almost like you're asking why they didn't give the game to an Uncharted fanboy just so that you can read the 5 star review you clearly want.

Yeah.

Just as Drew reviews Dirt games, Jeff racing sims, and Brad Starcraft 2, so could Brad review this one, since clearly the ones that are most interested in a game review it. They even said that on their podcasts (one example being Arkham City)

Maybe brad wasn't interested in reviewing this?

And I'm sure they only have 1 vita in office, so it would be a bit difficult to review a bunch of games with different people.

Posted by Wertt

I'm worried for the Vita

Edited by HydraHam

@Alexandruxx said:

I'll never get Giant Bomb's hate for handhelds. I don't want to seem like a raging fanboy, but Jeff was always against this Uncharted product, and considering how he never said ANYTHING about Uncharted 3, I believe he didn't like that one either.

So why in God's name do you make Jeff review this game when you know how he feels about the Uncharted series as a whole (even tho he liked 2) ?

They don't hate handhelds, sorry that everyone doesn't share your fanboyism? or your opinion?

Having owned the japan Vita for awhile and having beat this game twice giving a 3 is more then fair enough. But you can't please everyone, especially internet people. You need to step back and evaluate what you said because you do come off as a bitter fanboy who doesn't accept other peoples opinions towards things you like, i am a huge UC fan and would give this a 3.

And where do you get off saying GB hates handhelds? how did you come to this uninformed conclusion? or are you just trying to find excuses to bash the review because it doesn't please you?

Posted by Winternet

Uff, tough. Guess the VITA main player isn't really that good.

Posted by RobertOrri

@Alexandruxx said:

I'll never get Giant Bomb's hate for handhelds. I don't want to seem like a raging fanboy, but Jeff was always against this Uncharted product, and considering how he never said ANYTHING about Uncharted 3, I believe he didn't like that one either.

So why in God's name do you make Jeff review this game when you know how he feels about the Uncharted series as a whole (even tho he liked 2) ?

Jeez, that didn't take long. Only the fourth review comment!

Posted by Alexandruxx

@Styl3s: I advise you to listen to their podcasts before talking such nonsense. They always hated these types of games on handhelds. Brad had a big problem with Revelations being on the 3ds, just because he can't seem to realize that some people want those types of games on the go.

Posted by shootermcclay

@Alexandruxx: It really shouldn't matter who reviews the game. A review is subjective. The only thing that matters is that the reviewer gives a fair and honest opinion about the game. Jeff's review is fair and honest. You should be able to take his review and make your own judgment about whether you should purchase the game.

In my opinion, this game fails if it not close to being on par with the PS3 Uncharted games. At $50, it should deliver everything I expect from the series, and it does not. It is an average game, and 3 stars from Jeff seems justified.

Posted by HydraHam

@Alexandruxx said:

@Styl3s: I advise you to listen to their podcasts before talking such nonsense. They always hated these types of games on handhelds. Brad had a big problem with Revelations being on the 3ds, just because he can't seem to realize that some people want those types of games on the go.

I advise you to actually pay attention to the podcast instead of picking out negative comments, because brand and jeff both enjoy the 3DS, so because brad doesn't like revelations he hates the 3DS? So because he doesn't like the game on the go he hates the 3DS or handheld? really?

I can't stand people like you, it's opinions, get the fuck over it.

Posted by jacksonroye

@Alexandruxx: You haven't played this game yet, man. You can't disagree with the score until you have. Also, 3 stars isn't a bad score.

Online
Posted by Animasta

@Alexandruxx said:

@Styl3s: I advise you to listen to their podcasts before talking such nonsense. They always hated these types of games on handhelds. Brad had a big problem with Revelations being on the 3ds, just because he can't seem to realize that some people want those types of games on the go.

well that's his prerogative, is it not?

Posted by HydraHam

@Animasta said:

@Alexandruxx said:

@Styl3s: I advise you to listen to their podcasts before talking such nonsense. They always hated these types of games on handhelds. Brad had a big problem with Revelations being on the 3ds, just because he can't seem to realize that some people want those types of games on the go.

well that's his prerogative, is it not?

So it's ok for him to have an opinion but if someone has a negative opinion towards something he likes then they must hate the handheld, they must not enjoy handhelds or aren't a fan of the franchise, right? i mean god forbid this product this guy likes isn't THAT great, god forbid someone have a different opinion.

The point i am making is, it's a review, an opinion.. get over it.

Posted by shootermcclay

@Styl3s: He is trying to say that the GiantBomb crew hates console-type games on handhelds. What I don't understand is if he already knew that Jeff wouldn't like the game, how can he be upset with the review score. His expectations should have been tempered prior to reading it.

Posted by Winternet

@Alexandruxx said:

@timeforheroes said:

@Alexandruxx: This seems like a completely fair review. It's almost like you're asking why they didn't give the game to an Uncharted fanboy just so that you can read the 5 star review you clearly want.

Yeah.

Just as Drew reviews Dirt games, Jeff racing sims, and Brad Starcraft 2, so could Brad review this one, since clearly the ones that are most interested in a game review it. They even said that on their podcasts (one example being Arkham City)

I believe a game in the Uncharted franchise can be reviewed by any of the guys. Jeff reviewed this, Brad reviewed 3 and 2 and Ryan reviewed the first one. It's not like Assassin's Creed, which the last 3 games were all reviewed by Ryan D or Call of Duty, which the last 5 games were reviewed by Jeff G.

Posted by Alexandruxx

@shootermcclay said:

@Styl3s: He is trying to say that the GiantBomb crew hates console-type games on handhelds. What I don't understand is if he already knew that Jeff wouldn't like the game, how can he be upset with the review score. His expectations should have been tempered prior to reading it.

I didn't knew Jeff was going to review this game. If I knew, I would've raged about this a long time ago.

Posted by Alexandruxx

@Styl3s: This website's reviews are made on biased opinions. He talked bad about this game a long time ago. Games are reviewed either by fanboys or haters (Catherine) on this website.

Posted by benjaebe

Three seems fair enough. It's not a bad game to pad out the Vita library at launch. Honestly I got it for P4G, so a decent Uncharted game is just icing on the cake.

Posted by algertman

Oh yes. The best thing about these Vita launch reviews will be the SDF coming out in full force. It will be delicious as I dine on their hate.

Posted by McGhee

Mixing in all that touchscreen doesn't sound great to me. If I was buying a Vita I'd be doing it to get away from that stuff. I already have an iPhone.

Posted by PenguinDust

Pretty much what I'd expect for a launch title on a new platform especially the push to utilize all the different features on the Vita. I'm more worried about the direction of the Uncharted franchise than I am about the future of the Vita.

Posted by Scrumdidlyumptious

Wow there seems to have been a huge influx of fanboys to Giant Bomb in the past few months. Now we just need a mention of Xbots and Sony Defense Force and the transformation to Gamespot will be complete.

Posted by Polizei

Is there going to be a quick look?

Posted by Deranged

Huh, that's kind of a bummer. I was excited to get a Vita to play this.

Posted by shootermcclay

@Alexandruxx: It sounds like you wanted Brad to review this game, because he truly enjoys the Uncharted franchise. Did you not read the review for Resident Evil: Revelations? It was reviewed by Brad who loves Resident Evil games and he gave it...wait for it...3 stars. From now on, don't expect that the console-type games on handhelds are going get amazing review scores.

Edited by RobertOrri

@Polizei said:

Is there going to be a quick look?

There will be a live PS Vita stream later today, and I'd wager that this will be one of the games shown.

Posted by shootermcclay

@algertman: Not sure what you are referring to. There has been one person so far that doesn't understand how reviews work, and everyone else has been understanding of Jeff's review.

Posted by devilzrule27

@Alexandruxx said:

@CaLe said:

@Alexandruxx said:

I'll never get Giant Bomb's hate for handhelds. I don't want to seem like a raging fanboy, but Jeff was always against this Uncharted product, and considering how he never said ANYTHING about Uncharted 3, I believe he didn't like that one either.

So why in God's name do you make Jeff review this game when you know how he feels about the Uncharted series as a whole (even tho he liked 2) ?

Jeff made Jeff review this game. Don't get your panties in a bunch, he gave it a fair shot like he does with any game he reviews. I'd prefer that than someone coming at the game from a fanboy mindset.

And I'd prefer them to stick to their fucking rules. They always have games reviewed by the ones that are the most interested in them.

Arkham City got a 5 because Jeff reviewed it. Uncharted 3 got a 5 because Brad reviewed it. Replace the reviewers and both those games would have gotten 4s.

I am not pissed about the score. I don't even plan on buying the Vita anytime soon. It's just that whenever a big console release comes along, they send the fanboys to review them, but when this comes along they send a non-fanboy. Which is good I guess, but why the fuck don't they do that at all times then?

I get what you are saying and I think its a fair thing to wonder. However I do trust Jeff's ability to be objective as well. It is what it is.

Posted by Phatmac

Yeah this was expected, Giantbomb doesn't really like console games on their handhelds for some reason. I've always seen it as an accomplishment that you can get a near console experience on a handheld. Oh well, looks good to me. Knowing Jeff, this didn't seem like a game that he would like.

Posted by Brendan

Oh shit guys, Nolan North is going to come and kick your ass. He know's where you are now.

Posted by abrasion

Firstly I doubt GiantBomb "hate" handhelds, I beleive most of them own a DS and make a point of being objective in reviews.

Secondly, if they did hate handhelds, AWESOME just one more similarity I have with the GB crew, useful to help me guage their thoughts on things compared to mine.

Posted by Oni

@Alexandruxx said:

@Styl3s: This website's reviews are made on biased opinions. He talked bad about this game a long time ago. Games are reviewed either by fanboys or haters (Catherine) on this website.

You could make the same argument for any review anywhere, ever, because if it gets a high score clearly it was done by a fanboy, and if it gets a low score clearly it was a hater. Get over yourself, go outside, get some perspective.

Posted by MikkaQ

@Alexandruxx said:

I'll never get Giant Bomb's hate for handhelds. I don't want to seem like a raging fanboy, but Jeff was always against this Uncharted product, and considering how he never said ANYTHING about Uncharted 3, I believe he didn't like that one either.

So why in God's name do you make Jeff review this game when you know how he feels about the Uncharted series as a whole (even tho he liked 2) ?

I don't think it's a hate for handhelds, so much as a hate for big, full console experiences awkwardly jammed into a handheld, but never quite reaching the mark.

Posted by Milkman

People were actually expecting this to be good? Ha, it's the PSP all over again. Trying to shove a console experience into a handheld will never be interesting.

Posted by MEATBALL

So it sounds like Drake's Fortune with even more annoying motion/touch controls - that's about what I expected, really. I'd likely pick it up if I buy a Vita at some point (the crazy person in me wants to buy the system at launch).

Posted by MormonWarrior

@shootermcclay said:

@Alexandruxx: It sounds like you wanted Brad to review this game, because he truly enjoys the Uncharted franchise. Did you not read the review for Resident Evil: Revelations? It was reviewed by Brad who loves Resident Evil games and he gave it...wait for it...3 stars. From now on, don't expect that the console-type games on handhelds are going get amazing review scores.

You have to understand where they're coming from (which is with more integrity than most publications, if you ask me), which is that if there's going to be a full-console game shoved onto a portable platform, it'd better justify its existence well. It sounds like this game is simply a decent approximation of Uncharted (I've heard that everywhere, even from reviewers that gave it a higher score) the same as Revelations was a good but not great approximation of Resident Evil 4 and 5. Uncharted is a series best known and best regarded for its huge setpieces and mindblowing production values, both of which this game lacks. I'm not sure what the problem is.

Posted by DragonBomb

@Milkman: Yeah like Mario Kart 7 or Ocarina of Time 3DS.

Jeff seems pretty down on it compared to other reviewers. I haven't played it but I watched a stream of it, and the minigames were pretty bad especially early in the game which was the bit I saw.

Posted by WinterSnowblind

@Scrumdidlyumptious said:

Wow there seems to have been a huge influx of fanboys to Giant Bomb in the past few months. Now we just need a mention of Xbots and Sony Defense Force and the transformation to Gamespot will be complete.

It's always been bad when it comes to big name games and Uncharted is pretty much the flagship Sony title at this point, even if this one isn't being made by the proper developers.

Just wait until E3, especially when it comes time to show off the new systems.

Posted by niamahai

BIAS! BIAS! PS BIAS!
 
Not really. 
 
Personally I have no tried the Vita's UC, but from gameplay videos alone you can tell its pretty much a UC-ass UC game. Intriguing story, frustrating-ass gunplay.

Posted by Hailinel

@DragonBomb said:

@Milkman: Yeah like Mario Kart 7 or Ocarina of Time 3DS.

Jeff seems pretty down on it compared to other reviewers. I haven't played it but I watched a stream of it, and the minigames were pretty bad especially early in the game which was the bit I saw.

He was down on it because the game is apparently a watered down Uncharted without the expected thrills and will a lot of touch screen elements that distract more than anything else. It wouldn't be the first game to turn out like this.

Posted by BatmanReturned

I'm really glad that Golden Abyss is getting middling reviews. I was borderline obsessed with Uncharted at one point and was considering getting a Vita solely to further continue the franchise. Thankfully after 3 I've cooled on the series and now that the handheld release seems to be so-so I don't feel like I'm missing much by purchasing an expensive handheld at launch.

Posted by Pop

it's kind of weird to read comments on reviews and comments on QLs bombcasts, they are totally different. weird

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