Hands-on With Uncharted: Golden Abyss

By Colin Tan on June 12, 2011, 5:40AM EDT

Sony's lineup for the PlayStation Vita looks to be a strong one. Spearheaded by Uncharted: Golden Abyss, it's really quite difficult to pass the new device off as another PSP. Uncharted is a series that has grown to be associated with amazing visuals, great gameplay and, of course, a well told story. I can't say too much about that last aspect, but at the very least fans can expect Golden Abyss to be yet another great entry into the PlayStation portfolio when it leads the launch of the Vita later this year.

Let's talk visuals. Golden Abyss does not flake on the eye candy. Detailed levels, far-reaching draw distances, water shaders and the same lighting engines used on the PS3, unless you plant your eyeball on the Vita's touchscreen and really scrutinize the visuals, you won't believe this is a portable game. Drake looks, moves and sounds just as fans would expect.

Uncharted: Golden Abyss - Looking good

The best part of it all is that fans and gamers alike won't have to worry all that much about how the game controls on a portable device. Using the Vita's dual analog stick setup in conjunction with the new touch controls and Sixaxis sensors, there is more than enough options to support multiple play styles. Do you like using touch controls? Great, simply slide your finger across the screen to have Drake scale across a ledge; tap on an enemy to sock him in the face; simply tap on a weapon icon to pick it up. Prefer more traditional controls? The dual analog sticks are there just for you.

What's interesting is that you don't have to stick to just one control scheme. In fact, you can mix and match. I found traversing using more traditional controls to fit my style, but tapping on weapon icons to pick up new weapons was just as intuitive. So was tapping and sliding the screen for melee combat. What was really cool about the demo was aiming with a sniper rifle. Using the Vita's Sixaxis sensors, I can simply move the device around as though it was a real scope. It's surprisingly intuitive, not to mention a whole lot more accurate than using the analog sticks, which need a bit more tuning as there is quite a bit of drag when aiming down the sights.

Uncharted: Golden Abyss - Fly on the Wall

The demo itself was relatively short, but from what was shown, the game seems to have a fair balance of traversal and combat. Sony Bend didn't show off any puzzles and it'll be interesting to see how they tackle that while incorporating the many features that the Vita has to offer. Surely the combination of touch controls, gyroscope, cameras and whatnot can be used to create some mind-bending puzzles. LittleBigPlanet does it awfully well, but I won't talk too much about that here. In any case, Golden Abyss looks beautiful and plays just fine.

With half a year left, Sony Bend has more than enough time to give the game some spit-shine before it hits stores. Now that we know it looks gorgeous and plays relatively fine - it still needs some tuning with regards to the analog controls, I'm sure fans are a lot more interested in the story it has to tell. Despite being set prior to the events of Drake's Fortune, this is not a prequel. Golden Abyss is a stand alone entry into the Uncharted franchise and will surely flesh out Drake as a character as he uncovers the dark secret of a 400-year-old massacre of a Spanish expedition set in Central America.

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