Review by jubrany

Reviewed: 05/29/12

More an interactive experience than a game, Uncharted: Golden Abyss goes through the motions but does not yield any fulfillment.

More and more these days, gaming is about creating an “experience”. Developers go to great lengths to create immersive worlds with elaborate, fully-voiced stories and eye-popping graphics. UGA is such a game.

I felt this review was necessary to write because this game needs an honest review. Most reviews for this game have missed the main problem with this so-called game. That being: can we honestly call UGA a game? I argue that it is not a game; it is more an interactive movie with some shooting segments thrown in. Immediately, most would counter my argument with something to the effect of “well, if we are to consider Heavy Rain or MGS4 as real games, how can we say that Golden Abyss is not?” Well, I’ll tell you why. Even in the times you are “playing” UGA, the game is so linear, so scripted, and so in control of what you are doing that you may as well be watching instead of playing.

The platforming sections of the game are a perfect example of what I’m talking about. The platforming is extremely rigid and deliberately paced. It is almost completely automated. The game more or less aims your landing, grabs on to platforms for you and prevents you from going the wrong way or making an incorrect jump. In fact, the jumping is just an illusion to make you think you are platforming. You may as well be walking in a straight line. Yes, the platforming is that unenjoyable from a gameplay perspective. It looks impressive, but plays itself. We might as well let the game run our hero Drake through said sections automatically so that we could look away until the next shooting section of the game starts. But then we would be looking away from our Vita screens for nearly half the game, since nearly half of the gameplay in UGA is platforming.

When you are not platforming, you are usually in a firefight. The shooting sections are miserably easy on standard difficulty, even for a gamer with next to no experience with shooters. For the first half of the game you can rush in and melee kill all your enemies. The only difficulty in the game is presented in sections where you have to prevent your partner from being killed. Memorizing who to kill first solves any problems you might have with said sections. Some enemies are incredibly cheap however, such as the armored shotgun wielders who can take a grenade launcher at point-blank range and survive. Ironically, a few punches from Drake will fell him instead. Dumb? Yes. Very.

So what we have are alternating sections of pointless platforming mixed in with some repetitive firefights, and you have 90 percent of the game. The other 10 percent of the game involves solving “puzzles” with the touch screen. These puzzles suffer from the same problem as the platforming in UGA. They are uninspired, require no thought, and have you rubbing the screen of your Vita like a loser. Any exciting moments like the whitewater river ride are destroyed by terrible control schemes. Treasure collecting is the game’s only solace, but with the lack of enjoyable gameplay I found myself unconcerned with trying to locate the games somewhat hidden (but obviously placed) trinkets.

When I played the first Uncharted for PS3, I was thoroughly amused. The game had some enjoyable moments and decent shooting mechanics. The platforming was flawed, and the scripted endgame boss battle was stupid, but I hoped that sequels would fix this. Instead, the Uncharted series has repeated its mistakes rather than try to improve. UGA is easily the worst Uncharted game so far, due to the sheer repetitiveness of the gameplay. It feels far more repetitive that the first game, which I felt was much better paced.
UGA reminds me of today’s Top 40 music… once you’ve heard the first minute, just hit repeat 4 times and you’ve heard the whole song. By a quarter of the way through UGA, you see the repetitive pattern of the gameplay and it becomes a chore to play. After 3 months of playing this off and on, I am still only on Chapter 26 and can’t bear to play anymore. It’s funny where technology has gotten us with respect to games. The more technology we have, the more the gameplay has been dumbed down. The golden age of gaming is now gone into the golden abyss.

[Ratings Summary - i.e. pointless drivel]

Graphics: It is obvious where the effort went. The game is a showcase for the Playstation Vita’s visual prowess. The landscapes in the game are visually stunning and would make for a great Hollywood movie setting. If such a place actually existed. The framerate remains smooth enough throughout the entire game so it never becomes a problem. Thanks to the high density pixel display, aliasing on the edges of polygons and textures are not too distracting, unless you go out of your way to look for such things.

Sound/Music/Voicework: Again, UGA excels in these areas. One issue I do have is that there is often no music during platforming. Since there is so much platforming in the game there will be lots of spots with no music to listen to. The Audio is as crisp as you’d expect from the console versions of Uncharted. The weapon sound effects are quite good, and helps improve the immersion in firefights. The music increases in tension during these moments as well. Some music is recycled such as the familiar title theme song.

Good voicework has been a staple in the Uncharted series and this is no exception. The dialogue is cheesy and the story sucks, but some decent jokes are thrown in, and the delivery is smooth and emotive.

Gameplay: Far too much automation. Repetitive to the point of boredom. One thing I will give it is that the adventure is lengthy. But so much of it felt like padding. Charcoal rubbings are pointless and boring and only serve to lengthen the game. There are some areas in the game that have you run about and collect items until you can progress further, but even these sections only serve as padding. Some matching puzzles are in the game but they can be solved without even trying to read the clues. Just messing around with the options randomly solves the puzzle in no time. Since you don’t even need to think to solve these puzzles, they too feel like a waste of time. That’s the best way for me to sum up the gameplay of UGA. It simply felt that I could be spending my time playing better games and that the only reason I was playing it was because it was a Vita game and the Vita is starved for games.

Challenge: The best games provide deep strategic gameplay that allow for skill. Unfortunately, a lot of UGA’s difficult moments also happen to be cheap moments. Mostly having your partner get killed by a sniper or shotgun guy that comes out of nowhere, etc. Perhaps the higher difficulty levels provide a greater challenge, but when the game is not enjoyable enough for a single playthrough, does it even matter?

Overall: 3/10. I wanted a game and I did not get a game.

Rating:   1.5 - Bad

Product Release: Uncharted: Golden Abyss (US, 02/15/12)

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