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Uncharted: Golden Abyss (PS Vita) review

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More death-defying leaps and gun-based diplomacy from cheeky chappy Nathan Drake. It's a great example of the Vita's potential

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Nathan Drake has become the poster child for PlayStation 3 – the exclusive Uncharted series has sold amazingly well, giving Sony the big-budget action game it needed to compete with Gears of War; as well as replacing Tomb Raider as the go to game of choice for would-be archaeologists and adventurers. Based on this pedigree, it comes as no surprise that Sony has released a slick, all-new handheld version of the franchise for the Vita; but Golden Abyss is still a shockingly impressive achievement for a handheld title.

As soon as you start climbing and shooting your way through the first level, it’s immediately obvious that very little has been lost in translation – all the action and exploration from the console games is present and correct, joined by several new features designed specifically for the Vita.

Uncharted Golden Abyss

Set before the events of Drake’s Fortune, Golden Abyss explores Central America on a quest to uncover hidden Conquistador gold. In typical Uncharted fashion, there’s plenty of plot twists, a villain that’s determined to stop Drake’s progress and even a love interest, but the focus is still primarily on the action. With fewer spectacular set-pieces and location variety than the console games, it can feel a little constricted to the single setting, but the tight pacing and colourful characters are more than enough to drive you onward.

The first three Uncharted games made liberal use of every one of the PS3 controller’s inputs, so we were a little anxious to see how it would translate to the Vita. Thankfully, Golden Abyss has plenty of alternative input methods to take advantage of – primarily the front touchscreen, which is used extensively throughout the game. You use it to examine objects, rotating them with the rear touch panel and pinching to zoom. Context-sensitive arrows appear on-screen during fight sequences or when prying open doors, but thankfully these never result in instant death if you accidentally miss one. The touchscreen also makes climbing much smoother, as you can simply draw a line across the screen and Drake will take the appropriate actions.

Uncharted Golden Abyss

Perhaps even better than the unobtrusive use of the touchscreen are the two analog nubs that make movement and aiming a breeze. They aren’t as accurate at the sticks on a PS3 controller, but they are a huge leap forward over the PSP’s single slider. Once you’ve adjusted to the small movements required to adjust your aim, you’ll soon be picking off enemies with precision.

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