The chances are if you've heard of the Playstation Vita, you've heard of Uncharted:Golden Abyss. The Uncharted series of games have been hugely successful on the Playstation 3 for both Naughty Dog and Sony. In what can only be described as a "Must" move by Sony, they announced that the Uncharted franchise will be making it's way onto the Vita. The only catch was, it would be done by Bend studio rather than Naughty Dog. We watched in awe as we saw the pre-release footage of the game in action, people queued for hours for a hands-on at Eurogamer expo in London and now finally we can play the game for ourselves. So without further a do, let's get the overview under way.



First impressions
Upon loading the game for the first time, you know immediately that it's going to be great. The menu's are nice and easy to navigate (All menu's are touch screen based) which makes the whole thing a breeze. Upon starting the game, you start with a prologue chapter pitting you against mercenaries. This is the first time you meet Dante, who is one of the lead characters in Golden Abyss. During the prologue, he's obviously not on good terms with you so you know later in the game you're going to come head to head with him. The prologue gives you a good opportunity to get a feel for the controls. Although the majority of game input is done with the analogue stick and the hardware buttons, some are completely dependant on the touch screen. Although this is a great way to show off the Vita's capabilities, it would of been nice to have alternatives for all of the touch gestures. Admittedly, Bend studios have tried to offer alternatives for most, but not all.




Visuals
When it comes to graphics on a portable gaming device, Uncharted: Golden Abyss is unrivalled. Considering the game is a launch title it bodes well for the future. As we've seen with systems such as the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360, it takes the developers time to squeeze everything out of the devices power. Although the graphics are amazing, don't expect the rumoured home console quality. You'll see Jagged edges and distant environment is cleverly done in 2D until you get close in an attempt to prevent pop-up. The lighting is amazing however and the water effects rival that of it's bigger brother. Overall, I'm very impressed with Uncharted: Golden Abyss on a visual perspective. It is easily the most visually stunning game on the PSVita to date.





The Story
You play Drake, the ultimate archaeologist. The best way to describe him would be a combination of Jason Bourne / Indiana Jones mixed together. You've been dragged to Peru by a treasure hunter called Dante to investigate some of the items and artefacts he's found. Along the way, you meet his associate who goes by the name of "Chase". Chase isn't like Dante, she's interested in the ruins and treasure thanks to her Uncle's dissappearence whilst investigating the ruins himself. Unfortunately, all of these ruins and treasures are on land that belongs to Guerro, the head of the local militia who is seeking to overturn the government and take the country for his own. It down to you to solve the mysteries and claim the treasure before Guerro and his men do at all cost.





Gameplay
If you've played an Uncharted game on the Playstation 3, you'll feel right at home on the PSVita's counterpart. The gun play is surprisingly good, although I found I had to turn the sensitivity down on the analogue sticks to get the level of accuracy I was looking for. Aiming down the sights is essential for killing unless you're inches away from an enemy, due to the bullet flare being vast and wide. Moving from ledge to ledge is also very well done. You can choose to use the touch screen to tap the yellow-highlighted ledges to progress or by using the analogue and X Button. Personally, I prefer the latter although when I was feeling a little sleepy, the touch controls did come in handy. The missions also vary a fair bit, with enough diversity to stop things becoming too repetitive. My one disappointment came right at the end of the game. The final scene is entirely touch screen based. I'd of much preferred to kick some ass with the analogue sticks and hardware buttons.

Mysteries and puzzles
Although primarily a third-person action shooter, Uncharted also mixes some puzzles and challenges into the works. Some are as simple as swiping the screen to reveal the results of your charcoal rubbings, whilst others are downright impressive. One of the challenges involves holding you're vita up to a bring light to reveal invisible ink on a scroll. It's not until it's under a lamp that it's truly visible - an amazing use of the PSVita's hardware. Overall, the challenges are well implemented and aren't too difficult to solve, although a few did stop and make me think for a few minutes.

Length and Difficulty
Generally when I think of portable games the first things that come to mind is; short,pick up and play and not too difficult. I'm pleased to say that Uncharted: Golden Abyss completely quashes 2 of my perceived thoughts. Retailing at the higher end of the PSVita game price range, I can happily say that it is not a game which you'll complete in 3 hours on normal, let alone the hardest difficulty. The game consists of over 34 chapters which vary in length. I completed the game on normal difficulty with 16 trophies and about 1/3 of the collectables in 10 hours.

I'd consider myself a very competent gamer so for the average person we're looking at 10-15 hours on normal difficulty. Once you up that to hard or crushing (it's called that for a reason) then we're looking at the 20 hour + mark. Add all of the collectables into the equation and we have a game which will take up a lot of your spare time to get all of the trophies. Even on very easy, it's not impossible to be killed and have to start from the last checkpoint again. In the later levels, when you come against highly-trained mecerneries, there's little room for poor judgement or lack of accuracy on your shots. A mere 2 bullets will see you die which means you'll have to use all of your skills to outdo the guns for hire.

Replay value
Uncharted: Golden Abyss is a 100% single player game. If you're one of those people that needs to collect all of the items on your first play-through, there isn't much to entice you to play the game again. Although the story line is very good, it may not be enough to make you want to go through the ordeal of crushing difficulty to get your platinum trophy. To others, the mere challenge will be enough of a stimulant to get them to go through the 34-ish chapters again. I can't help but wonder why some multiplayer couldn't be added into the equation. The gun play is good enough to keep you engaged for hours and the environments would result in a variety of weapons and play styles being used. Even if Bend studios released a DLC multiplayer add-on and charged for the privelage, I wouldn't hesitate on putting my hard earnt cash on the table. Here's to hoping it comes to fruition.

Verdict
Uncharted: Golden Abyss is the finest portable game to ever grace this world. With it's stunning visuals, intuitive Gameplay, challenging puzzles and it's vast amount of chapters, it's sure to keep gamers happy for many hours. My only gripe would be that touch screen controls should be a user preference, not enforced upon you - especially for the final part of the game which the developers build you up to. Uncharted: Golden Abyss is a MUST buy for any Playstation Vita owner, not only because it's a great game, but because it is a brilliant demonstration of the PSVita's amazing hardware capabilities. Even with it's relatively high price tag, I guarantee you will not be disappointed.