PS Vita Launch Title Reviews – WipEout 2048 & Uncharted: Golden Abyss

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Golden anti-gravity racing

Uncharted: Golden Abyss and WipEout 2048, two big Sony franchises and arguably two of the most anticipated PlayStation Vita launch titles. Do both titles make the move to Sony’s latest handheld unscathed, or should you stick to previous versions and look elsewhere for Vita satisfaction? Read on to find out.

WipEout 2048

(Developer: SCE Studio Liverpool | Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment)

Whilst racing games hardly seem like the prime audience for a prequel, this entry in the Wipeout series does just that – highlighting the relevance of time by marking 2048 as an early year in the history of anti-gravity racing. For us, this means a slightly more familiar world; one with vehicles still bearing the earthy sounds of an engine’s purr, and with races often seeing you whizz through comfortingly green parks, and between buildings that are more remeniscent of our own earth rather than the techno-fantasy of previous titles. Needless to say the game still oozes style from every pore though – sadly gone the Designers Republic may be, but their mark has been a permanent one, and is still present in every bit of the game’s remarkably sleek design.

From a technical standpoint it’s an impressive piece of work, if perhaps mis-aligned in its priorities. Mid-race, the level of visual detail shines brilliantly, but is also accountable for a few unfortunate side-effects; notable loading times between races being particularly daunting for those wanting to play in fleeting moments of free time, and an unstable 30fps frame rate upsetting those after a smoother experience. A ‘photo mode’ is there to remind you just what you’re getting out of it, and although never unplayable, it’s hard not to be plagued with thoughts of how much more enjoyable the game would be with performance at the forefront of priorities instead. Thankfully the audio is not hampered in such a way, giving out a variety of solid effects that sit gorgeously on top of a soundtrack from a variety of estalished dance acts – deadmau5, The Prodigy, Underworld, Noisia, and so on – many of whom who are now as regular on the anti-gravity circuit as the ships themselves.

The racing itself remains as ever – furious and indeed, very fast. A single player campaign sees you move through a series of events broken down into four main categories – races, time trials, battles and zone events – with each complemented by the different classes of vehicle each manufacturer offers, with a specific focus on speed, strength or agility. Those exploring all of the non-essential events can also expect to get their hands on prototype ships too, offering up tempramental but specialist ships for those who like something a bit different. Without even considering the multiplayer options layered on top of all of this, there’s a respectable amount of content to enjoy on your own, with a steady difficulty curve to keep your progress in check as you get further along.

When you do reach the higher levels of play, the game is more about learning courses and knowing exactly what to do then it is about instincts; something that may not sit comfortably with some gamers. There’s still plenty before that for everyone to enjoy without investing too heavily into the formula though, and the variety of events means that you’re never too heavily forced into any one particular challenge. As a whole the game is a good early indicator of just what the Vita is capable of; and whilst it may be more about the style than substance, there’s still plenty of the latter too.

Uncharted: Golden Abyss

(Developer: Sony Bend Studio | Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment)

When it comes to big console brands, it doesn’t get much bigger than Uncharted. Bend Studio’s take on Naughty Dog’s prize pooch is one of the big hitters of the Vita’s launch list – but given the series is so synonymous with the scale of its environments and visually stunning set pieces, it’s a fair question to wonder how appropriate it may be on a handheld. First impressions aren’t too stunning either, with a clunky touch screen menu greeting you before you even see the game in motion. But bear with it, and a lot of your fears will erode away as you realise just how closely it resembles its console brothers.

Once again you fill the shoes of Nathan Drake; a man to whom trekking the world, charming pretty ladies, and shooting henchmen dead by the dozen is as commonplace as a nip to the shops for the rest of us. Whilst certain areas of the game have had to be scaled back to match the medium, the writing for this particular adventure is one area that remains very much intact; allowing for the same high standard of story-telling and voice acting that come as expected. Without giving away too much, the range of environments is one area that does suffer a bit though, with the story focusing on one area of the world very specifically with some fairly common visual themes, as opposed to the jet-setting escapades through a variety of locales seen in other Uncharted titles. That being said, it’s still something wonderful to behold; for a launch title this is quite remarkably beautiful, and a great sign of things to come for the system.

Touch controls have been put in place for nearly every kind of situation, and although some are quite neat – drawing out a path across a series of ledges, and using the rear touch panel to clamber up and down a rope for instance – it never feels particularly intuitive to pull your fingers and thumbs away from the controls. Thankfully analogue and d-pad controls do still remain and are obviously preferable for the more basic moving and shooting, but there are some unavoidable scenarios where touch controls are made mandatory – most notably with regard to QTEs. It’s not long into the game that you’re also introduced to certain types of pick up that also involve touching – taking brass rubbings for instance, or spinning around an artifact so that you can clean off the dust – and any limited appeal these may have had is worn thin very quickly, and just feels like a particulary shallow attempt to introduce familiarity with the Vita’s set of core functions.

The game retains a solid 8-10 hours of play time, but beyond this the longevity isn’t especially great, with none of the multiplayer functions from the PS3 titles present, and the sheer volume of hidden collectables being more daunting than inviting – there are pages upon pages of photographs to take, papers to browse, statues to observe, rubbings to, well… rub, making it quite difficult to keep up. With all of this in mind though it’s still got enough of the Uncharted magic to make it work – there’s plenty of exploring, shooting, and wise-cracking to make your stay a pleasant one. It’ll take a more dedicated fan of the series to see it through for multiple plays, but even if you do only manage it the once, it’ll be a ride to remember.

7/10

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