Back to the Future
I know I keep harping on this, but you really do need to actually see the game running to appreciate just how well the Vita's quad core CPU and GPU work to output visuals that are dangerously on par with the current HD twins' level of fidelity. Forget the days of low-polygon character models smeared with a low-res mess of textures; Drake and friends look nearly as good in close-up as they do on the PS3, and that's just something I wasn't prepared for. This truly is the technical showpiece of the Vita's launch, but it's also a great Uncharted adventure to boot -- one that's far more evenly keeled than the last outing.
If the game's writing felt just a touch underwhelming compared to the PS3 entries, the same almost intangible lack of oomph punched through with the music. Series composer Greg Edmonson didn't helm the music this time around, instead opting for in-house Sony composer Clint Bajakian to do the heavy lifting. He does a great job, but Edmonson just seemed to have so much bombast and flair with his compositions and it's really only toward the end of the game that Bajakian's score starts to feel in line with the PS3 entries. There's some truly driving tracks as the game ramps up to a fantastic conclusion, punctuated by some throat singing and a wonderful set of tracks that play for the final credit roll.
Thankfully, the rest of the game's audio (which, not surprisingly, is heavily borrowed from the mainline game's aural assets), sounds just as good as anything you'd hear on the PS3; clips being reloaded, pistols firing, shotgun blasts, it's all familiar, headphone-worthy stuff. And, of course, the voice cast absolutely kills it, even if some of the motion capture stuff wasn't quite as smoothed-out as the Naughty Dog efforts (objects aren't really "held" by characters, leading to the odd bit of clipping or ghostly floating as the object moves independently of the fingers grasping them). Again, though, this is so much of a step up from anything you've ever seen on a portable that any real gripes just sound like niggles.
I want to leave you with what was originally going to be my opening to this review. After spending time with some friends a week or two ago, I came home exhausted and more than a little hung over, knowing full well that I still needed to finish Golden Abyss. Ordinarily, launching into a play session on the PS3 would mean starting up our receiver, then our HDTV, then the PS3, waiting for all of them to handshake over HDMI, starting up the game, waiting through the intro screens, opting to load a game, waiting for another load screen and finally getting into a game. Some days, I'm simply too wiped to make that kind of effort. Days like that one where my head was throbbing any my motivation to do anything but lay in bed was nil.
And then the realization dawned on me: Uncharted -- a full, real, awesome Uncharted game -- was waiting for me not a foot away. I threw on headphones, pushed the PlayStation button to wake the vita, swiped to unlock it... and I was exactly where I left off a day or so ago. No waiting, no messing with anything, just immersed in awesome dialogue and ruin exploration in seconds. This is the kind of gaming experience the Vita affords, and it's available nearly anywhere. I can't think of a better way to sell the whole experience than that.