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Uncharted Golden Abyss game brings console-like graphics to PlayStation Vita (video)

Uncharted Golden Abyss is one of the most impressive games on the upcoming PlayStation Vita, the new portable gaming system from Sony that will debut next year. We got another close-up peek at the title recently, and it is looking more and more like a high-quality console video game.

That says a lot, since portable games have historically looked significantly worse than console games. But the PlayStation Vita is clearly going to have a lot of horsepower. And if this horsepower and high-end content is enough to distinguish the device, then Sony could hold off market share losses to the likes of Apple and Android smartphones and tablets.

Based on the Uncharted game series on the PlayStation 3, this game takes place before the first game, and features hero Nathan Drake in a brand new adventure through an ancient ruin. At the Tokyo Game Show, Sony showed how you can traverse through the game by sliding a finger across the touchscreen to guide the Drake character across the walls.

When Drake walks across a balance beam, you tilt the PlayStation Vita back and forth and the gyroscope sensors in the device determine whether Drake falls off the beam or stays balanced. Much like the console games, this title has a lot of cinematics, or movie-like videos, where characters talk with each other.

In most portable games, the communication is limited to scrolling through text conversations. Here, Drake has a conversation with the companion character Chase, and he has to make sure he protects her, since she won’t pick up a weapon. Chase is very useful for navigating and telling Drake where to go next in the 3D environment.

As you can see in the explosions and fires in the game scene, the graphics and sound are outstanding. When Drake gets close to the fire, he holds his arm over his face to ward off the heat. That’s simply polished game development.

The screen has four times the resolution of its predecessor, the PlayStation Portable. It has a 5-inch organic light-emitting diode screen with true blacks and high contrast. An earlier game, Resistance Retribution for the PSP, had 50,000 polygons per frame that could be rendered for the environment. But Golden Abyss uses more than 260,000 polygons per frame. Retribution might have ten megabytes of textures, while Abyss has 60 megabytes of textures. That means much better graphics.

Joe Castagno, assistant producer on the game, said the developers at the Sony Bend studio (makers of Syphon Filter) have been working on the Uncharted game for two years, ever since they completed Resistance Retribution.

There are some things Uncharted does, like real-time lighting, that can’t be done on any other portable platform. When Nathan Drake, the main character, is climbing up a wall and needs to go sideways, you can just tilt the PlayStation Vita in the right direction to make him reach out and grab a ledge. You can also tap the screen in a certain spot to make Drake move in that direction.

Here’s a video of one of the levels of the game, narrated by Castogno.


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