Once upon a time, the handheld gaming market was dominated solely by Nintendo and its Gameboy brand. But now, with many iOS and Android devices offering cheaper and more accessible alternatives to the DS, 3DS, and PSP, the portable gaming market has become extremely competitive.
Sony has responded to this threat with the PS Vita, their second handheld gaming console. After spending some time with the Vita, I have been impressed with the system, and believe that it is capable of providing a compelling portable gaming experience.
First things first, the hardware is great. It is a robust machine with a sleek design that has managed to incorporate a lot of features. Along with a crisp 5-inch OLED screen, the PS Vita comes equipped with a d-pad, two analogue sticks (are you watching Nintendo), four face buttons, two shoulder buttons, touch screens on the front and back of the system, rear and front facing cameras, and a six axis motion sensor. Not bad for a system that measures 7.2 inches end to end.
Sony has made it abundantly clear that they wanted to create a handheld platform that can reproduce console quality titles. This means that no compromises were made when developing the Vita. As a result, the controls are tight, the system has excellent graphics, and the launch line-up is extremely solid.
The Uncharted series has always been a firm favourite of mine, from as far back as 2007 when Drake’s Fortune burst onto the scene. I had never been a fan of third-person shoot-and-cover games, but I really liked platformers and action adventure games. So what changed my mind?
Drake’s Fortune delivered the complete package for me: amazing graphics, an atmospheric musical score, a great storyline, likeable, believable and lifelike characters that you really cared about, and at it’s heart- absolutely rock-solid gameplay.
2009 marked the year that most of the world woke up to the realisation that the Uncharted series of games was something special. Naughty Dog took everything that they’d learnt from Drake’s Fortune and made the game more action-packed and cinematic with some amazing levels and a wider range of enemy classes.
I’ve got to get my skates on. I’m still wading through Red Dead Redemption which I’m still loving (but it’s huge!) and that’s not to mention Undead Nightmare that I’ve yet to touch.
Meanwhile PixelJunk Shooter 2 is going in the sin bin. Permanently. So for now I’m just going to highlight a few select games that are going to be epic this year and what I’ll be hoping to play:
As I write this, the game is on its way in the post. I wasn’t originally going to buy it until it had come down in price, but it’s been a combination of not wanting to stumble across any spoilers, the fact the game is three times larger than the original, everyone’s freaking out about how good it is and that the PS3 version is the definitive version… of course I’ve had to jump on the bandwagon and offer up a few notes to the guys at Valve in exchange for a copy of the game. I couldn’t resist.
This one’s going to be a pre-order as I absolutely loved the first game. That alone justifies its inclusion on this list. Let’s just say that improved graphics, storyline, new abilities, and tons more gameplay sweeten the deal? Access to Uncharted 3’s multiplayer beta seals the deal!
Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception
If I could only choose to buy one game this year, it would be Uncharted 3. From Uncharted’s humble origins in 2007, to worldwide anticipation in 2011- each game simply oozes quality. Beyond simply being ‘just another franchise’, so much love, blood, sweat and tears go into creating each game that they’ve become more than just games, they’re masterpieces (my opinion).
You all (should) know by now that I love the Uncharted series. So when a new four-part motion comic series called Uncharted: Eye of Indra hit the PlayStation Store, I was all over it. What’s strange is that apart from a couple of mentions, Eye of Indra has been relatively under-promoted. Maybe Naughty Dog is just testing the water at this stage?
For Uncharted fans Eye of Indra is a must buy. The motion comic series is a prequel (note: yes, its canon) to Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune containing some enlightening back story for Nathan Drake, a plot twist, and at least one person you’re not going to expect. Apparently this particular series is just the first of many, which is a decision I applaud. This means that Uncharted fans can quench their thirst with an Uncharted game every couple of years with extra multiplayer DLC and motion comics to flesh out the Uncharted universe in-between games.
I got the Uncharted: Eye of Indra Multiplayer Skin Pack which includes all four parts of the motion comic and two Uncharted 2 multiplayer skins, although you can get the episodes separately if you really want to. The skins pack contains Rika for the heroes and Pinkerton for the villains. Go check it out!
I’m not usually one for speculating, but what the heck. Time to move on to a bit of speculation: maybe all the motion comics will simply fill in the gaps between each Uncharted game? That leads me to guess that another series could fill in the pieces between Drake’s Fortune and Among Thieves, with another series set after Among Thieves, rather like a sandwich. A very tasty sandwich.
I’ve dismissed the possibility of Naughty Dog taking the Uncharted series into the ahem, mostly ‘uncharted’ waters of episodic gaming. Sure, GTA IV’s episodes seem to have worked out all right, Criterion went purely down the DLC route, but Half-Life 2’s episodes are taking a long time to deliver. I think the DLC/episodic content for Fallout 3 is probably the best example of this sort of idea done right. However for Uncharted’s linear gameplay, in my personal opinion it isn’t worth Naughty Dog’s time and money to go down this particular route. Their current setup seems to be working out well so far.
I have waited till I completed the game in full before offering up some final thoughts on Prince of Persia, and I’m glad I did, as I can now visualise the game as a whole and in the right perspective. I think the easiest way to go about it, is to direct you to GameSpot’s review and take it from there.
I’ll agree with GameSpot in that Prince of Persia looks and sounds fantastic. In certain places, it really is spectacular- drawing you in to the universe depicted in the game. Yet my opinion differs when turning my attention to the level design. The mechanics of the level design are technically sound in that the environments are visually interesting and quite exhilarating to navigate through. Yet as I was progressing through Prince of Persia I had a nagging feeling in the back of my mind that yes, this was just a game, and it felt like one too. In many respects, it’s all down to the level design for me.
Yes, I own GTA IV, but have I really played it yet? Absolutely not. At the time of GTA IV’s release, I was happily engrossed in playing Race Driver: GRID. At the back of my mind from previous experience of past GTA titles, was that each games requires an enormous investment of time. An investment I wasn’t willing to make without Trophies.
You’re probably thinking “Yes, Los Havros has really done it this time. He’s finally sold himself out, putting thoughts of Trophies before the game itself”. Fair enough, but this is my rationale for doing this. The only game that I’ve been willing to play through for possibly the 4th or 5th time for Trophies has been Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. Yet Uncharted has nowhere near the number of hours of gameplay that GTA IV has.
If I had already played through GTA IV, I doubt that I’d start from scratch again just for Trophies. I’ve even seen quite a large number of posts from gamers who have stated exactly that. Secondly, my time is precious these days. I don’t actually have enough time to play each game in turn for 100% completion. Even a game that I have actually completed like Uncharted, hasn’t been completed 100% as I haven’t collected all the Trophies for it yet.
So I suppose either over the Christmas period or through 2009 I vow to make a start on GTA IV by completing as much of the story as I can, and see how far through the Trophy system I can make it. This isn’t a cast iron promise though, as something may inevitably crop up (there’s also the new ‘easier’ patch for PixelJunk Eden to consider). But there you go. I swear that after I’ve finished my degree I’ll be king of the jungle gym… of gaming. Possibly.
Anyone got any games they haven’t yet started, but they’re going to have a decent crack at this Christmas?