Tag Archive: uncharted

The Return of Sony’s Golden Boy

Uncharted: Golden Abyss sees our favorite modern-day treasure hunter, Nathan Drake, in the jungles of Central America as he stumbles upon a 400-year old mystery involving a murdered Spanish expedition. Of course, no Drake adventure would be complete without some sort of meddling from interlopers, so Nathan will have to avoid the rivalry of an old friend, Jason Dante, and new leading lady Marisa Chase, a girl who’s searching for her missing archeologist grandfather—and who can hold her own in a firefight.

Now, Sony moving their crown-jewel franchises over to portable systems is an inevitability that’s paid off some decent dividends when you look at franchises like God of War and Resistance. But can Drake make the transition as easily as when he hops from ledge to ledge—especially with the pressure of being a PS Vita launch title—or will he stumble and fall into a portable-gaming chasm of doom?

For Uncharted fans, the answer isn’t quite so clear, unfortunately. The story unfolds just like one of Drake’s PS3 adventures we’ve all come to know and love. Sony Bend’s tale stays true to the character while also brings along new players seamlessly. Couple this with the great voice acting for which the series is known and console-quality visuals, and—at least on the surface—this game looks like a winner.

But if you were expecting to come into this experience and be able to pick up and play it just like one of its console brethren, then your frustration level will rise quickly. To start off with, the game features forced tutorials that showcase special Vita-style controls—and which constantly pop up throughout much of the early part of the game. Now, this is somewhat understandable, given that the Vita’s an entirely new paradigm, but after learning what it takes to execute even the simplest of moves, you’ll quickly realize that it’s just much easier to do what you’ve always done on the PS3 with button prompts. Why would I want to draw a path with my fat fingers for Drake to climb when I get a much more desired level of accuracy—and a more satisfying feeling of direct input to my character—by moving the analog stick and pressing buttons?

But whether you choose to avoid the Vita-style gameplay or not, Golden Abyss forces you into countless minigames that not only break up the pace of the action, but are also so simple that you’ll wonder why the developers are making you bother in the first place. These minigames include putting together a torn-apart map, taking pictures of interesting ruins, rubbing your finger over the screen to draw a charcoal etching, and, of course, balance games. Because nothing says Uncharted like running away from poachers with assault rifles, coming to a log bridge, and then being forced to stop in the middle to play with the Vita’s gyroscope so that Drake can miraculously balance himself and continue being chased. And these instances are constant—I must’ve taken a dozen charcoal drawings and balanced on half a dozen bridges (not always being chased) in the first five chapters alone. For a series whose pacing and storytelling is as celebrated as its visuals and voice actors, the former really falls apart when forced into these proof-of-concept minigames.

The other major problem is that even on the least-sensitive setting, the aiming crosshairs are still much too sensitive; the right analog stick is so small that each degree of movement is greatly magnified. This means that while your movement might work on the PS3, it’s completely thrown off by the shrunken-down scale of the Vita’s analog stick. This leads to constant misfiring and needless deaths as you attempt to work out where your enemies will be so as to save yourself the trouble of aiming. And though you can move the Vita around to help with this, you’ll find that it just throws too many moving parts into the machine, and you’ll still overcompensate as you move your arms and thumbs trying to line up a shot.

Uncharted: Golden Abyss may serve as a Vita proof-of-concept, but it also serves as proof of a lesson to be learned: Don’t mess with something that isn’t broken. All the new moving Vita parts and features end up watering down what should be celebrated as a really great Uncharted story, but the diluted pacing, unnecessary minigames, and hit-or-miss (literally) controls keep this from being anywhere near the level of a console Uncharted.

SUMMARY: A story worthy of the franchise, Uncharted: Golden Abyss falls short in terms of pacing and controls, as the touchscreen gimmick takes the experience down a big notch.

  • THE GOOD: The story’s worthy of an Uncharted adventure.
  • THE BAD: The gimmick-based play destroys the pacing and flow.
  • THE UGLY: My fat hands trying to use touchscreen controls.

SCORE: 7.0

The Holiday Rush

Originally Published: December 21, 2009, on Lundberg.me and 1050ESPN.com (now ESPNNewYork.com)

I did this last year where I offered some last minute advice to help out people looking to pick up a couple of more items to stuff in the stockings or under the tree and due to positive feedback, we’re doing it one more time!

Now, if you’re looking for games for some little ones and don’t feel they’re ready for an over the top, alien shoot ’em up, or some action-adventure, sword wielding bloodbath, then here are a few E-rated games that will keep them happy till their birthday rolls around.

1. New Super Mario Bros. Wii – Nintendo Wii – Any older gamer will appreciate the nostalgia this game conjures up. Any young gamer will fall in love with the crazy characters, classic side-scrolling platforming gameplay, and the hours of exploration and fun it will provide. Just like every other great Mario Bros. game to ever come out. This Wii game has been flying off of store shelves this holiday season with good reason.

2. The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks – Nintendo DS –Another one of Nintendo’s powerhouse franchises with a new chapter in its long and storied history. What’s nice about this is that the kids can take this with them on the long car or plane ride you’re already dreading. At least it’ll keep the kids out of your hair as you prepare for departure delays or traffic due to the predicted bad weather. Not the longest or most in-depth in the Zelda series, it will more than do the job of distracting the little ones this holiday season.

3. A Boy and His Blob – Nintendo Wii – Rounding out the Nintendo dominance of kid-oriented games is a remake of a NES classic. A Boy and His Blob follows a young lad and his alien, shape-shifitng friend, who can help the boy in a plethora of ways by eating magical jellybeans. These jellybeans allow the blob to turn into a gun, a ladder, a trampoline, and many other useful items as you travel across these beautifully drawn 2.5 D worlds.

“But, Ray! My kid is in high school and I don’t think these childish games will work for him/her.” Never fear! There is plenty of T-rated games just waiting to be picked up.

1. Ghostbusters: The Video Game – All systems – The closest thing die-hards have seen to a third movie, this game picks up about three years after the end of the second movie and brings the story together better than any movie could have. With all the original voice cast returning to reprise their iconic 80s roles, ‘bustin’ has never felt so good.

2. Batman: Arkham Asylum – XBOX360, PS3 – One of the most critically acclaimed games of the year, Batman: Arkham Asylum is the initial offering of what looks to be a long series of new Batman games. With a free-flow combat system that flows like water and a plot worthy of a comic maxi-series, this game is a must have for any comic book fan.

3. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves – PS3 – The SpikeTV Video Game Awards game of the year delivers on every front like no other game this year. Plot depth, tremendous characters that pull on your heart strings, probably the best looking game of the year, and flawless gameplay makes this a must have for any gamer’s collection if you have a PS3.

Now you’re wondering, “What about the games for Mommy and Daddy?” Well, there are plenty of M-rated games out there for long after the kiddies go to bed.

1. Madworld – Wii – It’s rare to see a phenomenal M-rated game on the Wii, but Sega’s Madworld delievers in ways I never thought a Wii game could. An unfathomable amount of gore and language brightens up the black and white world of “Jack”, a man tasked with winning a “Running Man”-esque game of death in a world that just screams “Sin City”. Either interacting with the entire environment to find new and interesting ways to kill your enemies, or just relying on the chainsaw on your right hand, you will have fun wreaking havoc in Madworld.

2. Assassin’s Creed 2 – XBOX360, PS3 – My pick for game of the year, Assassin’s Creed 2 expounds on the plot of the first game and trumps the action by leaps and bounds. A new free-flow combat system, being able to wield two weapons at once, poison, guns, and an entire economic system make what was once a repetitive, tedious chore to beat in AC1, makes AC2 one of the most unique mainstream gaming experiences of the year.

3. Halo 3: ODST – XBOX360 – My choice for first-person shooter of the year, any Halo fan needs to have this game. Aside from the amped up difficulty due to you acting as a lower class of trooper than Master Chief’s Spartan self, the film noir aspect of taking over every member of your squad at different moments as you unravel the mystery of the Covenant’s attack is one of the most immersive plot techniques I’ve seen in gaming in years.

Those are the games that will make everyone you know, no matter their age, happy. On this last list, are the games that leave everyone cringing and they will be returned. Guaranteed. Avoid these games at all costs Grandma!

1. Fairytale Fights – XBOX 360, PS3, PC – A nice concept that falls flat on its face. Living through some classic fairytale character’s stories with some bloody hack-‘n’-slash combat is a nice thought, but horrible gameplay, a poorly kept-together plot, and nothing really special about using these fabled characters from fairytale lore aside from the random weapons they find was really a disappointment.

2. TMNT: Smash-Up – Nintendo Wii – It uses the same engine as Super Smash Bros. Brawl, but it lacks everything else. Only a handful of selectable characters, a miserable story mode, and controls that aren’t nearly as responsive as the Nintendo character counterpart. A bitter disappointment for any TMNT fan and another TMNT media project that doesn’t include the original theme music!

3. The Conduit – Nintendo Wii – This is probably one of the most hyped games of the year and instead should be considered as the worst first-person shooter of the year. Basically a remake of Perfect Dark from N64, but with some more high tech weapons and a looser plot. The graphics look like something from the Gamecube and the multiplayer, although probably one of the better ones for the Wii, is still subpar when compared with the multiplayer offered by games for the XBOX 360 and PS3.

Well folks, there it is. For all you last minute shoppers out there, those are some helpful hints. Thanks for reading my article and have a happy and safe holiday season.

-Ray Carsillo

The Newest Face in Late Night

Originally Published: November 25, 2009, on 1050ESPN.com (now ESPNNewYork.com)

He is a Saturday Night Live alum, a movie star, and now he is leaving his mark on the late night landscape in a way no one has ever seen before.

Of course, I am talking about Jimmy Fallon. From using Twitter to drive people to his show’s blog (how about the fact his show even has a blog), to spoofing video games, to having the biggest names in movies, music, and sports on his show, Jimmy has already made his mark during his short tenure in the world of late night talk.

Robin Lundberg and I had a chance to talk with Jimmy about all these things and more as Jimmy gets ready to tackle his next big project…the Thanksgiving Day Parade.

To listen to Robin Lundberg and I interview the newest face on the late night landscape

Ray Carsillo