Since the release of the PlayStation Vita First Edition Bundle, every time I show my system to a friend or future owner, the first game they always want to see is Uncharted: Golden Abyss. Who am I to blame them? The Uncharted Series will single handedly change the way you look at adventure and third person shooter titles due to the way the games are paced and how they progress the storyline. As far as the PS3 and PS Vita, Graphically, there is no game currently on the market that can even touch it. Even long after the PS3 and PS Vita Become gaming relics, the adventures of Nathan Drake will still be captivating audiences around the globe.
Shortly after the PS Vita’s launch, Unit 13, another third person shooter was added to the young portable’s lineup. Unit 13 is developed by Zipper Interactive, the same folks that bought us the SOCOM series on the PS2, PS3 and PSP. While Unit 13’s roots can clearly be seen in the SOCOM series, Unit 13 is very much a single player affair even though the game has an option for two player co-op over PSN. Unit 13 is also a stealthier title that has some things in common with Metal Gear and Splinter Cell. Although the game does not have much of a storyline, it was simply developed with a quick play, on the go mentality which is perfect for a portable system. Overall, Unit 13 boasts 36 different missions varying from hostage rescues to sabotage.
So now that the Vita is almost a month old in the US, which shooter reigns supreme? Will Uncharted retain it’s title as one of the greatest shooters to grace a Sony system? Perhaps Unit 13 will wow players with its spot on controls and lone wolf style of gameplay. Either way you look at it, now that we have dual analog sticks on a portable system, third and first person shooter fans have a lot to be excited about. Let’s take a look at these two games, rip them apart, and then put the story back together.
While both titles are third person shooters, Uncharted has an adventure aspect that is very similar to Indiana Jones and Tomb Raider. Storyline and equal pacing between shooting, solving puzzles, platforming and unexpected events are what makes this series great. Unit 13 focuses more on tactical and stealthy warfare, often requiring the player to think two and three times as to where they should place the first bullet. Two to three shots will kill the player rather quickly. While systematically picking apart unsuspected soldiers, you also must be on the lookout for security cameras, laser trip wires and land mines.
Both games are separated into bite sized chunks to make them easier for on the go gameplay. This is great for when you want to get in a quick round while you are on your lunch break. However, as of right now, Unit 13 does have two player co-op over WiFi and 3G while Uncharted is strictly single player.
Graphically, both games look great but Uncharted has a more vibrant color palette and diversity within its landscapes and characters. Since a good portion of Unit 13 takes place in military compounds, expect to see your typical grays, steels and gunmetal type color palettes. Their character models are well designed and drop a hint of sarcasm here and there but the characters from Uncharted, both old and new, are much more memorable and always have something witty to say.
Unit 13 controls better as a shooter. When I pull out my silenced pistol and lay the targeting reticle on an unsuspected terrorist from around a corner, sure enough, a bullet is going through his head. At times, the shooting controls in Uncharted can be a little floaty when compared to its PS3 counterparts. However, do not mistaken this for bad controls. Uncharted aims good. It’s just that Unit 13 aims better. Both games feature stealthy melee and duck and cover systems that work out great. In Uncharted, Natan gets a machete that he can use to swipe away at vines, curtains and cobwebs. Usually, this weapon is used with the touch screen asking the player to swipe in the direction of the cut. However, it baffles me as to why Drake cannot use the machete in melee combat. In Unit 13, sneaking up on an opponent and taking them out melee style will result in a very satisfying shank to the throat.
Uncharted takes full advantage of the touchscreen interface. While players can still play with the more traditional control scheme, when traversing ledges, the intuitive controls make climbing seem natural. It’s almost as if Nathan became a monkey over night. The touch screen is also used for to charcoal out runes onto paper, put together pieces of torn up pictures and dust off artifacts. During certain scenes, it also takes advantage of the six axis controls in order to maintain balance on a tight rope and navigate Drake through the rapids of a river. The rear touchpad is used to zoom the camera lens in and out when taking pictures during certain portions of the game. All of these extra mini games add a layer of depth to Uncharted giving us a feel for what it’s like to be an adventuring archeologist.
When playing Unit 13, the game has a good variety of mission structures. While some require you to rescue hostages, assassinate a leader or blow up enemy fighter planes, the most satisfying of these are the Elie Missions. Elite Missions are more difficult than others because there are no checkpoints. If you die, you have to start the mission from the very beginning. Because of this, the game keeps you thinking and you will be forced to fight more efficiently. I honestly wouldn’t mind if every mission in the game played this way. These missions are a lot more rewarding when you complete them.
These games have great soundtracks and voice work. I do have to give the advantage to Uncharted on this one because the game has five star voice actors combined with a good script. Also, I encountered a strange glitch within Unit 13 where the sound suddenly shuts off. At this point, you are forced to exit the game and then reset the system which results in the Vita hanging during the shutdown process. As a result, you end up needing to hold down the power button for 30 seconds and use the option one or in some cases option two to rebuild the database and get back into your system. Since I encountered this glitch, I contacted PlayStation Tech Support and also responded to a post on the forums that another user created for the same issue. Currently, Zipper is working with Sony to patch this issue. This does not happen all of the time but it is quite annoying when it does.
Because of this flaw, for now, I have to give the overall advantage to Uncharted: The Golden Abyss. Unit 13 is a great shooter and SOCOM and Call of Duty fans will dig it. However, until this issue with the sound is fixed, I cannot change my point of view. To be fair, both games are running on new hardware and realistically flaws are bound to happen. I just can’t stand it when I am hooked on a game and then all of a sudden, things like this happen. If I was to judge both games purely on gameplay, Uncharted and Unit 13 are just about even because their strengths and weaknesses balance each other out. But after all, we are looking at the overall package, triumphs, glitches and all. When Unit 13 gets fixed, if you are looking for a good straight up shooter, then by all means pick the game up. If you are looking for a deeper storyline, puzzle solving and a little adventure in between your shooting game, then Uncharted: The Golden Abyss will not disappoint.
(Note: When Zipper fixes Unit 13, I will update this post and let you know how it all pans out.)