Uncharted: Golden Abyss on NGP Blow-Out Preview.

Not only is it a critical and commercial success for the platform holder, the franchise is also an industry leader. Uncharted is continuously setting a precedent for other developers to follow — it's influential.

Uncharted: Golden Abyss aims to take that influence and apply it to the handheld market. Franchise creators Naughty Dog might not be at the helm, but Sony's trusted the franchise to its most sophisticated handheld developer: Sony Bend.

Bend is behind some of the PlayStation Portable's best titles, including the two Syphon Filter games and the excellent Resistance: Retribution. This is not a B-team spin-off project, nor is it being treated as such.

  • Traditional controls. Uncharted: Golden Abyss is important because it's the first shooter for Sony's new handheld. Traditional shooting experiences have always controlled poorly on the PSP due to the device's lack of a second analogue nub. NGP corrects that with the introduction of a second stick, which makes gun-play feel snappy, traditional, and most importantly, familiar.
  • Quirky controls. But NGP is capable of much more than standard DualShock implementation, and that's resolutely clear from Golden Abyss' multitude of alternative control mechanics. Tilt controls are used to orient Nathan Drake's sniper-rifle, and steady him across slender beams. Furthermore, touch can be used to attack guards and slide through environments. If you're worried it's all going to be a bit gimmicky, Sony Bend has confirmed that the touch and tilt controls are going to be totally optional.
  • Visuals. Uncharted is known for being one of the best looking video games available on home consoles, and Golden Abyss attempts to bring some of that beauty to the NGP. The game is rooted in Drake's Fortune's tropical environments and looks roughly comparable to its older PlayStation 3 sibling.
  • Prequel. While Uncharted games tend to stand-up on their own narrative merits, there's always a rough underlying narrative that ensures fans of the series get a little bit more out of the franchise. Golden Abyss is a prequel to Drake's Fortune, and is being penned by Sony Bend's John Garvin under the watchful eye of Naughty Dog's creative director Amy Hennig. The game depicts Nathan Drake on the trail of an expedition lost 400 years ago, and leaves the charming protagonist uncovering a mythical city along the way. Unsurprisingly, Nolan North will reprise his role in Golden Abyss, with cut-scenes being captured in the same studio as the one being used for Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception. The take-away is that this is not some shoddy spin-off; the game is being developed with all of the key elements of the Uncharted franchise in place, making it the NGP title to keep your eyes on.

Uncharted: Golden Abyss is believed to release alongside the NGP at some point in 2011.