Hold up! There’s a new kid on the handheld console block. Her name is PS Vita. And she’s a sexy little minx.
Sony is investing quite a lot into it’s new handheld, the PlayStation Vita. Hoping it will be an actual success for their handheld division, rather than their seemingly mediocre first attempt, the PSP (which I think is a fantastic console in it’s own right.) We can only hope it’s a success, because we really do like it here at ED.
Vita is intending to compete with Nintendos 3DS, which means it probably won’t be much trouble, given that Ninty’s console is so much cheaper, has a more family-friendly image and offers that golden ticket of 3D. However, the Vita has a lot more going for it in Nerdy circles and doesn’t offer 3D. No, really, that’s a good thing: 3D stereoscopic imaging is a flash in the pan just now. Despite all that, I personally think that it will do a lot better than some naysayers seem to be predicting. If Sony play it right with the marketing and keep a constant release schedule of great games, unlike the mostly mediocre PSP lineup, the Vita might just scare Nintendo a little.
The Vita is a highly impressive piece of kit: sleek, sexy, big and curvy, substantially weighted without being heavy and packed with features (coincidentally, that’s how I like my women </chauvinism >). It’s also got a pretty, stroke-able face, and a highly grope-able back side (again, how I like my women </sexist>). That’s right, I just made two similar and very much clichéd jokes about how technology reminds me of female peoples. Not the first and certainly won’t be the last.
You have your standard PS inputs: D-Pad, left analogue stick, circle, X, square and triangle buttons, L and R shoulder buttons (sadly just one of each, you don’t get the trigger L2 and R2 buttons, but that would be ridiculous), start and select and a PS logo home button, power button, volume + and – buttons, and holy crap, a second analogue stick!
Don’t let me understate how important the second analogue stick is. It’s what the PSP should have had from the off. Greater camera controls, especially for FPS and adventure games, is the main reason I’d say, but it also gives it better balance aesthetically. And let’s not forget that these are proper analogue sticks now, not the pathetic little “circle pad” nubbins like on the PSP and the 3DS
However, I find that the face buttons and analogue sticks are a little bit too small, and pretty close together, which is problematic, given that I’m used to a DualShock controller, and that I have small, yet chunky hands. Though it seems to be only a minor problem for me. It’s not even a problem really, just a minor niggle. Also, the Start and Select buttons are very fiddly, as they sit flush with the front face of the console, are spaced just millimetres apart and are about a half-square centimetre surface area each. Again, not ideal if you have sausages where your fingers should be.
There are some more 21st-century control options to boot: It features a 5″ OLED capacitive front multi-touchscreen which is bright and clear and a major improvement over the PSP. Paired with a touchpad on the back of the unit for other input, which can lead to some unintentional shenanigans in-game when you don’t realise your fingers are on the pad itself, as it forms most of the back casing. Also included is Sony’s SIXAXIS motion controls, a Three-Axis compass, and front-and-rear VGA cameras which can be used to take pictures and video and offer Augmented Reality functionality too.
It is considerably bigger than the PSP, even the 1000 model, it’s wider and taller, but the 5″ (!) screen takes up most of that. Counter-intuitively, it’s also a hell of a lot more comfortable to hold, as it doesn’t feel like your hands are aching after a mere 10 minutes holding the damn thing. The addition of concave finger-rests just adds that little bit extra comfort and a more natural holding-position. Though, a natural hold might interfere with the rear touchpad and might make you wonder why your zoom is moving.
Sony have developed an entirely new interface for the home screen navigation, known as the Live Area, which is a slightly customisable screen similar in a sense to iOS, or Android, but with circular icons. It’s not quite as slick as iOS, or even Android, but works well as a purpose-built solution and Sony will undoubtedly update it often. It is also a bit more intuitive than the XMB and utilises the touchscreen well
Also featured is a more integrated social media aspect: an accessible friend list from your SEN account, Facebook connectivity, as well as downloadable apps for Facebook, Twitter and flickr (more likely to follow soon), and Trophy functionality, as well as in-game leaderboards (depending on the game) and notifications of achievements which make you feel closer to what your friends are playing.
There is also an application known as near, which allows you to share gaming habits and other stuff with people in the same geographical location as yourself. It can also display any friend notifications and other such data. I can’t use it, because it doesn’t seem to want to update locational data at my house, but I’m sure it will come in handy at some point.
Graphically speaking, the OLED screen is nice and clear, crisp and a major improvement on the PSP. It’s capable of producing somewhere between PS2 and PS3 levels of graphical fidelity, not quite HD, but still bleeding impressive for a handheld. I won’t go into the specifics, because there are plenty of other reviews that’ll bore you with pixel counts and refresh rates and such. All I can say is, Uncharted Golden Abyss looks stunning, though edges are a bit jagged, WipEout 2048 is gorgeous and copes incredibly well at high speed, and Rayman Origins is about as good looking as home consoles can push out (which is mostly down to the aesthetics of the game, but it’s beautiful all the same).
However, it’s not all sweetness and light for this newbie, as I will now attempt to outline.
I do have to question the inclusion of 2 0.3 MP VGA cameras on the system and they are pretty much the biggest let down of the whole thing. Yeah, sure I can understand a VGA cam on the front, but one on the back which will be used primarily for AR stuff? And why even have an application that you can take photos and videos with on the system? Mobile phones from 5 years ago have better quality cameras built into them, so there is no excuse not to have at least a half-decent 1MP camera on a console which is purportedly to be at the forefront of gaming technology.
Also, Sony’s decision to use proprietary memory cards based off SD technology (but with a different form factor) seems a bit silly, given that with the PSPGo, they opted for the more consumer-friendly M2 mem cards as opposed to Memory Stick Duo cards (PSP), and that the PS3 can swap out laptop hard drives (2.5″ SATA II). You would have thought they’d push forward with the clear-cut SD format, but I guess they have their (pretty lucrative) reasons for going with a bespoke solution.
While we’re on the subject of data storage, the lack of system memory is a little baffling, given the size of SSDs these days, and that the Go had 16GB storage straight out of the box. And this makes even less sense when Sony want the Vita to essentially be a one-player, one-account deal. But, let’s not dwell too long on the things that it hasn’t got, and more on the things it has.
The charger is quite a complex 3-piece affair, featuring the plug with the 2-pin connector figure-8 end, the adaptor block and the USB cable end which has a standard USB end, and a bespoke Vita connector end. At least it’s longer in total length than the PSP Go’s feeble attempt, though why Sony needed to develop a whole new interface for a USB cable I’ll never know. The cynic in me thinks it may be some way to extort money out of gamers at some point in the future via replacement kits, but I try not to listen to the cynic in me too much.
Admittedly, these are minor snafus that can be overlooked
All in all, Sony’s Vita as a darned amazing piece of kit. Coming in two models: WiFi, and WiFi + 3G (I own and have reviewed the WiFi only version, simply because an extra initial £60 plus a data plan doesn’t appeal very much), both capable of running some dang impressive games, with a major overhaul in the social aspect of gaming, as we are more interconnected through the internet. There are some minor flaws and it is a little expensive to be competing with the 3DS in the current financial climate, which might put a lot of more casual gamers off.
Disclaimer: Reviews, as always, present opinions on various topics, and ED reviews are no different. While we do aim to inform and entertain, we are susceptible to bias, and as such our opinions may differ from your own and our experiences most definitely do. We try to be as accurate with the facts as we can, but we reserve the right to be pretty dang ridiculous with our opinions and speculation and all that extra stuff. Feel free to call us out on any bullshit though, we do appreciate it.