So Sony have released their next generation hand-held gaming device, the PS Vita and we had a week to play around with it and put it through its paces.
At first, I’ll be honest, I wasn’t that into the Vita and couldn’t wrap my head around paying R2699.00 for the WiFi version. I kept thinking, when and where would use the device and how often to make the price justify able? The 3G version is even more and here in South Africa where data isn’t the cheapest, would you even need the data for the device? Well let’s just say that after the week with it, I’m currently looking for specials.
Let me first talk about the actual device before I get into some of the games and other applications. The PS Vita is slightly bigger than its predecessor with a 5.3″ screen, dual analogues and dual touch pads. An entire iPhone can fit into screen alone, so the screen is perfect in size for gaming and video watching. And gaming on the device is very pleasing with graphics like the PS3 it’s really impressive. One of the next generation features of the PS Vita.
The very welcomed and new dual analogue stick makes you ponder why didn’t they have this in the first PSP? Dual analogues makes gaming so much better on the hand held and at points I thought I was still on my PS3. The Vita fits comfortably in your hands allowing you to reach all the buttons easily. There’s still the left and right buttons and the D-pad and of course the well known Sony action buttons. I did find that the D-pad wasn’t the best for some games as its similar to the Xbox 360 pad where you would press up even though you are pressed right. It takes a little getting use to. Thankfully the games I played didn’t really have too much use for the pad.
Speaking of pads the back touch pad is very cool and well thought about with regards to design and functionality. It’s designed to look like its part of the device in a away that never obstructs you holding it and while using it. The games that make use of the back pad do it really well, there was Uncharted Drakes Deception and Little Deviants, and surprising your finger goes to where it needs to every time.
Ok so buttons are great the touch pad great and the touch screen also works brilliantly. I cannot say so for the sound however, unless you have a pair of earphones plugged in. If you plan to use the built in speakers for gaming or watching videos and you are not in a quite surrounding, you will have trouble hearing things and yes the sound will be set to full. This can be a little problem if you are a bus or tube station, thankfully though this isn’t really a problem in South Africa, but for our international reading friends just something to take note of.
All round the device is a solid and great build quality that you would expect from Sony. It feels right and it feels like its been there for a while and will be there for while to come, which I think is what you would want from a new piece of hardware. As for the software we all know that this is what makes or breaks the new device. I’m pleased to say that the PS Vita has come to the party with a very solid line up.
I’m going to delay the game reviews just a little while longer and speak about the operating system first, after all this is a PS Vita review. I’m going to call the OS the bubble OS as you will notice that all the apps are shown as a bubble on the various home screens, let me explain.
On the various home screens that you can scroll up and down between them are a collection of 13 little bubbles, each one representing a application, or a game. Ether a full downloaded one or one that comes on the Sony duo memory stick, you see as soon as you insert the stick with the game into the Vita it installs some data and the bubble onto the device. When activating one of the bubbles it’s slides right to shown the app screen with a little more detail of the app. Here you are able to start the app, close it and check your progress of the game.
You are able to have up to five applications open at a time, hot swapping between them very easily, swiping left and right between them. To close an application you will notice on the top right a fold, and you will simply peel the application down to sort of peel it away. The really great thing about this is that it remembers exactly where you are in the game, and you can jump back in immediately. This is achieved by pressing the famous PS button while in a game or any other application for that matter. This OS is very easy and simple to pick up even without the handy first time tour hints.
One of the other big selling points of the PS Vita is the social aspect of the device. Sony was really pushing some of its built in software that would allow you to search find and join other players around you, even if they are not your friends or on your friend list. You have one account to access the PSN meaning that your current friend list on your PS3 is available as soon as you sign in. Your trophies as well.
The Near app is the one that allows you to scan the arena for other Vita people. If for instance you and Joe Bob are playing the same game you could join his or invite him to join yours. Hell even just say hello, making it easy to find new people to play with. However I wasn’t able to test this program properly due to fact that no one was around me and that the program was unable to detect my location. This was also true for the map app. The Facebook and twitter apps work as though you expect them to adding more to the social field. It will be interesting to see what other apps Sony will release to the device in the near future. Oh there’s a very basic web browser allowing you to browse the net in search for that game guide or cheat. But it doesn’t support flash so don’t expect all web pages to work properly.
One thing I must mention is that all your operating and browsing around in the OS is done so entirely via the touch screen. You cannot use that analogue sticks, the buttons or even the back track pad, which I think is a little weird and perhaps been able to navigate with the analogues or D-pad would make more sense. Other than that it’s works well and you can even earn trophies while learning the various techniques you will need to navigate the PS Vita.
A few more things before we get into the proper stuff. Viewing and taking photos and videos and listening to music. You will be happy to hear that you can now listen to what ever music you wish during your gaming session, I think Sony finally listened to the community and put in a feature that we have been asking them for since the beginning days of the PS3. The camera takes fairly decent photos with its 5 mega-pixel front and back camera, though only during the day as there is no light/flash. In order to take video you will need to update the firmware to the latest version and the video is standard 640×480 lowish quality. No HD stuff here. Although when watching a 720 HD clip the screen really does pop.
OK so enough with the boring stuff already, I’m us if you are going to purchase one that you might not be interested in all this other than what are the games like, right? Forgive me me if I do these quickly and not as in depth as my full game reviews but this is reviewing the PS Vita not the games. And if you have read this far, then grab yourself a bronze trophy. I am going to mention three of six games I got to review as they highlight and made use of the Vita’s features brilliantly and these are, Uncharted, Little Deviants and Wipeout 2048.
The other games that I got to review, Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational, ModNation Racers: Road Trip and Reality Fighters, I will not focus on as they didn’t do anything that great and were basically the game. Hot shots golf for example didn’t have any features and was quite literally the game on the vita. Reality Fighters did take a photo of you and place it on your fighter as well as allow you to select real world locations to battle in, which was OK but that’s about it.
Uncharted: Golden Abyss
This game is Uncharted through and through. Sony Bend have done one hell of a job bringing the Uncharted universe to the PS Vita, yes that’s right folks Naughty Dog didn’t do everything with this game. The graphics, gameplay, action, controls, sounds, voice acting, story and the experience is all there. This could and should be on the PS3. With the added features of the Vita integrated into the game so brilliantly it just adds to the over all gaming experience, drawing you in even deeper. collecting treasures, taking photos, climbing ropes and so many more can all be done using various inputs, and the really great thing is that its up to you which one to use. Don’t want to move the Vita to swing on a rope then just use the analogue stick as normal. Some you have to use the touch screen but it never breaks the flow from the game, it adds to it. Every now and then you will have to take a pencil sketch of something by rubbing your finger over the paper (screen) or completing a puzzle with only the touch screen. This is a must have for any Vita owner.
This family, child targeted game of mini games is the cause of some serious fun. The great thing with this game is that each and every mini game makes use of some feature in the Vita’s arsenal of features and it does it really well. Whether if its you controlling a ball through a filed via the back track pad, or tapping an alien out of a barn with both the back and front touch screens, or sky diving through rings controlling the diver with the motion sensors and using the camera to shoot alien spaceships who have invaded your living room. Some of the games require you to move around and the Vita quite a bit, I had to do some 360′s in the lounge to find all the little spaceships to shoot, so it may not be the best idea to play this on a bus or train. A must have if you want some real fun with your Vita.
Although this game doesn’t really make use of all the features I though I would mention it based on the graphical power that this little device is capable of. I think besides Uncharted that Wipeout has the best graphics on any hand held and may even beat the PS3 version. The game looks amazing and runs even better. Not one frame drop, pure HD wipeout goodness plus there is also a lot happening on the screen at one time. If this is a launch title, I cannot wait to see what developers will be able to cook up later in the devices life span.
So am I convinced to get myself a PS Vita? You bet! Even if I don’t get the the 3G option one the wi-fi one works just perfectly for me. My main use for it would be to play games and watch movies, which I think was it’s true purpose anyway. The extra social goodies are just that goodies and useful for the social and multiplayer gamers out there. Fantastic build quality, solid graphics and functionality, the PS Vita truly is the next generation portable gaming device.