Review: PS Vita

Feb 25, 2012

My first day with the Vita was full of exploration. Naturally, before turning it on, I inspected every nook and cranny for features I hadn’t yet read about. While I didn’t find anything new, I was floored by the elegance of the device. The Vita is not only dressed to the nines, it’s also light, thin, and comfortable to hold. The real “awe” moment occurred when I turned it on. The impressive 5″ OLED screen is an absolute sight to behold. While it has a slightly lower resolution than the iPhone 4’s retina display, the increased screen real estate and brightness help detract from noticing the difference. The following overview speaks to my time with the Vita (purchased on launch day – we don’t get handouts at GWW). The unit is the Wi-Fi model. The 3G is unfortunately an unjustifiable expense ($50 more).

Hardware

It all starts with hardware, right? The Vita doesn’t let down. Although, I’m not sure why Sony chose to rebrand their portable console. This device is shaped similarly to the PSP and executes on the promise the PSP was. Maybe it was job security for the marketing guy they hired to brand the device. I guess if he walked into the conference room with “PSP 2” he would have been fired for a lack of creativity. From the outside, the Vita does resemble the PSP, save for a few key changes. The most obvious for any gamer is the inclusion of a second analog stick – or “nub” as Josh calls it. Thankfully the sticks do not disappoint. They are raised ever so slightly from the core device, and for some may be difficult to get the hang of. And like the PS3’s dual shock controller, they are placed at direct opposite ends from one another. This can present a challenge when trying to use the system’s innovative rear-touchpad during a game’s action sequence. Not to take anything away from the touchpad itself. It’s very comfortable to use and it’s a huge benefit to not distract from the screen when you are required to physically interact with the game. The Vita’s hardware design has poised the system to be the leader in mobile gaming for years to come. With wi-fi, 3G, and Bluetooth options, the Vita is well connected. Battery life has been good. I was able to play Uncharted: Golden Abyss for 4 hours last night and I still had some juice left. Don’t let the naysayers bring you down – everything can benefit from better battery life.

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Access

The Vita is easy to use, and easy to play. Apple perfected accessibility with the iPhone and it’s App Store. Sony already has the PSN Store which they strongly implemented into the Vita. It’s easy to jump into the PSN Store for a game, movie, or TV show, download in the background over Wi-Fi (3G has a 20mb limit) and feel connected with the world. The Near app is tremendous. The first time I used it I was lying in bed at 1am and to my surprise, within a 3 mile radius, were 15 other Vita gamers logged into Near. And where I live, that’s impressive on launch day. Near will track activity and “surges” in popularity at any geographic location. I’ll effectively create my favorite places to log in, and Near will track the population against past activity. That’s pretty darn cool. As of today (day 3 with the device), I’ve connected with 4 new friends and even chatted with one about playing Resistance 3 co-op on the PS3.

 

Software

Starting with the OS, the interface is something you’d expect from an Android device. For the most part it is very clean and efficient. The default colors are bright and vibrant, lending to the console’s name. The feature I love the most is the “always on” interface. At any point, regardless of the app you’re in, you can press the PS button to immediately go back to the home screen. It’s very useful while you’re messaging with other PSN friends or you want to use the Near app to find a nearby Vita gamer. Combing hardware with software with the Vita leads to some true innovative input. The games thus far released are not the best possible implementation of the Vita’s unique inputs. It’s easy to know what Sony has in mind after “playing” the Welcome Park game/tutorial. It’s a series of extremely simple games that showcase the Vita’s inputs. You’re enticed with trophies to learn what the system can do. And truly, as developers spend more time with the API, they’re going to drop some serious innovation on us gamers. Perhaps the biggest opportunity lay with small developers who can create relatively small-budget games and publish them as Playstation Minis. Often overlooked, there have been several Minis released that are a blast to play. Unfortunately, as of now, the back-catalog is not transferable to the PS Vita without repurchasing. But Sony is working on resolving the issue. The Vita specific launch titles I’ve played are not small-budget whatsoever. Of course the first game I played is Uncharted: Golden Abyss. I’m about 25% through the game and it really does feel like I’m playing on my PS3 in terms of quality. Some of the uses of the Vita’s unique input methods come across as throw-ins, but Sony had to push that for their flagship launch title. That review will come later. I’ve also played Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 which is a little tough for my hands. The game itself is of high quality and actually looks like it’s PS3 brother. Cross-play with the PS3 is outstanding. The future is wide-open for the Vita’s software.

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Closing Thoughts

You’ll notice I didn’t nerd out on the details of the Vita. In my opinion it doesn’t matter what the resolution of the screen is. The screen is beautiful. It also doesn’t matter how much the Vita weighs – it’s easy to port around and doesn’t wear on your hands. So I’ll conclude in the similarly: the Vita is designed for not only gaming on the go, but also gaming on the couch or in bed. It’s not a replacement for the PS3/360 but a supplemental gaming experience. As games continue to roll out, you’ll be remiss not to try this platform. And if you own a PS3, and Sony executes as promised, you’ll discover a new world of gaming.



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