Sony PS Vita Review: A Handheld Console to be reckoned with
When I first saw the PS Vita on display at the Eurogamer Expo last year, I thought then that this could be a really good piece of kit. Not just that it looked good or had dual analogue sticks or even that it had a touch screen; the main reason was that it was so interactive, more than the PSP. The things I mentioned above as well as the rear touch pad, cameras front and back and the gyroscope all help make the PS Vita a far more immersive experience. I will of course go into greater detail when I write about some of the games now available, for the moment though I will concentrate on what the console has to offer.
Although it resembles the PSP in looks, this is a very different beast. As I mentioned, this has a 5″ OLED capacitive touch screen which is very responsive and a delight to use. I found some sun (not easy I can tell you) to see how much you could see on a sunny day. It was very good, I found a slight amount of reflection but otherwise I was very impressed. It also has dual analogue sticks, which are very smooth and intuitive, I really like to use these over buttons and the addition of them on the PS Vita makes things much more comfortable. You do also get the standard triangle, square, circle and cross buttons, d-pad and shoulder buttons. The buttons are well laid out and feel nice and solid when pressed, although I found that for the most part during navigating and game play, I used the analogue sticks, touch pad and shoulder buttons more than anything else.
The speakers are just to the side of the analogue sticks and the sound that they produce is really very good for a handheld device. The sound is clear and crisp and really does help to add some atmosphere to the games, as opposed to flat, tinny like sounds produced by some other consoles in the past. Using headphones is also a good experience; I tend to use them quite a lot as it gets me into the game and the sound coming through the headphones on the PS Vita certainly does that.
There is of course, no UMD in this console, which many predicted long ago. There is still a memory card slot which takes small specifically designed memory cards and of course WIFI and or 3G depending on the version you buy. As well as a memory card slot, you also have the PS Vita Card Slot which is what you will find inside those shiny new cases in your local game store. There are also downloadable games and content, via the PlayStation Network where you are also able to get movies, music and additional levels as you can with the PlayStation 3 now.
The PS Vita itself feels very solid in the hand which I personally prefer, for me it feels strangely reassuring and less likely to break if I get a bit over zealous. The screen and rear touch pad do suffer a bit from fingerprint marks which for those who find it a irritating will no doubt need a lint free cloth handy.
When you turn on the PS Vita, you are greeted with the initial screen that shows the time and date. The corner is folded down which you use to peel it off the screen using your finger. I liked this way of entering/exiting different apps and games and it is used throughout. You can scroll up and down using the touch screen and each app or game is in its own ‘bubble’. There are apps for Facebook, Google Maps, Music and Videos that you may have on your console and they all sway gently as you move around the screen. Once you have selected the game you want, you are taken to the LiveArea screen. From this area you can see details about the game and also communicate with other players. Again, you can peel it off when you are finished or press start to take you to the game. You will also find a Welcome Pack that will guide you through all aspects of the PS Vita and its controls.
The browser is quite responsive and loads quickly; it loaded all the sites I tried with no issues at all. The LiveTweet and Facebook integration is a nice addition, you can post your progress to all your friends and show them how good you are doing (or not). It also means that you can keep in touch without having to stop and switch devices. There are also other nifty apps like ‘near’ which lets you see what other PS Vita owners in your area are playing and allows you to interact and swap items with them.
If you are a PlayStation 3 owner (unfortunately I’m not) you can benefit from cross-platform play and Remote Play. The former allows you to switch from playing a game on the PS3 to the PS Vita from where you left off and also join multiplayer games as well. Remote Play lets you control your PS3 from your PS Vita, as long as you have a Wi-Fi connection. You can stream movies, music and even play compatible PS3 games using your PS Vita as a controller…now that’s impressive!
As I mentioned earlier, I will go into more depth about each game as I write about them, but the graphics throughout are truly splendid. The shading and 3D effect from the characters and scenery is fabulous and this will only get better as more games come out. This is all thanks to the ARM Cortex A9 MPcore CPU with its four cores (sorry a bit tech there) but in short it makes for stunning graphics that at times made me wish I had a scarf tied around my head like Jacob Marley to stop my jaw from dropping! Game play is smooth and quick once the game loads which can take a few seconds, but it well worth the wait. Sony has always pushed the limits of what is expected of handheld consoles and with smart phones getting faster, this is more relevant than ever. I don’t think they will disappoint many in this respect, it is very impressive and this together with the interactive abilities makes this more of an all round gaming, entertaining and social experience than the Nintendo DSi or 3DS in my opinion.
Overall I was really impressed with the PS Vita; it is all the things I personally think the PSP should have been. In the past, Nintendo have concentrated on the interactive elements of the games in favor of all out graphics power while Sony did the opposite. I think though that with the PS Vita, Sony have combined the two very well and if the games I have played so far are anything to go by, Nintendo may have a serious fight on their hands.