I purchased the PlayStation Vita on a whim a little over a month ago. It’s given me some time to use it and try out some of the features and really get into it. It also gave me time to get over the “wow” factor of such a new device to give more of an honest and realistic opinion of the newest portable system to enter the market.
The PlayStation Vita design is a direct descendant of the PSP, a natural progression because not much needed to be changed. There were some great enhancements to make it a bit friendlier to modern game play. One notable enhancement is the fact that it now has dual analog sticks. This feature really opens the Vitas capability. Now you can play first and third person shooters with the same ease that you can on a PS3. It’s not just limited to shooters; sports games also receive a huge boost having that extra analog stick.
The addition of a front touch screen makes plenty of sense. Now that all portable devices such as cell phones and tablets have added this feature it would be foolish not to. It does add some unique controls to games, but most of the games I have tried don’t actually require you to use the screen yet, they still give you alternate analog control options.
The rear touchpad is one new element to the hardware that I found to be really cool. This is one feature that will only be as good as the game publishers decide to make it. For example in Uncharted: Golden Abyss, the rear touchpad can be used in a few situations. It can feel forced or unnecessary at some points such as rope climbing. You can choose to just use the analog sticks pushing up or down to climb in either direct. Or you can use the rear touchpad in an alternate swiping motion to climb. It’s superfluous, if you’re going to give the option of the analog keys 9 times out of 10 I will use them because it’s just plain easier.
One example where the touch pad is used right is FIFA Soccer. As you plays you can imagine the rear touch pad as the goal. Wherever you lay your finger on the touchpad corresponds to the goal. So if you put your finger on the top left that’s where your shot will go, and power just depends on how long you hold your finger there. It’s really an ingenious use of the touchpad and I hope to see more of it. But once again it is a feature that will only be as good as developers choose to make it.
Cross plays is another cool feature with a lot of potential. It’s a simple enough idea, if you own the same game on your PS3 and Vita you can begin the game on one and if need be continue it on the other. It’s got some substantial promise. I haven’t had the opportunity to try this out myself. There are only two games with cross play availability and most notably it’s MLB: The Show. Being a huge baseball fan I hope to get to try it very soon and provide some more insight. But once again the developer and which games will come out for both systems simultaneously limit it. I have a feeling it will most likely be found in sports games such as the Madden franchise and so on.
One feature that truly impressed me was the 5 inch OLED display. The games really pop off the screen. Sony claims it can produce 16 million colors and it’s easy to believe that statement. The colors are sharp and vivid from the brightest yellow to the deepest black.
Wi-Fi or 3G
Something to mention is the availability of a Wi-Fi model and a Wi-Fi/3G model. The 3G Vita runs on the AT&T network and requires a minimum of $14.99 data plan. I have the 3G Vita and at this point and time I don’t see much use for it. You cannot download large files and the connection is still relatively slow so multiplayer gaming might not be practical over 3G. I would save the extra $50 and buy an extra game.
“So how’s the battery life?” That’s the question you’ll hear anytime a new portable device comes out. I’ve heard some gripes about the battery life of the Vita. I simply do not agree with these complaints. I can charge my Vita and play a solid four to five hours of any game and still have some juice left over. The standby time for me has been anywhere from five days to a week. Some people wanted a bigger battery but I think Sony got this right. The bigger the battery the heavier the device and there is reduced portability. If you think about it, holding a device in your hands for several hours does take a bit of a toll and can get a bit tiring on your dainty lady-like wrists. Or is that just me?
The operating system on the Vita is relatively smooth and well put together. It’s flows nicely and anyone can figure out how to use it rather quickly. Everything is laid out in rounded tiles and you can easily swipe between pages as you gain more items on your screen. Pretty much if you can use a smartphone you can navigate a Vita. One nice feature is that when you pause a game you can actually multitask and the game will remain paused in the background as you browse the web or visit the PlayStation store and it doesn’t seem to impact performance. All and all the software was about what I expected. I imagine over time and with updates the dashboard will really come together.
The graphics are actually quite stunning and I feel it may just be the tip of the iceberg. It clearly has room to grow and developers will find ways to really squeeze out all the power they can to achieve even more impressive graphics. Best graphics I’ve seen so far on the Vita goes to Uncharted: Golden Abyss. You can really compare it to the full-fledged versions on the PS3 and not be too far off from overall quality. There are some upcoming titles that may rival this as well.
There’s not too much to be said about the launch titles with the Vita, some are lacking and many don’t truly use its power. Once again Uncharted: Golden Abyss really shines as a launch title. It’s a full on adventure with Nathan Drake and the story is every bit as compelling as it’s PS3 counterparts. They took no shortcuts with the game and it shows. FIFA soccer is a fun sports game albeit quite challenging. The unique controls with the use of the touchscreen and especially the rear touchpad add another element to the game that makes it a bit more memorable. Mod Nation racing as also just a fun Mario Cart style racer that doesn’t really take advantage of the Vitas abilities but is enjoyable nonetheless. There are plenty more titles that I have not had the pleasure of trying so my scope is a bit limited.
There are definitely some titles to look forward to this year on the Vita. Little Big Planet is going to make its debut in just a couple of months. A new Silent Hill game will soon be released as well. I’m particularly looking forward to Resistance: Burning Skies I think it will be graphically stunning and some serious all around gaming from what I have seen so far. I imagine we’ll see some other great PlayStation exclusives such as the God of War series get the Vita treatment as well.
Typically when I purchase a handheld system I will sell it or trade it just a couple of months later. I don’t think that will be that case this time. The Vita simply has too much going for it. With some exciting new hardware enhancements and the room it has to grow I feel it’s worth hanging on to. It may not be a device you need to run out and get right now, but in the near future as more titles are released and the hardware is pushed to its limits I think it will be a must have for any gamer.