Friday, 3 February 2012

Hands On: PlayStation Vita

It's not very often that a new gaming device comes to market. It's even more uncommon that the general public gets to sample it before launch outside of specialised pre-launch events. However, Sony has sent out Vita units to Game and Gamestation outlets throughout the UK, despite the problems they're going through. (if you want to read about their problems then Google is your friend)

Anyway, earlier in the week, I got my hands on a Vita and sampled a few of the games that are launching with it on the 22nd of February. My first thought however was how light the Vita itself was, for all the stuff that Sony has packed into it, the Vita feels lighter than the PSP, that's possibly down to the fact that there is no UMD drive in the Vita.

Before launching any games, I had a quick look at the Vita's menus, which uses a "bubble" like interface. The menus use the touch screen and not the physical buttons, which has made the interface very reminiscent of interfaces found on smartphones and tablets. It is very easy to use, like a smartphone interface and operates very smoothly. It also looks great, thanks to the Vita's 5 inch OLED screen, which has very vibrant colours and sharpness.

The Vita that I got my hands on. The picture isn't the best because I was trying to not drop the thing!
The single most requested thing for the PSP's successor was dual analogue sticks, and Sony obliged. Now, for the first time, first person shooters can be done on a handheld console without compromise. Unlike the PSP's "nub", the Vita has proper sticks but unlike the ones found on a Dualshock controller, they don't click down to give L3 and R3 buttons. There also no L2 and R2 buttons, just the two shoulder buttons like on the PSP. Instead, there is a rear touch pad which allows for more freedom, and will give developers an opportunity to do something different.

Sony has always touted the Vita as a games system, not a multimedia device like the PSP, though it does all of the non-gaming stuff the PSP does, and then some. This is backed by the sheer number of launch titles that are coming on day one. These include: Uncharted: Golden Abyss, WipEout 2048, Everybody's Golf, FIFA, Virtua Tennis 4, F1 2011 and many more, with many coming shortly after the launch of the Vita. I tried out four games in total:

  • Uncharted: Golden Abyss - Promoted as the flagship title for Vita, Uncharted: Golden Abyss is a technical showcase that utilises many of the Vita's features. It also shows what can be done by the Vita graphically. It feels like Uncharted, and that's important. Nothing has been dropped because it's on a handheld. If anything, more has been added, since Uncharted makes use of the Vita's touch screen, gyroscope and rear touch pad. 
  • WipEout 2048 - Just like the PSP, the Vita launches with a new title from the long-running anti-gravity racing series. WipEout 2048 is a very good looking game, arguably more so than Uncharted. It runs very smoothly and feels very much like WipEout HD on the PS3. Speaking of which, you can race people on WipEout HD if you have WipEout 2048, which is an exciting prospect and I hope more developers implement this kind of connectivity between the two platforms.
  • Everybody's Golf - I'm not a fan of golf. However, I love Everybody's Golf. This game is perfect for the Vita because it has great anime-esque visuals and is easy to pick up and play but difficult to master. It's a testament to the game's quality that someone who is not a fan of golf can love this game. A must have for anyone who is getting a Vita if you ask me.
  • Unit 13 - The only game that I played that won't be out at launch, it's out in early March I believe. Unit 13 is a third person shooter that centres on beating your friends scores through leaderboads. You earn points by getting kills and completing objectives. You will also be able to play co-op with a friend and use the Vita's built in microphone to talk. The game itself is quite difficult, I think it's mostly down to the analogue sticks, since they feel different to those on a Dualshock controller. I noticed this difference with Uncharted too. Once you get used I bet they're fine.
All in all, I think the Vita will be a great gaming system. How well it will do on the market remains to be seen. With things like smartphones and tablets gaining in popularity, questions are being asked about the relevance of a device like the PlayStation Vita. I'll just say this, can you play Uncharted or WipEout on your iThingy? :)

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