Monday, 20 February 2012

PlayStation Vita


With the UK launch of Sony’s machine this week and plenty of game time clocked on an imported Japanese model, it’s time I gave you a run down of the PlayStation Vita and what you can expect from this brand new handheld monster.



The Hardware

The Vita is a technically an impressive piece of technology; boasting a 5” OLED screen with a 960 x 544 panel to allow for some of the most vibrant and beautiful visuals you will ever see on such a small device. Those who describe the Vita’s graphical power as that of the PlayStation 3 are not far wrong as games like Uncharted: Golden Abyss mimic the quality of Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune almost perfectly. The screen also shows off impressive multi-touch capabilities, allowing for further ways to experience the games you purchase.

The button layout is also impressive with everything spread favourably across the Vita. Two analogue sticks are a welcome addition to a portable device, giving the machine a very reminiscent feel of the DualShock 3 controller, while the face buttons are a great size and feel precise with every push of a button. The Vita also has a really impressive D-Pad, which is incredibly important considering the beat-em-up genre will be having a strong launch with Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, BlazBlue and Mortal Kombat 9 following shortly on the device.

You will also find a trackpad on the back of the Vita, which Sony hope to use in interesting and innovative ways. A camera on the front is paired with the camera on the back and a whole assortment of slots are present for a Sim card (3G only), Sony’s own Memory unit, an as of yet unidentified connector (which we assume could be HDMI output) and a standard headphone jack.

So on paper this sounds like a seriously cool piece of technology, but how does it perform and more importantly, what are the games like?

The Software

At first glance the Vita is all about ease-of-use. The moment you boot the device and view the strikingly simple User Interface, you will understand that this machine is just designed to get you to your content without any issues. But then you notice that you can’t use any buttons and the Vita’s menu is touch screen only and you immediately think to yourself, “what’s that about?” There are of course many similarities to iOS and Android because why wouldn’t Sony try and implement what is a very successful interface system, but it just doesn’t have the same appeal as your mobile phone or tablet. All your applications and games are shrunk into little bubbles that can be accessed with a simple touch of the screen and the more you download and install onto the Vita the more pages of bubbles appear. It’s by no means difficult to find your way around, but it’s completely ludicrous that Sony have spent so much time both on the PlayStation 3, The PlayStation Portable and all their TV’s to ensure everyone knows the Sony X-Media bar, then out of the blue completely remove it for this new interface, why try to fix what is not broken right?

Another big issue with the Vita is the requirement of an exclusive Vita-branded memory card. You see the Vita has absolutely zero on-board memory and games like Uncharted literally don’t even boot unless there’s a memory card in the machine. Vita games can be bought physically or purchased digitally and will range from 500mb to 3.5gb in size, so a big memory card is almost essential for anyone looking to use their Vita as a multimedia library as well as a gaming platform. Sony have introduced an app called Near, which for the sake of simplicity I will compare to iTunes as it merely allows you to move games back and forth between your PS3/Computer and Vita. So those of you who don’t purchase the 16gb memory card will still be able to alternate the games you can play.

So after some time with the Vita I was not wholly impressed with the User Interface and software, but did the games sway my opinion about Sony’s new portable device?

The Games:

I’ve had time with Uncharted: Golden Abyss, Unit 13, FIFA Football, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, BlazBlue and numerous other games, so stay tuned to CeX for reviews on all the launch titles.



Comparing the graphics to that of the PlayStation 3 is an absolutely fair comparison. Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 for example, is a direct port of the PS3 version of the game, meaning it brings over all the game modes (apart from Heralds), stunning visuals and fantastic gameplay. The Vita really is an absolute beast and after putting in substantial hours, there are no issues with frame rate and my only quirk is the loading times can be quite long. I won’t go into much detail about the games themselves now but the reviews will be with you shortly, but I was truly impressed at just how good the games looked on that phenomenal screen and how easy it was to play on the well-crafted buttons.



The Wi-Fi or Wi-Fi & 3G?

Some of you may be aware that the Vita will be arriving in two forms, well they’re identical in every way aside from one will allow you to sign up with Vodafone and use 3G functionality. The 3G option will restrict all downloads to 20mb meaning you won’t be downloading anything massive on your travels, but access to the Internet and certain features will be available. Ultimately if you’re going to download anything at all substantial, you’ll be jacking into your Wi-Fi or a hotspot, so with that in mind you can make your decision as to what version to purchase. The Internet functionality is somewhat clunky at the moment and it just feels like the Vita really struggles to load any websites effectively. I hope for the sake of the system that updates and patches will be released as soon as possible to help smooth out these little issues.

The Verdict

On that note, you should definitely consider picking up a PlayStation Vita Wi-Fi model at the very least. Above all else this is a mini-PlayStation 3 and that should be damn impressive in anyone’s eyes. The Vita has a whole host of cool capabilities but what’s really important is the ability to pull the Vita out of your bag on an airplane, bus, train, car or anywhere you find some spare time, and play PlayStation 3-like games on the go. From a technical perspective the handheld is incredibly impressive and while it fails to really use 3G effectively and has some issues with the User Interface and web browsing, as a gaming platform it is incredible. The rest of these quirks can very easily be patched and updated to eventually make the Vita a well-rounded multimedia device, but for the time being, it’s a super-powered mini-PS3, which is by no means bad in my eyes.

9.0 | Hardware | 
The PlayStation Vita is a visually and technically impressive device that boasts features you wouldn’t have dreamt of seeing on a handheld a few years ago. The beautiful screen is absolutely the standout selling point but dual-cameras, a very impressive button-layout and a nifty trackpad really make this a great piece of technology with lots of potential to be an essential in your bag during your travels. 

6.5 | Software | 
The Vita is built like a tank there’s no question, but it’s very difficult to be a master of everything and the Vita sports some rather disappointing applications and uses. The change in User Interface is questionable, Internet browsing feels sluggish and the Near app isn’t anywhere near as extensive as something like iTunes, rather is nothing more than a set of folders. However, patches and continuous upgrades give hope to the Vita’s software. 

8.0 | Games | 
The launch line-up while not innovative, does sport a brand new Uncharted game, which is very awesome. Above all else, the list of games show the power of the Vita and that the PlayStation 3’s catalogue will merge with the handheld, meaning AAA titles that we all love and enjoy will continue making their way onto Sony’s new portable device. 

8.0 | Final Thoughts | 
I think the PlayStation Vita is overall a solid gaming device that is essential for anyone looking to play high quality games on the go. Lots of debate is currently circulating about how the Vita’s high prices will compete with the modern ‘social gaming’ platforms on phones, but this machine isn’t designed for the casual gamer, far from it. The PlayStation Vita is here for you, the gamer, and it will bring you the biggest games because guess what, it’s here to stay side by side with the PlayStation 3. 

Igor Kharin.

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