After spending a week with the PlayStation Vita here are my views and feelings on Sony’s brand new handheld console, concluding with whether I think a purchase is worthwhile. Individual games are used only as examples; to find out our verdict of all the PlayStation Vita titles head over to the Vita review page.
Full Games Feel Full
On the PlayStation Portable some developers tried to pull off a cinematic story driven experience but it never felt like the full experience was there. With the Vita this straight away seems an entirely different story. Take the game Uncharted: Golden Abyss as an example. It is full of the usual story driven action that gamers are used to from the PlayStation 3 Uncharted franchise and while the graphics don’t exactly match that of the PS3, the Vita is a colossal step up from the original PSP; not to mention wiping the floor with the other handheld consoles. The game also boasts terrific music and in game sounds to fully immerse the user into the game. Of course it isn’t just Golden Abyss that does this but it truly shows off the potential of the Vita.
Analogue sticks for gaming is a must for controllability. Mobile gaming usually tries to solve this by adding a form of analogue stick via a touch screen but that never gives the user the full feeling that they are 100% in control like a real physical stick. This is where the Vita shines. While only adding an extra stick compared to the PSP doesn’t sound like too much, in fact opens up a lot of control options to developers.
No longer do players have to use the square, triangle, circle or X buttons to turn around on the spot as there is another analogue for it. This frees up this buttons for in-game actions. This doubles the number of inputs the console has compared to the PlayStation Portable.
Unlike the PSP you can happily pause a game, check other things on the PlayStation Vita and even take photographs; before happily jumping seamlessly back into the game. The power of the Vita is also outstanding when it comes to playing what are in some cases PS3-like titles. While sometimes the loading times are long, when games load there is not a single dip in performance. The only problem is that you can’t surf the internet while in-game.
While it isn’t a necessary feature it is nice that they have been added into the PlayStation Vita. Many will only use the feature to take the odd snap to personalise their Vita but there is also a gaming reason behind it. Some titles allow players to import their faces directly into the game and equipped with a camera at a perfect distance away from you, will allow gamers to instantly take a picture of themselves and put their faces into the game they are playing. The environment can also become the gaming environment like in the title Reality Fighters: where players can make the combatants fight it out in the room they are in. It isn’t a needed feature but the success of virtual reality games on the Nintendo DS has most likely pushed Sony into trying virtual reality out for themselves.
The sound from the speakers is fantastic, don’t be fooled from the heading that they don’t. However I had an issue with where they are located on the handheld console. When you initially hold the console your hands perfectly fit around it and your thumbs swiftly move into the intuitive position over the analogue sticks. Unfortunately after sometime playing during a cut scene, like with any game you slightly relax your hands and then the small problem arises. My thumbs would slip over the speakers making them quieter and sound slightly tinny. There were a few of us trying out the console and this only seemed to happen to half of us but it is an issue that is still worth drawing peoples’ attention to.
Back Touch Pad
The front touch pad works well as a simple navigational tool and is integrated well into games as a secondary or even primary input. Conversely the back touch pad seems to add very little to gameplay and in a small number of occasions hinders the player. The idea behind it may be to add another input but its use feels mostly gimmicky. This isn’t always a bad thing. Games that use the PlayStation Move as a gimmick are often fun and entertaining but it asks the question, why did it need to be included?
To buy or not to buy, here is my answer.
The PlayStation Vita offers fun, entertaining games on the move. The games are bigger and better in multiple ways than before seen on a portable gaming platform. If you had the PSP the Vita is definitely an upgrade on every level. The major question to ask yourself is will you have time to use it. If you take the odd long journey and have time you would play it other than journeys then the console is a great buy. Alas if you don’t travel and already have a gaming platform like a PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 or a gaming PC, then there isn’t as much of a reason to purchase it, apart from it being a lovely piece of tech.