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PS Vita Review

Is Sony’s new handheld all that it’s cracked up to be?

PSVita

PS Vita Review

by on February 26, 2012

Regardless of where you stand on the state of handheld gaming, the next generation is here.  Sony has launched the PlayStation Vita worldwide with an impressive list of technical specs and an equally impressive list of things to do and games to play on the device.  While many that enjoy gaming could ultimately fall in love with the PS Vita, the question isn’t should you own one, it’s can you afford to?

Out of the gate, Sony has marketed the Vita as a handheld for core gamers, and they make good on this promise.  From the surprisingly robust launch lineup that consists of many “core” favorites like Uncharted, FIFA Soccer, Marvel vs. Capcom 3, and many others, you can tell that Sony has a very specific crowd in their cross hairs.  A crowd that Sony caters to at every turn on the PlayStation Vita.

From a design standpoint, the PlayStation Vita is a marvel.  Unboxing the Vita for the first time is a rather sexy experience, as the handheld itself has a great look and feel to it.  Placing it in your hands for the first time and you can immediately feel that alot of thought was put into the design of the Vita, and comfort for extended play sessions in these “core experiences” and online play.  Completely rounded, the PlayStation Vita has no rough edges to slow you down, and engages your hands from all angles.  Whether that be from the use of the rear touchpad, the touchscreen, the dual analogs, or the standard controller face and shoulder inputs, there are plenty of ways to play on your Vita.

One major highlight of the Vita is in the dual analog sticks.  These two sticks are more like what you’ll find on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 home consoles, which allows the Vita to give the same types of 3D experiences found on those home consoles.  Shooters in 3D space, or even action adventure games make good use of the dual sticks, and it’s once again familiar territory for the “core” gaming audience.  It also sets the Vita apart from other handhelds on the market today, besting both the Nintendo 3DS and the PSP by having the dual sticks, and even smartphones which have little but a touchscreen.   But even with these amazing additions to the handheld that set it apart, the Vita relies on one of its other core competancies at nearly every turn, and that is the touchscreen controls.  There is more touchscreen interaction required with the device than I had initially expected from the Vita, but it’s on par with even the industry benchmark of Apple’s iPhone and iPad devices.  Does it do touch better than them?  Well that’s hard to say, but as a full package, there’s little room in argument for a phone or tablet over the PS Vita when it comes to playing games.  There’s just too many controller options at your disposal with the Vita, and that’s expected from a device that is dedicated to gaming.

The user interface feels to be designed specifically with the touchscreen in mind.  The combination of the touchscreen and snappy interface make browsing through your Vita’s multimedia and programs a breeze.  As you would expect from a handheld that relies on touchscreens to perform actions quickly, the touchscreen controls on the Vita work flawlessly.  There are multiple applications to test just how well touch, and multi-touch work, with a welcome center that will time your inputs in mini-game style.  From the moment you first start these trials you begin to see the picture of a really well rounded console on all fronts.  These trials can be found in the PlayStation Vita’s “Welcome Park” and will also introduce you to the many other features both seen and unseen on the device.  From touch, multi-touch, six-axis controls, and more, there are so many ways that developers can design games to be played on the PS Vita, and I’m sure we’ll see some interesting applications in the future.

The main attraction and focal point of the PlayStation Vita is it’s large OLED touchscreen, it delivers the amazing visuals that are being shown capable on the device.  Big enough to draw you in even at arms length, the Vita’s 960×544 five inch screen is nothing short of amazing.  It’s what you’ll be focused on for the majority of the time with your Vita, and Sony didn’t scrimp when it came time to choose their display.  It feels like Sony nailed it when determining what size to go with on the Vita to deliver the best display, without making the device feel cumbersome to the user.  At the normal viewing distance, lights on or off in a room, the Vita’s screen will keep you engaged and playing for as long as your battery can take it.

This will come in between four and five hours for most people when playing a game or using an application.  Mileage will vary when using things like WiFi or 3G and the system seems dead set on conserving your battery life for you when you leave it unattended.  Adjusting options within the PS Vita menus will allow you to conserve even more power for those extended trips, but the more you play, the faster you’ll drain, regardless.  These four to five hours seem to be about on par for course, when comparing it to other handhelds.

Smart phone users will be familiar with these battery limitations in regards to how far your device can take you any given day, and bringing your Vita with you will allow you to perform an seemingly unlimited number of multi-media applications outside of your core gaming experiences.  Bundled within the operating system, the Vita comes standard with a competent web browser, a forward and backwards facing camera to take and then store photos and video.  Heading to the PlayStation Store via the handheld will allow you to scoop up other popular applications for many different web services like Twitter, Facebook (not working currently), and Netflix, with others likely to follow in the coming weeks and months ahead.

The highly touted Cross Platform Play which is said to allow users to play games from their PS3 to their PS Vita, is one promising feature of the device that I am inherently interested in trying, but, none of my PS3 games are compatible with the service right now.  Hopefully, Sony and it’s first party studios, as well as third party developers make use of this feature because it’s one that I think could make the Vita into an even more valuable asset to the PlayStation gamer than any other.  Connecting the the PS3 and the Vita is a breeze, but after going through a laundry list of games to find none that were compatible with the feature, left me with a bit of a bitter taste.

All in all though,  it’s hard to fault Sony’s effort with the PlayStation Vita.  Complaints are relatively minor, and even considering the rather exorbitant price tag, with so much to do, you definitely won’t be suffering from buyer’s remorse.  You truly are getting your money’s worth with the handheld, but there are quite a few extras that’ll need to be procured to give the ultimate Vita experience outside of the already lofty $249 for the Wi-Fi only model.  You’ll need to get a memory card out of the gate, because the company decided to completely forgo internal storage.  These can be pricey when compared to other storage of the same specs, and are only available in the proprietary Sony format to “combat piracy”.  You’ll be dropping close to $400 if you want to get the full experience and a couple of games.

The quality makes this large pill easy to swallow.  Graphics on par with current generation offerings, and a large library of first and third party titles can give you a near pitch perfect console experience in the palm of your hand.  With the option to take it with you, the Vita definitely opens up new ways to play.  It really comes down to the gamer’s pallete.  If you’re willing to trade a great deal of quality for price, then $2 apps on your phone might do the trick, but if you’re looking for more, the Vita has you covered…and then some.

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