The PlayStation Vita (PS Vita) doesn’t launch officially in Canada until February 22 but I had a chance to get my hands on the PS Vita. I spent a solid hour with Sony’s successor to the PSP and here are my impressions.
When the PlayStation Canada Rep handed me the PS Vita, the first thing I commented on was the weight of the device. I was surprised on how light the PS Vita felt in my hands. It was comfortable to hold for over an hour and didn’t leave my hand feeling like a metal claw.
I then noticed the huge 5-inch OLED capacitive touchscreen. It’s very bright, beautiful & vivid colours popped for me and made the games look unparalleled in the handheld market. I had no problems viewing the screen from any angle, this means that your friends won’t have any problems viewing a movie or game from over your shoulder.
The PS Vita was much thicker in person, this was due to the engineers wanting to put more features into the handheld. It’s possible that future hardware revisions will remedy this problem making for a much thinner device. This might not be an issue for most people, but some people are obsessed with the thinness of their devices and need them to fit comfortably within their pockets.
Just like your Nintendo DS, the PS Vita has a touchscreen too, and it’s really responsive! I was able to navigate through menus and guide my characters through a variety of mazes and puzzles, with ease. One advantage over the Nintendo DS, is that the PS Vita does not require a stylus to interact with the touch screen, this is one advantage for the capacitive touch screen technology.
Located on the back of the PS Vita was the rear multi-touch touch pad, this is another way for you to interact or control your character with your fingers, while resting on the back of the device. I was skeptical about the touch pad. Could people simultaneously control the joysticks while gliding their fingers on the back of the PS Vita? It turns out that it is possible but it look a while for me to get used to the weird sensation of the rear touch pad. It did not feel natural to me and I think it will take gamers a while to get used to this new control scheme.
The PS Vita has 2 cameras, a front and a rear camera. I only played around with the rear camera because I was interested to see how the picture quality was. The result was not very good. The quality of the pictures where grainy and not very sharp. This may be the result of bad lighting, the quality of the cameras (0.3 MP) or some combination of the two. Just don’t expect your PS Vita to replace your fancy SLR or smart phone when taking photographs.
Unlike the PlayStation 3 or PSP, the PS Vita does not use the familiar XrossMediaBar (XMB) interface. Instead it uses an entirely new interface called LiveArea. LiveArea is optimized for the touchscreen and features a familiar grid of icons, which you can use it access various PS Vita features and launch games. I’m used to touchscreen interfaces on my tablet and smart phone, so I had no problem with the LiveArea interface.
The one thing that felt really satisfying with LiveArea was that if you wanted to close a game or application in the background, you could just swipe and it would peel away the large icon. It’s like peeling a stamp away from an envelope but virtually!
I only had a chance to play the three game demos that came preloaded on the demo unit. Below are my thoughts:
ModNation Racers: Road Trip
I admit that I spent the least amount of time with this demo, with good reason; the frame rate was very distracting. The gameplay was fast and frenetic but the frame rate dropped several times. I don’t mind a rare drop in frame rate, but it was happening consistently.
I quit before I could complete the 7 lap race. Let’s hope this issue is fixed for the retail release of ModNation Racers: Road Trip, otherwise there could be a lot of people quitting.
I found Little Deviants to be surprisingly addictive. The graphics were was very crisp and colourful. What I liked most though is that it could be played in short bursts and it showcased the unique features of the PS Vita, such as the rear multi-touch touchpad and the augmented reality capabilities.
The goal of this game is to guide the little Deviant to its goal on the map, by using each control scheme and feature. There are multiple arcade style games which include an augmented reality shooter that uses the motion controls and the rear camera.
I thought that the coolest game in Little Deviants was the one that used the touchpad. You had to guide your little Deviant to it’s goal by terraforming the ground just by using your fingers! You feel like a god guiding your little Deviant away from certain doom!
Uncharted: Golden Abyss
I spent the most time playing through Nathan Drake’s first handheld adventure and it was glorious. Gamers familiar with the Uncharted franchise will feel right at home here.
This game will showcase the graphical power of the PS Vita at launch. When you’re playing this handheld adventure, you will marvel at its stunning graphics. This game really mimics the graphical quality of its console cousins. It’s that pretty!
The controls felt familiar and I really liked the use of touchscreen and motion sensing to shoot at the enemies. The platforming mechanics were solid and oddly satisfying. I really liked how you could balance Drake by tilting the PS Vita from side to side until Drake could balance himself out.
There were two different levels that gave players a chance to experience platforming and the shooting mechanics that the Uncharted franchise is known for. You get a chance to escape a burning building, and reunite yourself with the game’s female companion Marisa Chase.
The next level puts Drake straight into a firefight. He has to protect Marisa while snipers try to kill you. Just another day in the office! The finale of this level puts Drake into another sticky situation and ends with our hero causing an epic explosion and escaping with Marisa. Awesome and cinematic!
I’m impressed with the PS Vita. The hardware is solid which finally puts Sony on par with it’s competitors. The games I played were good overall and made use of the PS Vita’s unique features and hardware in an interesting way.
That being said I’m not entirely convinced that gamers will want to spend $250 CDN on the PS Vita, considering you can spend $50 more and get a 320 GB PlayStation 3. But when you consider that it is essentially a “portable PS3”, I think that some gamers might be willing to buy a PS Vita to play PS3 level graphics on the go.
My suggestion? Don’t buy and wait for the eventual price drop. The market has already proven that people it won’t pay $250 for a handheld (3DS anyone?) and the PS Vita will need a steady stream of games to keep it afloat.