Ushering in A New Era of
©2012 Nicholas Laborde
Nearly a year ago, fellow OXCGN writer Alex Baldwin and I teamed up for a dual review-debate on the Nintendo 3DS, discussing its pros, cons, hardware, and everything related to the system itself.
This time around, I have obtained the PlayStation Vita a week before him with the First Edition Bundle, and I’ve been left to my own thoughts, compared to Alex, who only has his jealousy. (ED: Now let’s all get along boys )
After having extensive time with the system, I am proud to say that the PlayStation Vita ushers in a new era of handheld gaming, even going so far as to say that it sets an example for the next generation of consoles.
CPU – ARM® Cortex™- A9 core (4 core)
GPU – SGX543MP4+
Dimensions – 182.0 x 18.6 x 83.5mm (width x height x depth)
Rear Touch Pad – Multi touch pad (capacitive type)
Front and rear cameras
- Built in stereo speakers and microphone
- Six-axis motion sensing system (three-axis gyroscope, three-axis accelerometer), three-axis electronic compass
- Mobile network connectivity (3G) – IEEE 802.11b/g/n (n = 1×1)(Wi-Fi)(Infrastructure mode/Ad-hoc mode),
Bluetooth® 2.1+EDR (A2DP/AVRCP/HSP)
- Dual analog sticks
All of those features combine to equal a system that has a very nice, modern, and elegant appearance. You may be curious, first and foremost, about how it all comes together with the other key sense, touch.
While the PSP had many pros and cons, something that I personally couldn’t shake was an inherent lack of precision (especially with the analog nub) and an overall cramped feel.
Thankfully, the Vita has overcome these problems, and what we’re presented with is a product that does not feel cheap in any way, shape or form, and is built from the ground up to be the ultimate portable system.
No, I did NOT check to see if it turned on. No, I did NOT check to see if all the parts were there. Similar to when I opened my PSP so many years ago, my primary curiousty lay with the sticks, and how they fared.
If my own personal experiences represent the masses come February 22nd, the PlayStation Vita will be nothing but successful.
The first and foremost thing that players should anticipate regarding the analog sticks for the PlayStation Vita is that while they still perform as one would expect, the sticks are scaled down from their console brethren.
What Vita truly excels at is finding an even middle ground between what we’re familiar with on the DualShock controllers and the ‘loveable’ nub on the PSP. The resulting range is slightly increased compared to that of the PSP, and is comparable to the circle pad on the Nintendo 3DS.
The nub was limited in that it had no depth (i.e. was just a slider, not an actual ‘stick’) and it was alone on the system. Vita corrects this by having two sticks, both bearing a close resemblance to what gamers are familiar with.
They take some getting used to, I won’t deny this. During my time with Uncharted: Golden Abyss, I particularly found myself becoming slightly confused when I was attempting to frantically turn my camera, and the response was a slow turn, limited by the range of the sticks themselves.
Rather, they simply are different than what we have come to expect in an analog stick, in both size, proportion, and overall feel.
They’re an excellent addition, and you’ll be happy to know that they feel wholly natural (and best of all, they don’t get caught on the inside of your pocket as I expected!).
And now for everything else
Apart from the two sticks, the other big innovations of the Vita are that of the touch screen and the rear touch pad.
Much of the Vita’s user interface resembles that of modern smartphones, taking inspiration from the iPhone in particular. Subsequently, the UI is very smartphone-esque.
Every single thing app can be selected, from games, to the PlayStation Store, to the system settings is an application that must be opened individually via the touch screen, rather than having just an instant menu.
Each application forms a ‘page’ on the system. If the PlayStation Button is pushed, the system will zoom out of whatever application you are currently using (be it game or system-related) and show the page. From there, you are free to go on to other things.
Want to quit, but don’t want to re-enter the application itself? Simply put your finger on the top right corner, and tear the page off. Boom! Application closed.
I was a little apprehensive when I initially discovered that the physical buttons cannot be used on the primary Vita menu. After discovering the swiftness and simplicity that the Vita’s interface (with the use of the touch screen) offers, I have absolutely nothing negative to say.
Vita embraces many modern conveniences, and then some. Unfortunately (or should I say thankfully?), the rear touch pad isn’t used in any primary Vita function outside of a few introductory memory games that the system displays upon first boot.
The system comes loaded with many standard applications, such as your PSN friends, the PS Store, one that allows you to connect to your PC, and many more. Sony have done nothing but tease their fans with the Party application, which in theory works the same as on Xbox Live.
Sadly, it doesn’t extend to PlayStation 3 owners, and can only be used with other fellow Vita-ers.
Vita has one particular app called ‘near’, similar to SpotPass for the 3DS. If you enable it, you can see what other Vitas up to two kilometers “near” you are playing, and things of that nature. Quite frankly, it’s a little bit disturbing.
Finally, Vita takes definite inspiration from the 3DS in the Augmented Reality games, or simply AR games. The system comes with cards that presumably scan to get the player into a variety of games, but at the time of review, the application itself wasn’t out.
As previously iterated, the system itself has a very elegant look and feel. It’s a bit larger than its predecessor, and easily larger than most smartphones, but it’s nothing that will impede you from carrying it around.
The sticks feel natural, the directional and symbol buttons all have a nice ‘clicky’ feel, and the touch screen is very smooth and responsive.
My personal favorite aspect of the PlayStation Vita is that it feels relatively simplistic, a notion which one typically would not perceive when looking at the system’s specifications and feature set.
Apart from the obligatory buttons, the only other buttons on the system are a power button and two volume buttons, both located at the top of the system. No more annoying WLAN switches causing accidental online disconnects, or large hands bumping the power button and causing it to sleep.
The model included in the First Edition Bundle contains both 3G and Wi-Fi functionality (along with a short card to use the 3G for free over for a very short time). I didn’t try the 3G out, and most likely never will, as my phone alone is reason enough to never contemplate gaming on a 3G network.
My biggest curiosity with the Vita is how the rear touch pad will work in the future. Uncharted: Golden Abyss has segments where you must ‘rub’ dirt off of artifacts using the touch screen, rotating the object itself with the rear touch pad.
It was never a simple task for me, as the object never rotated in the direction that I wanted to, and at that, at a reasonable speed. I’m fairly sure the objects launch into geosynchronous orbit once they leave the frame.
My only real critique of the Vita is that of the charger cable. The charging port lies on the bottom of the system and is rectangular, not unlike that of a USB port. The charger cable will fit into the port both ways, but only works in one of those two ways.
I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a design flaw; rather, it’s more of a design oddity. If that’s the only real problem I have with it, you know that it’s a good piece of hardware.
If I had to pick one feature that makes me most appreciative of the Vita, it would be a universal screenshot system (something that the next generation of consoles needs to take note of). At any time, holding the PlayStation and Start buttons together will take a screenshot, saving it to the system’s memory card.
This screenshot can then be sent to friends, or put on your computer. It’s a very nice little touch, and something I would love to see in the next slew of consoles.
Battery life is roughly six or so hours, depending on use and method of powering the system down (sleep mode versus actually turning it off).
It’s extremely powerful, as evident by games such as Uncharted: Golden Abyss, has the ability to remain intuitive, and will appeal to both core and hardcore gamers.
With a good launch lineup and even more first-party AAA exclusives such as Resistance: Burning Skies on the horizon, there is every reason in the world for gamers to invest in the PlayStation Vita.
Vita releases worldwide on February 22nd, 2012.
And even more PlayStation Vita:
Uncharted: Golden Abyss Review – Read more
©2012 Nicholas Laborde
Filed under: Console gaming, Game Industry News, Gaming Videos, Handhelds, Hardware News, Industry News, PS3 News Tagged: | DualShock, Handheld game console, Nintendo 3DS, play station vita, Playstation 3, PlayStation Portable, Playstation Vita, PS VIta, PS3, PSP, PSP2, psvita, review, Sony, system review, Vita, vita review