Monday, February 20, 2012

Playstation Vita review

Playstation Vita review
Posted on February 18, 2012

I was fortunate enough to get my hands on a Vita and spend a good deal of time playing two games that I was looking forward to – Lumines Electronic Symphony and Wipeout 2048 and two others.

I won’t waste time regurgitating the stats on the device – you can see for yourself on the Vita page on Amazon and chances are if you are interested in the device then you are a motivated buyer who did some kind of research ahead of time. So here is my (somewhat) abridged impressions:

1. Initially I was concerned about the size of the Vita. Some early reports said it was bulky and felt cheap. While I can’t dispute that the shell is made of mostly hard plastic, it still felt pretty good. The weight of the device felt balanced, and while the Vita is “big” to the eye, it is not heavy to the touch and has a nice sleek look to it. The design is also more comfortable thanks to the rounded edges and redesigned appearance.

2. The resolution of the screen is nice. Images were vivid. Pictures were clear. The front touchscreen works extremely well and all in all I was impressed at Sony’s (albeit late) foray in to the world of touch handheld gaming devices. However, upon playing the games, I can say with 100% certainty that the games definitely look fantastic – but they are NOT PS3 quality. I’m sure many of you already know that, but I just want to inform those who are expecting to play their PS3 on a handheld system. For me it was more like PS 2.5 graphics – much better than the PS2, but not quite PS3.

3. The browsing speed of the 3G version was okay. I wasn’t extremely blown away. I experimented with surfing various sites and found the download speed to be inconsistent. Some pages loaded extremely fast, others were slow. But keep in mind this is on a 3G connection so it is an issue that can affect other devices as well. Nonetheless, I did enjoy surfing on the device thanks to the big screen.

4. The buttons were easy to use, though the D pad and the buttons feel somewhat small and might be a bit tricky to use for people with fat fingers. The dual analog sticks feel comfortable and easy to use. They are a bit small and you can’t click on them, but trust me, it’s great to have two sticks on the device. It just makes playing games feel much more natural and gives the Vita a nice console-feel to it.

5. The picture quality of the camera is okay, but not better than what I take on my iPhone 4S. However, I do like the fact there are dual cameras. My only gripe about the front camera is that it is located very close to the buttons and it is easy to smudge that area of the Vita given its location on the device.

6. Video quality is decent. I really enjoyed watching some music videos on the big Vita screen. However, while the clarity of the videos is nothing to sneeze at, it doesn’t blow what I see iPhone 4S out of the water. Nonetheless it is more than fine for most people and again, I really like the big screen. Just note that the Vita does not support HTML 5 video (it does support parts of HTML 5, but just not the video component of it) or flash. Hopefully that will change down the road.

7. The UI is very easy to navigate. It is easy to launch games, apps and manage your settings on the touch screen. I was very pleased with this aspect of the Vita as well.

Quick Game Impressions:

Uncharted – Definitely the sharpest looking game that I tried. The graphics are solid and they are impressive the second you turn on the game. It may not blow away what you see on the PS3, but it is definitely the game that you show off to your friends when you carry your shiny new Vita around. The gameplay is smooth, and I like how it incorporates touch actions (like taps and wipes) to in-game combat and movement. Definitely a must-get launch game.

Wipeout 2048 – If you played Wipeout before, then there isn’t a lot here that you won’t be familiar with. It’s a high speed racing game with sexy graphics. But honestly after playing for 15 minutes, I got kind of bored. It’s pretty, but it’s nothing I haven’t experienced before. The load times were also a bit long. I wouldn’t consider this a MUST get.

Little Deviants (included with the First Edition Bundle) – A surprisingly fun game that makes (great) use of the rear touchpad. It might feel funny at first, but after you get used to the (excellent) rear touchpad, you’ll be addicted to this platformer’s string of fun minigames. I had way more fun playing this than Wipeout (to my surprise).

ModNation Racers – Essentially a PS clone of Mario Kart, with lots of colorful graphics and the ability for you to modify your racer/cars etc. Initially I was impressed with the customization options, but once I actually got to the race, I found the game to be too similar to Mario Kart but without the charm. The gameplay itself was alright and the car I tried out controlled okay, but overall the graphics also didn’t blow me away.

If you do buy a Vita, I would recommend Uncharted and Little Deviants as good first round buys. I can say this, I definitely had more fun with these games than any of the 3DS launch games (no dig at Nintendo as I do think the 3DS has some fine games as well, but Sony seems to have at least done a better job at launch time here in the U.S.)

Now to the But … in my title. My only main gripe with the Vita (so far) is the expensive cost of the memory cards. It is annoying that you can’t buy anything other than Sony’s Vita-only memory and paying $100 for a 32GB card does seem very excessive. You also have to get used to gripping the Vita in a different way to utilize the rear touch screen, but again, that’s more about learning something new than anything else. The pricetag is also somewhat hefty, but to me it’s worthwhile if you are into games, which leads me to …

All in all – if you are a hardcore gamer, you’ll love this toy. It’s not a PS3 in your hand, but it comes pretty darn close. Even though it has tablet-wannabe ambitions at times, in the end the Vita is a solid handheld gaming system for people who CARE about and LOVE games – plain and simple.


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