PlayStation Vita Review

By on January 29, 2012

A hand-held beauty you won’t put down.

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First Impressions
My reaction is

A large portion of my gaming career has been either on consoles or my PC. I’ve very rarely strayed into handheld gaming or even tinkering around with games on my mobile. Not since my original days of gaming on my Nintendo Gameboy have I picked up a handheld gaming unit – when my roommate got a Playstation Portable I found that I couldn’t play for long without my eyes watering. When the Nintendo 3DS came out I played around with it, tried a few games, but ultimately didn’t warm up to it. So when Sony announced the Playstation Vita, I was ready to pass it off as just another device that I would play around with but not really get into. But after trying the device at E3, GAMES11, and at a press event last week, I seriously cannot wait for this little gem to hit the shelves. So really, just how good is the PS Vita?

Even when it’s turned off, you can’t help admiring the PS Vita. It just sits there with its sleek finish and tempting curves, begging you to turn it on. While the device is of course a remarkable improvement from the Playstation Portable, it still maintains much of the PSP’s original design elements, but with a few changes. To the left of the device is the traditional D-pad, and the left analogue stick. This analogue stick is a welcome improvement from the flat disc that functioned as an analogue joystick on the PSP, and it feels much more comfortable to use when gaming. It’s worth nothing though, that the analogue stick doesn’t click down as on the PS3 controller. Right below the left analogue stick is the Playstation button, which you can use to quickly jump out of a game and return to the main PS Vita home screen. To the right of the device is the tiny front-facing camera (more on that later), and the four face buttons. These buttons have been made a bit smaller than what they were on the PSP, and it’s only after a substantial amount of gaming do you notice that this might not have been the smartest move. Of course, that could just be down to me having ridiculously long fingers. Below the face buttons is the right analog stick, as well as the start and select buttons.

Where the PS Vita makes a quantum leap forward from the PSP is with the additional controls that are hidden away on the device. The gorgeous front touch screen is mainly used to navigate through menus, but can also be used for various actions while playing games. At the back of the PS Vita is the hardly noticeable touch panel – I say hardly noticeable because apart from a subtle application of a design created with the face buttons, you wouldn’t really know that there was a touch sensor there. While the rear touchpad is a cool feature, I found it more of a gimmick than of much use in the games that I played. As mentioned before, the PS Vita has a front and rear facing camera mainly for taking player photos and for games such as Reality Fighters where augmented reality are the primary attractions. Both cameras are of surprisingly average quality, but I’m not going to hold this against Sony at all – the device is for gaming, not macro photography. On top of all of this, the PS Vita also has motion controls, which makes for plenty of fun in games such as Frobisher Says where shaking and tilting the Vita is the norm.

It would be cruel to not have a paragraph about the Vita’s screen – larger and crisper than the PSP, it is an absolute joy to behold. I’m raving so much about the screen in particular because I was able to game on the Vita for about 45 minutes non-stop without experiencing any of the discomfort in my eyes that I would experience with the PSP. The OLED display does every single game justice, and even viewing photos or videos on the screen are a real treat. The screen was responsive to my slightest touch, and swiping through menus and scrolling through web pages couldn’t have been simpler. You really have to see this screen in person to appreciate just how detailed things look on it. But as with similar high-resolution screens, the performance tends to be a bit lacking when outdoors – in direct sunlight the screen is just too glossy to look at properly, and even in shaded areas with maximum brightness I had trouble playing games like Uncharted.

At the top are small buttons for turning the device on as well as controlling the volume. This is also where you’ll plug in the PS Vita game cards, with the slot being covered by a plastic flap that you have to carefully pry open with your finger. It feels a bit fiddly at first, but in time I think you’ll hardly notice. Overall though, the Vita feels like it could withstand the daily wear and tear of being thrust into backpacks and shoved into your back pocket, a scenario that I could never imagine with my PSP which has never left its padded casing.

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A former IT & Marketing Manager turned full time Editor, Nick enjoys hurling fireballs and tinkering with the latest gadgets. Follow him on Twitter as @theregos

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  • Anonymous

    Personally I don’t think you can go wrong with either console these days. If someone I knew went into a store and flipped a coin to choose which handheld they’d want, it’d be a great decision either way. The media seems to have a habit of crapping on handhelds these days once they launch but it’s all good.

    I do have a question though; I’ve been looking at those analog sticks and they look a bit stuck out (unlike the 3DS’s circle pads). My question is; how far off the system are they? Is there a possibility they’d break if I tried to slide the system into my pocket? Would the analog sticks snag on the edges and endure some damage?

    • Nick R

      The analogue controllers are a good couple of millimeters from the body of the Vita, but they are still quite sturdy. I tried prying them a bit and they wouldn’t budge, so it would take a serious knock for them to be damaged or dislodged.

  • Jacky Beans

    Vita, 3D3 (although it has sold ~5M units) are doomed.

    The future is gaming on a device that is ALL-IN-WONDhas also a phone.
    After Apple’s ‘gaming revolution’, nobody nowadays is willing to hold more than one device/gadget in his/her pocket.

    Simple. Just look at the numbers, you will understand.

    I will get the Vita but it will still annoy me carrying it with me ON TOP of my phone, passport, ticket, bag etc.


    • Anonymous

      I disagree. The DS sold almost 150 million units, which is more than Apple has sold with each iOS generation of iPods/iPhones/iPads (which is a new gaming unit in itself, since you can’t play newer-gen games with a last-gen iOS device). The PSP has sold 70 million; while not as impressive as the DS, it’s still an extra-ordinary amount of sales. Handhelds still sell a ton more than consoles (except the PS2), and contrary to popular belief handheld sales are GROWING with each generation, despite smartphones coming in.

      Look at it this way; that $650 iPhone is going to last you 1-2 years of gaming max, after which you need to buy a new one. The Vita/3DS will last you a minimum of 5 years (with 3rd party support up to 10 years), with guaranteed high-end games coming out every year.

      And finally, those things you listed don’t make any sense. The phone/Vita go INTO the bag, as well as those other things; and why the heck are you holding around your passport/ and some random ticket around with you? Are you going on aero-trips every other day?

  • Xekester

    Im willing to have more than 1 devices in my pocket

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  • Manoj Damani

    Have the xperia play and agree with Jacky

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