Playstation Vita: The Review

[PS Vita.] - Review: The Playstation Vita finally hits Europe, is it the 'Ultimate' hand held like Sony says?
The Details
  • Title: Playstation Vita
  • Web: Official Site
  • Developer: Sony
  • Publisher: Sony
  • Released: 22 February, 2012
  •  
  • Platforms: Other
  • Reviewed On: Other

So, we got our hands on a PS Vita the day it was released in the UK, it’s taken until now however for me to actually write something about it. Well, it’s a brilliant piece of kit, it has some issues, like everything, but over all it’s good. So lets take a look at it in some detail.

First Impressions

The Vita is massively expensive for a handheld games machine, but it boast a huge amount of power for that money. So, what do you get for all that money? Well it features an OLED screen that’s touch sensitive aswell as a rear touch pad, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth (plus 3G if you pay the extra £50), dual analog sticks, Sixaxis motion control and some dirty powerful chips inside to give it all  its juice. This is a little power house that really takes portable gaming into a true ‘next’ generation. Graphically it’s on par with the original X-Box 360 releases, which although aren’t up to much by todays PC standards, is something of an amazing achievement for a handheld.

Beautifully designed, sleek and sexy. The Vita screams Sony and you know it’s gonna be good

The best thing the Vita has going for it is those dual analog sticks, they really take handheld gaming into the next generation, it makes it do something that the 3DS simply can’t do sufficiently, camera control. The sticks only have a small area of movement, which gives them a really sensitive feel, but after a short while they feel as natural as the ones on a control pad.

The Vita’s OLED screen is bright, crisp and clear, with a high enough resolution for individual pixels to not be noticeable (though I’m sure some picky swine will argue that). The only downside to the new screen is that dark colours appear unbalanced and somewhat patchy. This isn’t really noticeable and really I’m just looking for things to criticize here, it’s really impressive and big.

Touch stuff? Yeah, it’s there. You’re forced to use it when in the home screen (known as the ‘Live Area’), with no options for digital controls. It’s not a bad thing and you do eventually stop playing with the buttons and saying “Why the hell won’t it work?! Oh yeah, touch…” As far as the touch-screen goes, it’s as accurate as any touch-screen phone and just as inaccurate at times. There really isn’t anything new here that we haven’t all seen in some other gadget.

The rear touch however is a different area of discussion and if I’m honest, I still don’t know if I approve of it or not. The main problem is simple, you can’t see what you’re doing around the back of the unit, it simply makes it inaccurate and you’re left guessing where you may be touching. Some games use the touch-screen as extra buttons though, such as Unit 13. In this game you can change the side of the over shoulder camera by simply sliding a finger across the rear touch area. Games such as Little Big Planet require slightly more precise control over the rear, which in my opinion is where it falls slightly. I could personally see the rear touch being used as L2/R2 buttons for future games, especially any Playstation remakes/ports.

 

The PS Vita's Live Area

The Live Area, featuring a handy ‘notifications’ box that pops out from the corner bubble when touched.

Live Area, it’s alive… Sort of.

The Live Area is the new version of the XMB, sporting fancy little wobbly globes that act as icons for your various applications and games. It’s a nifty little thing and looks extremely pretty when in motion, flicking from one page of icons to another causes them to shake and wobble in a rather funky manner. The only criticism is that you should be able to choose the icon shape, instead of just having spheres, but that’s nit picking.

You can assign custom backgrounds to each separate page of icons, choosing from either the default coloured, moving backgrounds or from your own image library. It’s a nice option to have, though I simply have various shades of blue for mine.

PS Vita Friends App

It’s bright and beautifully layed out, I just wish it was better implemented into the OS

So, the important stuff, lets start with the online system and social aspects. You’re never truly ‘online’ like when you’re on the PS3, there’s a separate app for you friends list, messages and group chat. The group chat one I can understand, but I don’t quite understand why your friends are in a separate app. There’s no little icon at the top that indicates how many of your buddies are online and you have to open the app to see who’s online, which is a bit of a pain. Also, sending a messages requires you to shift into the ‘messages’ app, there’s also no handy ‘reply’ box
whilst you’re in a game, though most games allow you to use these apps whilst they happily run in the background. It’s a whole load of flicking between one thing and another, it could have been implemented in a much better way.

Network Features Disabled

Playing Uncharted turns off all network features, including; friends, messaging and group chat

The Group Chat application is a God send, it allows cross game chat via the Playstation Network between 2 PS Vita’s, no added accessories required as the Vita comes equipped with a handy microphone built-in. I’ve tested it out and it’s great. The only problem is that ‘cross game chat’ part. It isn’t 100% true. Developers have the option to turn off various features of the Vita, one being the network features, whilst the game is running. Uncharted is one such game, launching it causes your Vita to completely shut off all its wireless features. No friends, no chat, no quickly browsing the internet and no messages. It’s a slight disappointment, especially when Sony says the only reason for this is to save battery life. Surely that should be a user decision?

Moving on…

With all that is great about the Vita, and even with all the little flaws, the worse thing for me is that one particular component just isn’t up to scratch. The WiFi chip. It’s rubbish. The range is absolutely disastrous, you have to be sat literally next to your wireless transmitter to get a good, stable connection. When in another room, with a small wall between the devices, all hope is lost. A quick test with my various devices proved to me without a shadow of a doubt that the PS Vita simply has a cheap, nasty WiFi chip. For example, in the room directly above the Router this happens;

  • PS Vita – 1 Bar signal, regular signal loss and very unstable.
  • Nintendo 3DS – Full signal, perfect and stable.
  • Nintendo DSi XL – Full signal, perfect and stable.
  • Apple iPhone – Full signal, perfect and stable.
  • Blackberry Curve – Full signal, perfect and stable.

And just for the grin:

  • PSP – Full signal, Perfect and stable.

The PSP holds a signal better than the Vita through a bit of plaster-board and wood. It’s an absolute sham and as a paying customer I did feel somewhat ripped off by this clearly inferior part of the product. And God forbid if you put more than one wall between you and the router as you’ll never connect. This is, for more, the biggest down fall of the PS Vita as a piece of hardware and it’s a damn shame because Sony really have gone all out to provide a wonderfully powerful piece of equipment.

The Live Area Navigator

Pressing the PS button twice on the Live Area brings up a handy gizmo that lets you see everything that’s currently open

Final Stuff

The Vita also features its own little store with a wonderful interface,  easy to navigate and nice crisp looks. It’s a pleasure to use and has almost everything, full games, Minis, Films, game trailers and a fairly large collection of demos. The only thing missing is the preview vids found on the game information pages like in the PS3 store. Other than that, it’s great.

Playstation Store

The Playstation Store on the Vita is a joy to navigate

A massive disapointment for me was the Remote Play feature. It’s practically useless. During a tech demo many moons ago, Sony showed off the Vita playing PS3 games via Remote Play, it was amazing. This however is not a feature, aparently due to legal reasons, I assume with 3rd parties, though I have to wonder why there would be a problem with their own franchises? It was just one of those things I saw, got excited about and then found out it was just a Peter Molyneux (is it sad I can spell his name without looking it up?) style “this is what we could be doing!”. Just to get the hype up. It’s a shame and certainly something I think would interest allot of people.

Battery life isn’t actually that bad, not when compared with what the little machine is doing. It seems to eat less juice than my iPhone when it’s running a game and they’re just little Flash games, this thing is pumping out absolutely stunning graphics that could give any bodies eyeballs an orgasm. It just does almost everything right, straight from the go. It does have some silly little issues such as a few bugs and the WiFi issue, but these really aren’t enough for me to regret the purchase. I love the Vita, it’s a true portable gaming machine, not a GameBoy or DS, but an actual gaming machine. The real show case games so far being Wipeout and with out a doubt Uncharted: Golden abyss.

If Sony support the device well over the period up to and during christmas, they really could be back in the game, the Vita has so much potential, it just needs games and lots of them, something the PSP died from. I’m hoping Sony won’t drop the ball with this one.

Judgement
Pros:
  • Amazing screen size with beautiful colours.
  • Two analogue joysticks! TWO!
  • Touch Screen is nice and responsive.
  • The power of this thing is amazing. The games look great.
  • Battery last ages in standby mode. And if you loose power, it goes into hibernate ready for when you plug it back in!
Cons:
  • Rear touch can be a little hit and miss in games.
  • Friends system isn't always on, so it's hard to keep track of your buddies.
  • WiFi hardware seems cheap. Struggle getting a connection inside my house.
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NaytoE
Web Master at CoupesCorner
Nathan is lumbered with all the technical stuff behind CoupesCorner. If stuff breaks, it's always someone else's fault, but he'll fix it, because he's a pretty awesome guy.

Nathan loves tactical shooters, RPG's and Bro-Ops games. Some all-time favourites of his are Black and White 2, Postal 2, the Rainbow Six series and Pokemon. He also loves playing guitar and fishing with his dad, when Lozzy isn't busy making him do stuff...
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