Every so often, there comes a time when a gamer picks up a game, controller, or handheld, and it just feels right. You think to yourself, “this is going to really keep me satisfied for some time.” It’s a special feeling, one that doesn’t come along too often. In a competitive industry where new things are always being thrown out, it’s hard to really be captivated by one thing and know – “This” was meant for great things. Well, this past week, GamerXChange had the opportunity to try out the new PlayStation Vita handheld at a PlayStation event on Miami Beach. There, I had that very moment – Holding this new gaming device, I could see great potential in the Vita’s future.
Now, I will admit, I didn’t get as much time as I would have liked to with the Vita so I couldn’t explore everything the device had to offer and I only had a few minutes with each game, so this isn’t a full review of the system, but rather this is a brief look at what I could scrape from the experience.
The very first thing you are likely to notice when you get the Vita in your hands, even before the system is turned on, is that the handheld is quite a bit lighter than you may expect. Just by looking at the size, which obviously isn’t quite as slim in design as its predecessor’s later models, you would think it would be a bit heavier. On the contrary, in comparison to the first generation of PSPs, the Vita does well in the weight department. Picking it up and holding it in your hands is a comfortable experience that leads me to conclude that the device is obviously built with longer play times and true portability in mind. Nobody wants to lug a brick around and fortunately with the Vita you will not have to.
Now, even more impressive, once you get that bad boy turned on, the 5 inches of HQ OLED Multi touch screen is a sight to behold. The screen is beautiful, bright, vivid, and vibrant. The colors span the spectrum (of 16 million) and pop out at you, even just from the menu. Just as impressive is the responsiveness of the touch capabilities of the screen. The touch features, which are a major focus of the device, work perfectly at the level you would expect of an iPhone, iPad, or high-end Android device. At the same time, the touch panel on the back of the Vita works just as well and has a lot more applications and uses than you might imagine. My only worry is that touch features may be focused on a bit too much. For example, when you are on the home screen of the device or even in a menu of a game, navigation is only possible through touch. This may come natural to you when you have a smart phone in you hand, but when you have a gaming system with buttons that you are used to using for navigation on other systems, it takes a bit of time to accept the change. At least it did for me. I wouldn’t say this is a major problem, especially since if Sony sees the need, they can change this with a future Firmware update.
Moving along those same lines, I have to say I wasn’t too impressed with the quality of the buttons on the Vita. The D-Pad along with symbol buttons felt a little cheap in quality to me; Like something you would have found on a mobile phone from 2001. Even the PSP had buttons that felt more authentic to a Dualshock controller than what the Vita has. This again, may be due to the large focus on touch controls and features of the Vita. The dual analog sticks were surprisingly comfortable though. This is a huge selling point for the Vita as it’s the first handheld to be fully capable of giving you that true FPS experience by using them. They worked just as they should only missing the L3 and R3 input which is understandable because it’s a handheld. Now, while the other buttons are functional, and work as they need to, something about the feel just doesn’t sit will with me. Again, not a deal breaker. Chances are however, that come the inevitable next models of the Vita, these will be changed.
Now what would the system be without games? The Vita already has an impressive schedule with over 100 games in development, 25 of which will launch on day one, full support by all major publishers, and a crowd of developers on board. I was able to get some time in with titles such as Uncharted: Golden Abyss, Wipeout 2048, and Little Big Planet. Overall, the games were great quality and rather impressive as they are launch [window] titles for the system. Uncharted truly mixed up the Vita experience for you by using features from almost every part of the device including the Sixaxis motion sensors, touch screen, dual analog, and button controls. Apart from that, the graphics are still great just as you would expect from the franchise. With Wipeout, I had the chance to test out the cross-platform gaming experience where you can play on the Vita against PS3 players. This worked flawlessly without any lag and I look forward to seeing more in this department as the games are developed. Little Big Planet, which is still in development, was one of the games that just made sense to have touch features in. I actually felt more inclined to use the touch screen with LBP than any other game. From just the little bit of time I had with it, I could tell the full PS3 LBP experience was being packaged in the game with a lot more features exclusive to the Vita. I have no doubt that the games that will continue to be developed for the Vita will impress upon their reveal and releases.
Overall, my short experience with the Vita was a pleasant one. There are very few quirks that I am not too sure about but honestly, chances are I will quickly get over them as I get used to the system. For a handheld gaming device, it’s certainly the most impressive I have ever seen and has great potential that I hope is explored fully in the coming years.
Now, like I said, this is just a first impression from my hands-on with the device. GamerXChange will be covering the Vita in the coming month a bit with a First Edition unboxing and in depth full system review covering the whole shebang. So keep your eye out for that!
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