Recently I’ve found myself ignoring portable consoles in lieu of either full console titles or mobile games. But I’ve gone out and bought a PS Vita as I’ve had a hard to rationalizing $60+ games for the 3DS, the PSV ones look quite a bit more substantial and I want something portable. In this review I will be covering the hardware of the device, software and general usability of the PlayStation Vita(Stupid name, why not PSP2?)
The PSVita is in no way small, it’s very wide and thicker than what I was expecting after the original PSP which had to include an optical drive(Where’s your ‘Universal’ Media Disc’s now Sony?) and that’s gone by the wayside this generation.
I found it more uncomfortable to hold than the standard 3DS due to the thickness of the unit but got used to it quite quickly. Despite this I still found it quite awkward to hold when you have your index fingers over the L&R buttons. It just doesn’t fit the hand as well as the PSP did.
The indented grips in the back feel quite strange and I could have probably gone without them in favour of more controller like bulges, but that’s probably asking too much in a handheld considering how thick the PSV is already.
The Rear touch panel I’m really not a fan of. I’ve only had experience using it in Uncharted so far at the moment and I found it quite a clunky and unnecessary addition to otherwise impressive gameplay. All the other buttons I found to the excellent though; the Dpad is excellent and gives a very satisfying click in 8 directions, the action keys are a bit small for my liking but are just as firm and clicky as the Dpad and the shoulders and absolutely amazing just as they were on the original PSP.
The analogue sticks are great and responsive, but maintain Sony’s convex design which I’m not a fan of, but the rubber is a lot grippier than the sticks on the PS3 so I didn’t find my fingers sliding off as often as I did on the latter
The OLED screen is the best part of the Vita’s hardware, clear, bright and vibrant. Everything looks amazing on it and I haven’t been able to find fault other than the attraction of finger prints that comes with every touch surface.
The PSVita software is where the system shines, which I was actually quite taken aback by. After seeing the menu UI in-stores (circle orb icon things Sony, really?) I didn’t go in with high expectations. Sony has pleasantly surprised me here though, borrowing heavily from WebOS in terms of displaying active apps and navigating between then, the UI is fluid and very responsive and possibly one of the best Sony made UIs I’ve seen.
The LiveAreas, I have mixed feeling about. They often will add an extra step to launching an App but have a plenty of uses in their own right. They are more useful to games than other apps as they provide an excellent base for informing the player of new information about the title at hand such as updates or games you may enjoy relating to the tile as well as news. The method of closing an App by swiping from the top is clean and intuitive and switching between apps is a breeze with other ones being tomb-stoned while not in use. However, tombstoned apps are still allowed to run background processes, iOS style, such as Skype being able to receive calls as long as the LiveArea is kept running.
The store could use a bit of a update to help navigation, but there isn’t anything seriously wrong with it, I found downloading games to the system easier than on the PS3 and everything was very fast and responsive. The apps available on the store don’t really offer anything that a phone or tablet cant already do, I doubt I’ll ever see myself answer or make a Skype call on my Vita instead of my phone or watch YouTube. Sony seems a bit late to the party.
2 final gripes; I still haven’t worked out how to clear notifications and the lack of internal memory and the cost of the Vita memory cards in completely unreasonable. I downloaded Uncharted and it took up 1/2 the space of a 16GB ($50) card.
I found the PSVita to be a surprisingly capable system but with nothing really outstanding about it. The DS had its 2nd screen and touch panel which drove its popularity and Sony is still trying to find it’s footing with the Vita. I don’t feel the rear touch panel is where they should be looking, but the device is certainly more suited to the hardcore gamer than the 3DS.
Remote-Play between the PS4 and Vita could certainly be killer if it works how it’s been reported but until then, unless you really want the PSV exclusives or have more time on the train for gaming that you do at home there isn’t anything to draw you in just yet.
Here’s hoping Sony gets it’s shit together and managed to find something special to draw buyers in.