PlayStation Vita In-Depth Review: Why You Should Consider It
The Vita has been out for about two weeks now, and since its release, I have been playing it quite heavily, sacrificing the device from my hands only to eat, drink, and sleep. I have been experiencing the Vita inside and out, and needless to say, so far it's been quite a joyride, but I'll save the flattery and give you the nitty gritty details instead.
Screen and Graphics
One of the biggest elements everybody wants to know about a new Sony device is the internal hardware. The Vita is one of the most powerful handhelds released to date. With a quad-core processor, a 5-inch OLED touch screen which streams bright, beautiful and crisp 32-bit color graphics across 960x544 qHD (quarter High-Def), Vita games can look absolutely stunning. With a few minor irritations on processing and framerate issues which seem to only persist on bigger parts of resource-draining games (such as the big action pieces of Uncharted: Golden Abyss, so far the only game on which I've noticed these issues) and sometimes slow loading times (you'll notice these in Wipeout 2048, though patches seem to be fixing this issue), the graphics of the Vita nonetheless come across beautifully and smoothly on the display. Plug in Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 and you'll see just how gorgeous things can look. Those playing PSP games on the device will find their old PSP games bright and beautiful, reinvigorating old classics they've played a dozen times. Almost 99 percent of the time, the Vita runs and loads games smoothly, quickly, and flawlessly.
The Look and Feel of the Device
It seems clear that the PS Vita was designed with the hardcore, meticulous gamer in mind, and any true gamer that picks it up will immediately feel that the Vita is geared for controlling high-end, complex games, and it's not just some media browsing / streaming device (even though it does that well too). The Vita feels like a nice high-end device should: a good amount of weight (but portable), solid materials, and technologically stylish. The smooth, shiny piano black design falls into the typical Sony styling which has come to a forefront for the company over the last few years. The Vita shows that Sony is heading towards streamlining their product designs across various models and devices much like Apple. The Vita will match your PS3 aesthetically, and while the device may be a bit awkward to pocket in the jeans, any hoodie, cargo pant, or bag will fit it comfortably and without being too heavy, making it highly portable.
With its dual analog sticks and the classic, long loved PS buttons (including L and R shoulder inputs), along with a direction pad, a front touch screen and a rear touch pad, every corner of the Vita is ready for finger inputs. Throw in a three-axis motion control and the device is a completely ready to be interacted with at all angles. The side of the front touch screen is easily reachable with the thumbs, and games will utilize this design well (such as on-screen reload buttons in shooters). The touch inputs are responsive (in most games), while the dual analog sticks are a blessing. Dual analog sticks are one of the elements which make the Vita so great compared to other handhelds, and they go a long way in making the Vita a solid portable gaming system.
The rear touchpad is a nice addition which can essentially add two more "shoulder" buttons if need be, or it can just be fully integrated into a game. The three-axis motion control could be written off as a gimmick, but certain games such as Uncharted: Golden Abyss plays into it perfectly. In Uncharted: Golden Abyss we see that the axis control can be used for adjusting crosshair precision when targeting enemies with firearms. Though this is one of the few games where I have seen motion controls used practically, like most games across most systems, you'll end up writing off the motion controls and reverting back to the powerful analog sticks. The biggest problem with the controls on the Vita? The rear touchscreen seems to be a bit too big, taking up a lot of real estate on the back of the device. There is not really any comfortable way to hold the Vita without having your fingers make brush over it, and for some games, this can get annoying. Moreover, finding on-screen elements with your fingers behind the system can be tricky at times, but it's something you typically get used to as you play a game.
Media, Storage, and Battery Life
A huge controversy with the Vita release was the use of proprietary cards in which expandable memory would be released. Long time Sony consumers know this is nothing new among Sony products, but it does add additional monetary cost, as you will have to buy Sony brand memory sticks. Regardless of how you feel about the proprietary formats, the battery life for the Vita is somewhat of a pleasant relief. While it doesn't offer the most stellar battery life on the planet, gamers will get about 3-5 good hours of gaming on the device. Movie lovers will be able to stream around 5 hours of video, and music lovers will get a meaty 9 hours of music listening. This all varies depending on what you are running, such as if the Wi-Fi / 3G is connected, but overall you won't find yourself searching for an outlet too often. However, a several-hours long international flight may put a damper on your gaming. The battery takes about 2 hours to charge before you're back up to full capacity, but you'll still get plenty of life out of a quick 20 minute charge. There is a slew of power saving options though, and you'll be fiddling with these to get the perfect life length out of your battery charge.
Games come on flash cards, which is a big change from the universal UMD discs of the PSP, but it's also a welcome change for some gamers who found UMDs archaic and loud. Most gamers will be downloading their games digitally, however, since many of them come out earlier as a digital release, before the actual shelf release, plus they're a bit cheaper. Although the retail Vita games come in cute little blue packages that fit awkwardly next to your PS3 games on the shelf, it's clear that the Vita will be one of the large steps Sony is taking to eventually turn all gaming digital and move away from cartridges and spindle-based media in general.
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Three things describe Rando: Good beer, good food, and video games. On occasion, Rando flies a zeppelin through time seeking power crystals.
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