Late To The Game: Owning A PlayStation Vita
I’m getting old. Well, I’m twenty-five and that’s older than I used to be. I remember a time when I got really, really excited about something new that I was going to be getting. Christmas time as a kid was always great; you would ask for something from “Santa Claus” and you would hardly sleep on Christmas Eve, waking up every fifteen minutes to see if you were allowed to go downstairs and open up your presents. Then there was the joy when you un-wrapped that gift you had been waiting for. I remember bouncing around the room when I unwrapped the Mega Drive all those years ago (and the parents had pulled the whole “oh we have one more present” trick after I thought they hadn’t brought it for my brother and I). Also thinking about it I got a lot more excited about new games and hardware when I couldn’t really afford to buy them, or had to save up for ages in order to get hold of them. I guess the saving and final purchase felt like it was an achievement…
Right, the point, I’m getting to it, I recently purchased a PlayStation Vita and it was the first time in a long, long time that I can remember being genuinely excited to have something new. Even when I picked up the PS3 on launch day I wasn’t this excited. So what I want to answer in this article is has the Vita lived up to my excitement and expectations?
In order to answer the question it’s probably best if I break it down into bite-sized chunks so, here we go:
I received my Vita at work. I was incredibly excited, and even my boss noticed that. Everything seems good with it, no scratches, all the cables were included, tons and tons of health and safety booklets sat in the box along with the Alternate Reality cards (both have stayed in the box…). Probably the first thing I noticed about the Vita was just how light it was. I have had hands-on time with the Vita at Gamescom and Eurogamer in 2011 and at times I just thought that there must not be a battery in the units we were playing with, but the Vita really is a lot lighter than I think anyone expects. As with any Sony product I had to get online and update to the latest firmware, which took about fifteen minutes initially. It’s a pain but it’s something I’ve become accustomed to with Sony having had a PS3 since launch, and I expected nothing less with the Vita.
The whole unboxing and updating process to get me ready for play took me about an hour (and I was working whilst doing this). I already had a few games downloaded to my PS3 that I also moved over to the Vita, put it away and had the tantalising wait to get home and actually play the damn thing.
So, the set up was pretty painless. I had waited another 6 hours to be able to play the thing and now there I was, sat in my bedroom with my finger hovering over the touch screen ready to play Uncharted: Golden Abyss. I was actually a little nervous; what if the Vita was a huge disappointment… my bedroom has been the scene of a few disappointments in the past and I didn’t want this to be another one.
Thankfully the whole experience was an utter joy. The first thing to say about actually playing a game on the Vita is how great it looks. The screen is huge and was always one of my biggest issues with handheld gaming in the past. Everything looks stunning; granted it isn’t top end PS3 graphics but the general gameplay and environments in Uncharted were fantastic. You could release that game on PS3 for £29.99 and be contempt that there is a decent console experience in it.
For those reading who like the Uncharted series I can tell you that the game itself was fantastic and I actually feel that it is now my second favourite game of the series, after Uncharted 2. What Uncharted: Golden Abyss does well for the Vita is it gives you the option to use some of the new tech, like the touch screen and rear track pad but for most of the actions that require it you don’t actually have to. Climbing is a perfect example; you can either swipe your finger along the route you want to climb or just use the usual method of a control stick and X. The reason I stuck with the traditional controls is mainly due to the fact that to remove my hand from the Vita and swipe the screen is just a ball-ache. The odd time I was forced to I didn’t mind doing it, but if I HAD to do it for climbing I certainly would have got annoyed.
Anyway, enough negatives – back to the Vitas plus point, its initial games line-up. The Vita learnt a lot from 3DS’ launch where there wasn’t really any decent games available. Yes there were some little tech demo things but the Vita had Uncharted, Wipeout 2048, FIFA, Unit 13 and Rayman Origins to name a few. Unfortunately, the amount of games that have been released since have been few and far between but there was enough there to keep launch day owners happy for a while. Since I have picked mine up a few months down the line there is enough out for me before the second wave of games start coming out.
Since Uncharted I have also played quite a bit of Wipeout 2048, Motorstorm RC, Gravity Rush and I also demos of Touch my Katamari and FIFA. Wipeout is something special; it is hectic, frantic, beautiful and full of Wub Wub… ok, three out of four isn’t bad. I really was surprised with just how much goes on during a race in Wipeout – I had it in my head that to get the sense of speed 2048 would need to cut down the amount of explosions and other things happening, but it feels like Wipeout HD ‘on crack’.
Maybe it’s because of the smaller screen but there just seems to be so much going on that at times when I first started I felt a little overwhelmed. Again, my brain got used to it and I’m now racing around and blowing shit up for fun. It’s a game that I can pick up and put down pretty easily and revisit a few months down the line so it’s one that will stay in my collection.
Gravity Rush is a game I haven’t spent too much time with just yet but is a completely original game for the Vita – it seems pretty decent from the small amount I have played. From reading over reviews there also seems to be a decent amount of playtime ahead of me. It looks gorgeous with it’s stylised, almost anime visuals and the idea of using gravity to stick to different surfaces is intriguing; it’s certainly better implemented than the console shooter, Inversion. I’ll probably talk more about Gravity Rush on the DBR Podcast when I have had a bit more hands-on time with it, but it’s great to see an original title on the Vita.
So the games I have played so far have all been excellent and with a decent PSP backlog that I can download from the PSN store there is going to be plenty for me to keep doing on my Vita.
Now is time I should note my first issue with the Vita… the ergonomics of the thing. After about twenty five minutes my hands start to feel as if they were going to go into cramp at any minute. The way you hold it and use the analogue sticks just feels awkward. I have got used to it and have found that I can go longer and longer now without feeling any pain in my hands but I shouldn’t have to train my hands to not hurt, should I?
The battery held up surprisingly well also – without timing it exactly I thought I was getting about 5 / 6 hours battery life out of the Vita at a time. That’s pretty great considering the amount of juice the thing must use just to get past a loading screen. The touch screens are responsive, both the front and the rear, and I am interested to see what developers do with the rear track pad as it could easily become a redundant feature. The sound out of the two inbuilt speakers is pretty loud and clear; I always try and plug in headphones where I can though.
Overall and Other Thoughts
Well, the excitement levels that I felt prior to receiving the Vita have remained with me throughout so far. Yes my hands get a bit sore but if that’s really one of the only downers I can put on this beautiful piece of hardware then I don’t think that’s the end of the world.
The biggest issue that could drain my excitement is how Sony supports the Vita going forward. I already mentioned the lack of games that have been released since launch but there is also the cross-platform link up with the PS3. The first thing everyone thought of when the Vita was announced was “won’t it be awesome if I’m playing Game A on my PS3 and I can then carry on with that save on my Vita if I go out.” That isn’t happening enough and with those features not on the list just yet for the upcoming set of EA Sports titles (and sports titles are where that feature could be used easiest) it looks as if that dream is a little way away. It also begs the question, when that does eventually become the norm how are these games sold? Will you have to purchase a full price PS3 version and a full price Vita version? My suggestion would be to offer games like they currently offer the Blu-Ray triple sets: you pay one price and in that you get a Blu-Ray, DVD and a digital version. If you pay £39.99 and cross platform play is a feature in the game then you should automatically get both versions. So you buy the PS3 version and there is a download code for the Vita version in the box. Boom, done, instant win.
So, that’s that, my initial Vita impressions. This should mean some more Vita content on the site as I will be looking to review anything I pick up, and take more of an interest in Vita news and announcements. Hopefully that’s something you would like to see more of, if not I suppose it saves me writing anything…
Have you got a Vita? Did you pick it up at launch or have you brought one since? What do you think are the best and worst features of the Vita and its current line-up of games? And what do you see the future holding for the Vita?