Sony PS Vita review
- Five-inch OLED touchscreen
- Quadcore processor
- Launch games line-up
- Fiddly card ports
- Focus on core-gamers
With gaming on the go becoming ever more smartphone-shaped, some would say it was foolhardly to release a new dedicated handheld, such as the Sony PS Vita. The full-fat and full-price Nintendo 3DS struggled against the cheap yet powerful thrills offered by more versatile and ever-present platforms such as the Apple iPhone 4S and the Android-based Sony Ericsson Xperia Play.
The gaming industry may be more lucrative than ever before, but the market is increasingly casual, not to mention time- and cash-poor. What chance does a £200+ dedicated device rocking £40+ games really have? The answer is, more than we thought.
Sony PS Vita: Features
Everything about the Sony PS Vita reeks of refinement. Looking initially rather disconcertingly like the original Sony PSP - it is, in fact, even bigger - the Vita is actually a strong mix of style and substance. Like the Apple iPhone 4, the problems with the first PlayStation portable were certainly not aesthetic, so its sleek and black chassis is unsurprisingly and reassuringly familiar.
An evolution of Sony's first handheld, this addresses a lot of its flaws – a terrible single analogue stick, drop-it-and-it'd-shatter product vulnerability, reliance on dead-on-arrival UMD software – and takes more steps on than you'd expect.
For a start, this is Sony's first handheld you don't have to wrap up in cotton wool, its reinforced shell making it more robust to knocks without diminishing its sexiness or making it too weighty.
OK, we're not talking brick-like Nintendo 3DS resistance, but then it's a portable that screams, "I am not a child's toy, I'm a serious piece of man tech," so it shouldn't need to be. It's also included pretty much every possible input you can think of, and then invented some more just in case you thought it was slacking.
The classic Sixasis gyroscope/accelerometer double header of the PS3's Dualshock controller is present for motion-sensing malarkey, as is a very good attempt to recreate its dual analogue sticks, which though necessarily on the small side reduce the PSP's thumb-hating waffled tormentor to a misdemeanour.
The action buttons are micro-switched rather than analogue, so control is not quite as complete as its big brother, but we rarely had complaint (we reserve the right to redress this once FIFA arrives).
More bizarre is the first capacitive multi-touch rear pad we've got to grips with, a reverse tactile surface that initially appears more gimmick than innovation, but shows ever more potential with every squeeze and prod. Much like how Move refined the Wii, it feels like an attempt at refining the touch screen interface that with the right support could reap rewards.
So far, so PlayStation. But taking a big step into smartphone and tablet waters is the capacitive multi-touch front screen, bigger and just as responsive as that of the Apple iPhone, and front and rear VGA cameras that don't waste their time trying to be world-beating, as anyone using a PS Vita to take moody style snaps needs a lie down.
For their primary purpose, to capture content for in-game use and manipulation, they're great.
The Near GPS location service, a multi-layered tool for finding like-minded gamers to beat/taunt, and messaging services veer off into that social direction more still, the effective content manager also allowing a decent, if unspectacular, variety of movie, music and picture files to be imported from home and abroad and, well, managed.
The menu interface has been noticeably Apple'd and Wii'd, binning the Sony PS3/PSP austere XMB chic for a far more approachable cutesie bubble world of app icon, swipe-able windows and one-home-button-press-from-anywhere familiarity.
PSN syncing is simple, which is important as more relies on connectivity than ever before, while PS3 remote play gets an early blow in on Wii U's unique selling point, though neither of these functions, along with online multiplayer, is fully functional pre-launch in the UK so we'll leave the door ajar for a footnote or two come February.