Sony PS Vita review
- Five-inch OLED touchscreen
- Quadcore processor
- Launch games line-up
- Fiddly card ports
- Focus on core-gamers
Sony PS Vita: Screen
Arguably the most impressive thing about the PS Vita is its five-inch OLED display, which kisses everything that graces it. Let's not understate this: it's bloody enormous, but never feels bulky.
Colours are vibrant, images sharp - you almost want to ignore its capacitive multi-touch functionality in fear of sullying it (which unfortunately, in true smartphone style, your fingerprints very much will).
However, once you've engaged, the big surprise is how good a tablet-like browser it makes, tactile and responsive, the internet's innards looking as good as they can. There won't be any Flash support at launch, but we're told that's coming later.
In a post-Amazon Kindle Fire, seemingly seven-inch-heading slate world, Sony could do a lot worse than ripping the stabilisers off its cross-platform PlayStation Suite and supplementing its ageing games catalogue with apps, ebooks and the full gamut of modern touch-screen fare. History says it won't, unfortunately, but it would make its criticised price tag quickly seem a snip.
Sony PS Vita: Games
We need games... lots of games. And Sony's new handheld is certainly coming out swinging, with the PS Vita lauch game lineup for the UK comprising an imrpessive 25 titles from day one.
At the graphically demanding end, Sony's staple future racer WipEout 2048 is glorious, the dizzying highs and lows of its Empire Climb course frenetic and impressively slick, while Gravity Rush, a kind of Bayonetta meets Jet Set Radio comic-style actioner from the man behind Silent Hill, is pure spectacle, combining classic hardcore gaming controls with touchscreen flourishes that never feel tacked on.
At mid-level, a few games into Virtua Tennis 4 and you could believe you were playing a PS3, so easily it handles its textures, lighting and, importantly, controls. But then it also has a token attempt at covering the iOS-tinged casual end, the eerie puzzler Escape Plan reminiscent of Machinarium, the mini-game flavours of Little Deviants a clear family play that's more fun that it should be.
The controls are tight, the left analogue unsurprisingly shaming the 3DS's effort, and kicking in the balls anyone who thinks smartphone gaming can hold a candle to proper dedicated joysticks done correctly. However, ironically, of all the launch titles, it's the dual-analogue poster boy Uncharted: Golden Abyss that's the most disappointing purely because it aims so high.
It's a blast, of course, but once you get over the sheer amazement that you're playing Uncharted on the move, you'll begin to notice that the right analogue is a bit too loose for targeting (we're eager to see how Call of Duty handles it), the tiny action buttons an ergonomic-square-millimetre too near the unit's edge to be comfortable for long sessions, the touch-screen interludes unnecessary diversions.
It's an incredible achievement, and a graphical showpiece up there with Rage HD on the iPad, but much like id Software's iOS big gun, there are far better games for this particular format.
The PSN two-stick shooter overhaul Super Stardust Delta for one; if any title showed that touch-screen gaming cannot replace dual analogue controls, it's this. If PSN had the games that XBLA had, we'd be doing cartwheels.
Sound pretty great right? It's not quite that simple - the cheapest game at launch is £25, with the real show-stoppers going for £45 - the same price as a full PS3 title. It's somewhat jarring when the Vita incorporates the best that iOS and smartphone phone gaming has to offer so effortlessly that it should overlook the increasingly large budget end of the market, just as the 3DS did.
This should, and needs to, be addressed once PSN in the UK goes live. Also, in a divisive decision, titles can either be purchased as old-school boxed games in the new PS Vita flash-card format (which, rather nicely, you can make game saves on), or downloaded from PSN to a tiny proprietary PS Vita memory card half the size of a Monopoly house, both of which are inserted through the most fiddly, fingernail-cracking access ports known to tech.
There's no internal storage, and the largest memory card available at launch will be 16GB, and it will cost £45 - which, we're sure we don't need to say, is too small and too much.
With Uncharted: Golden Abyss reported to clock in at 4GB alone, and an as-yet-unspecified discount on the £45 premium for the top titles if you go download rather than boxed, there's going to be a lot of chopping, changing and, inevitably, cards going missing. We've already lost one in a 24-hour period. Buy a little box to keep them in, we're warning you now. Not too little, though, or you might lose that too.