Review: The PLAYSTATION VITA is almost here – but is it worth your hard-earned hundreds? We’ve been tinkering around with Sony’s new handheld at BeefJack Towers, and we’re ready to deliver our verdict!
I’m never sure how to review a new console, especially one with little direct competition. Typical hardware reviews focus on technical intricacies while comparing the product to others on the market. It’s easy to pit video card against video card. But this? I don’t know. Do you want a PS Vita? If so, the PS Vita is the best PS Vita money can buy!
There are issues. But it’s also the most gorgeous handheld I’ve ever laid my mits on. Sleek to the point of embarrassing the manufacturers of other portable gaming devices, it’s a wide and bulky machine that nevertheless retains its elegance in a way that only the most adept designers can achieve.
Having two analogue sticks – and proper analogue sticks, at that – is an enormous benefit. I’m not especially fond of the positioning but, as anyone who’s ever argued about the relative merits of Xbox and PlayStation controllers will know, that one’s down to personal preference. Whether the layout works for you or not, there’s no denying the success the sticks bring. For the first time, playing a 3D game on a peripheral-free handheld is as fluid an experience as playing on a home console.
Which, in itself, would probably be enough. But the PS Vita goes all-out with its control features. A touch-screen and rear touch-pads are married with shoulder triggers and all the other standard controller buttons. It’s motion-sensitive, too. It’s as if Sony decided to try catering to as many different input preferences as they could think of. I’m almost surprised there’s no pull-out glowing nodule to turn it into a PS Move.
My worry is how this will affect the games. I’m reviewing Uncharted: Golden Abyss at the minute (my verdict will be online in the next couple of days), and at times it almost feels like a race to see how many different ways all these control methods can be implemented. Every two minutes the game’s asking you to slash your finger across the screen, or rotate an artefact by sliding your hands all over the back of the console. And all the while you’re thinking: ‘This would actually be easier if I just used the analogue sticks.’
The hard sale
This is a software issue, though, not a hardware one, and it can only be expected that launch titles would want to show off a machine’s gimmicks. Which, pleasantly, there are actually very few of. This is a console whose unique selling points feel like features, rather than marketing ploys. What most of them boil down to is quite simple: the PlayStation Vita is actually incredibly good.
The build quality is lovely. Everything feels sturdy, molded together rather than fastened on. And it manages to achieve this feel while only being a little bit heavier than you’d like. It’s wide and bulky, yes, but every inch of it feels built to last, and specifically designed to support the console’s capabilities.
Then there’s the display, which boasts five inches of astonishing clarity. There’s little point in reiterating what’s already widely known, but the PS Vita is the most extraordinarily graphically capable handheld. Its games might not be quite as good-looking as those on the PS3 or Xbox 360, but they’re genuinely not far off, which is a remarkable achievement. By way of comparison, the 3DS’ best-looking titles – the likes of Resident Evil: Revelations – might impress, but they’d be sub-par on Sony’s machine.
Its ability to render light and shadow, as well as complex geometry and relatively high-definition textures, is quite something. The colours, too, are fantastically defined. This is a step beyond.
Which leaves the price. With the 3DS now available for £130, just a year after launch, the Vita’s asking price of £230 – 270 (depending on model) does require that extra bit of thinking. It’s a better machine, and the launch lineup is strong, but there’s no escaping that this is essentially double the price of its only competitor.
You’re paying for quality, though. I love my 3DS, I sincerely do, but there’s no denying that this is a sturdier, sexier machine. What it lacks in gimmicks, it makes up for in features; where it falls down in terms of portability, it raises itself back up with vastly superior controls and an astonishing touch-screen display.
It’s a fantastic handheld, basically, and you’ll have to be prepared to pay a premium for that. It’s a console that excels through sheer quality in build and design. Is that what you’re looking for? Then spare the funds for a PS Vita – because there’s nothing else like it.
Sony’s PlayStation Vita will launch in North America and Europe on 22/02/2012.