Handheld gaming, a much loved pass time of gamers on the go. Sony brings us their latest, and possibly greatest, handheld gaming device: The PS VITA. The VITA has some stiff competition in today’s market however, with Nintendo currently dominating the scene with the ever popular 3DS and IOS offering games 40 times cheaper, is there really room for another contender for the handheld throne?
The Nitty Gritty
The VITA is a powerhouse of a machine, there is no denying that. At its heart, it is packing not one, not two, heck not even three processors! No, this monster is carrying an immense 32-bit Quad-Core ARM Cortex-A9 MPCore CPU (its good), whilst the graphical punch is supplied by the PowerVR Series5XT SGXMP+ GPU (also good) which is yet another quad-core. So, if you’re counting, this beast has eight cores. For those who are not technically minded, this simply means you VITA is far more powerful that the newest Iphone, Ipad 2 and the 3DS, making it the most powerful handheld machine on the planet. It’s something to brag to your friends about I guess.
To round it all off, the VITA also gives you a heart pounding 512MB of RAM and 128MB VRAM for the GPU. But what does that mean? Well, simply put, it gives the VITA the power to instantly pause and suspend any game or program it is running and seamlessly do something else with no loss in performance, and then go back to your game instantly. This is seamless gaming at its best, and what’s even more impressive is that PS3 only ships with 256MB RAM, half that of its handheld brother.
All that graphical power would be wasted if it were not for the fantastic OLED screen. The screen is gorgeous and runs at a HD resolution of 640×960. Everything on the VITA just comes to life in glorious 220ppi, and when it has a super responsive multi-touch touchscreen built into it, it is one of the stand out features of the VITA. Touch control is not just limited to the front however, there is also touch panel on the back of the device, which is awkward to use at first, but it surprisingly intuitive once you get to grips with it. Finally, you have the three-axis accelerometer and gyroscopes built in, letting you control many games just by moving the VITA around, it’s a nice feature, but not one of its best.
We go from the amazing, the good and the bad to the downright unforgivable. The VITA comes with NO internal storage. This would not be so bad if you got a memory card with the console, especially when it costs almost £300. But no, you have to buy them separately at the insane prices Sony charge for them. This is a massive let down, but is a must have addition if you want to play your VITA.
Also unfortunately, the VITA has no backwards compatibility, a staple of all modern day consoles. This means that the giant pile of UMD’s for your PSP are worthless without an actual PSP to play it on. It’s a shame, but luckily the store lets you download a huge selection of PSP games for cheap, and they do look a lot prettier on the better screen.
Finally, the VITA comes in two forms: Wi-Fi or 3G. The only difference being that the 3G model gives you a sim card so you can be online no matter where you are. This feature seems nice, but is completely worthless in my opinion. You are paying an extra £50 for what will inevitably amount to Facebook since 3G cannot handle online gaming, nor can it handle downloading games. My advice is to go for the Wi-Fi model, and use the £50 you’re saving for a memory card.
Visually, the VITA is quite the corker with its sleek and sexy exterior. Those familiar with the old PSP will have an idea of what the VITA looks like, as for the most part it is the same. The biggest difference however is the addition of the second analogue stick, which is a feature sorely missing on the PSP and on the much more recent 3DS. Whilst the console itself is a little on the large side, it is still able to fit in your pocket and it is very nice to hold. At no point have I gotten hand cramps or numb fingers, which is something that has plagued my enjoyment of other handheld devices in the past.
And now we come to the dreaded battery life. The VITA will sustain itself for around about 5 hours on paper, which is on par with the 3DS, however in reality, it will probably run dry in about 3-3.5 hours. This is a real pain when you want to go out and about with your VITA, but those who have been into handhelds over the last few years, will be used to this sort of longevity. It scores a few brownie points by having a pretty quick recharge time, an amazingly efficient sleep mode and if your VITA dies mid game, it will start up once charged with your game ready to play from where you left off.
Interface & Features
The VITA has one of the best menu systems I have ever used; it is easy to use, pleasing on the eye, and really intuitive. Something I still find mind bogglingly amazing is how to shut down a program. You literally hit the home button, grab the corner of the screen, and peel it off the screen. It’s all instant, and totally seamless, and I will admit, I spent a few minutes loading something up just to shut it down again. What’s more, the PlayStation Store is amazingly user friendly. Finding and downloading games, demos, movies, trailers etc. could not be easier. It is clear Sony has done its research, and has finally moved on after that dreadful PSP and PS3 interface.
Speaking of the store, you can download all sorts. Whether you want a brand spanking new VITA game like Uncharted, a PlayStation Network exclusive like Escape Plan, a £1 game in the form of PS Mini’s or even a bunch of old PSP games. Whatever you want, it has you covered. Heck, it even has movie support allowing you to rent or buy movies to download directly to your VITA.
Other features include NEAR, a system where by you find players in your vicinity, discover what games friends and strangers are playing, share information about games and even share items with other players. As of writing this review, I have yet to find anyone else using this feature, more than likely due to the console being new. As it ages, expect more and more from it. The “Welcome Pack” is a compilation of basic mini-games that get you to use all the features of the VITA such as the touchscreens and gyroscope. It’s handy for getting to grips with your new VITA, but it’s not going to keep your attention for more than 5 minutes unless you really want trophies. Speaking of which, like the PS3, the VITA has full trophy support giving you more incentive to play your games after completion.
On the social side, you have “Party” which is an application that allows you to communicate with friends through voice or text chat. “Group Messaging” allows you to exchange messages to other players who are using the PlayStation Network, which includes VITA and PS3 owners and finally “Friends,” which is literally a friends list. It’s a nice bunch of social options that can be expanded through the store with apps for Facebook and what not.
The VITA comes fully equipped with an Internet browser; however I am not a big fan of this. It’s a little bit clunky for my liking, and since I own the Wi-Fi version, I don’t use online outside of my house anyway making it slightly redundant.
In terms of media, the VITA has you covered. Whether you want to take and share photographs and videos, listen to music or watch videos you can. There is even a map which acts like a GPS if you wanted to use it. Finally, one of the more interesting features of the VITA is its PS3 support. The “Content Manager” lets you transfer music, videos and photos from your VITA to you PS3 or PC, and vice versa. And then there is “Remote Play,” a mode that lets you use the VITA as a controller for your PS3. Whilst not all options and games are accessible, it’s a neat feature and considering the VITA feels like a controller anyway, it’s not a bad substitute.
Having stellar hardware and fancy features is not enough to make a great console. What you really need is good games, and luckily for us, the VITA launched with some amazing games. If you want gripping third person action Uncharted has you covered. If you prefer hysterically funny platforming then Rayman is for you. Racing your thing? Well Wipeout 2048 is amazing. Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 has you covered for fighting games and we even have some strategy in the form of Army Corps Hell. The list of games is pretty long, and that’s not including the downloadable exclusives like puzzle wonder Escape Plan and the amazingly addictive Motorstorm RC. To top it all off, we have an entire library of game demos and PSP games all ready to download!
The PS VITA is an amazing bit of kit, its price is not too steep, it has some fantastic launch titles and it is a joy to play. If you were on the bench about getting one, then I wholeheartedly recommend it. The memory card is a bit of a sour pill to swallow, but other than that, it is an outstanding handheld that simply must be played to be believed.
5 out of 5