PlayStation Vita Review
Every control method you can think of; good price; fluid gaming experience
Falls short of iPad’s post-PC functionality; smaller screen; short battery life
$349 (Wi-Fi); $419 (3G & Wi-Fi)
Sony has returned to the handheld gaming market with a vengeance with the PlayStation Vita: an all-singing, super-upgraded version of the PSP, with everything but the kitchen sink included. It’s big, bulky, powerful and quite a lot of fun.
Mind you, it takes a certain bullishness to ignore the impact Apple has had on the gaming market with the iPod touch, iPhone and iPad.
With so many geeks and gamers armed with an iOS device, is there really any space for a dedicated games handheld any more?
The Vita is best described as an upgraded Sony PSP. Superficially it sports a similar design to Sony’s early handhelds, but where it excels (or over- compensates) is in its controls.
Deep breath. The Vita sports dual analogue sticks, four regular buttons, a D-pad, two dual-action shoulder buttons, an accelerometer, gyroscopic compass, multi-touch display and a touch-sensitive rear display (presumably because Sony didn’t want a single surface that wasn’t input-ready in some way).
Some launch titles hilariously attempted to shoehorn every single control method into their gameplay, leading to some experiences best suited to contortionists.
But, sarcasm aside, a touchscreen display and motion controls tend to suck on traditional games like Arkham City and Modern Warfare, and the Vita’s physical controls ensure that many gaming experiences are more precise, fluid and intuitive than they’d be on a touchscreen.
Would the iPad be better with thumbsticks? Of course not. And anyway, the iPad does all kinds of things: email, photo editing, movies and so on. The PS Vita is primarily a games machine with some networking features bundled in.
But let’s compare and contrast anyway. On the one hand we have the new iPad with its gorgeous 9in multi-touch Retina display, up to 64GB of storage and 10-hour battery life. The Vita has a smaller 5in screen but an extremely good resolution (960 x 544 pixels, 220ppi) with OLED technology. The screens on both are pretty special, although the former’s is larger.
The iPad has excellent web browsing, email and apps such as Google Maps and Facebook; the Vita has less-excellent web browsing and Google Maps and Facebook, and no email. Don’t buy a Vita if you want to surf the web.
Sony does have a couple of nice web-enabled functions, though, including Cross Play, which enables you to play compatible games on your PS3, and then pick up where you left off on the Vita.
In terms of graphics, the Vita really isn’t that far from the PlayStation 3 – which is a hell of an achievement. But the slight edge it had over the iPad 2 was wiped out when the new iPad launched.
The Vita has a battery life of three to five hours, which seems anachronistic now we’re used to devices lasting all day.
What about pricing? The Vita starts at a reasonable $349. You have to buy a Sony-branded memory card separately, but it still comes in at markedly less than the $429 that the new iPad sells for.
We reckon that if you’re into gaming, the Vita still makes a lot of sense. The OLED screen is beautiful, the controls are precise, and what it lacks in versatility it makes up for in focus. It’s like having a PS3 in your pocket. ●