It’s been a long time since the original PlayStation Portable (PSP) launched way back in 2005, and Sony is finally ready to unleash its successor, the PlayStation Vita, on the world.
Thank to Sony Computer Entertainment, we got a chance to go hands-on with a review unit for a few days so we could bring you our initial impressions on the device.
On first inspection it appears remarkably similar to the original PSP shape, forgoing the more recent slide-open PSP Go shape for a return to the familiar wide oval of its predecessor. However, this new PlayStation is packed with the latest features, and Sony has clearly not only listened to gamers’ key gripes with previous versions, but also attempted to go above and beyond gamers’ current experiences.
The console features a 5-inch capacitive touch screen with dual analogue sticks (a vast improvement on the PSP’s single nub controller); a traditional D-pad and the familiar PlayStation face and shoulder buttons also make a return. There are two other inputs, a rear touchscreen and a built-in Sixaxis motion sensing system, and these are where developers will be able to get really creative. Rounding off the package is the addition of both front and rear cameras, with both face and head detection and tracking. Currently there are two models of Vita available, a wi-fi only model, and a wi-fi + 3G version.
Software-wise, the Vita comes with its own operating system that moves away from the traditional Sony Crossbar, to a more app-style touch-sensitive layout, which is surprisingly functional and easy to use.
Preloaded on the Vita were several games in either debug or demo modes. Each title demonstrated different uses of the Vita’s new features, from the fairly standard controls of Uncharted Golden Abyss, to the Augmented Reality camera fighting and customisation features of Reality Fighters, the puzzle solving front and rear touch screen implementation in the platformer Escape Plan, or the colourful launch title Little Deviants, which features a different control scheme for each character.
So, is it any good? For sure. The nice anologue sticks and touch controls coupled with some great sounding speakers and the sixaxis control provide a fun and immersive way to interact with games, and while some of the demo titles might have seemed a bit lacklustre, one has to remember that first launch titles for a new platform are always trying to find their feet; one can assume that we will see some great titles coming to the market once the Vita has launched.
There is no doubt that Sony has produced a fantastic piece of hardware in the Vita, and if the Vita does not become a success story it is definitely less to do with the machine itself and more about the changing landscape of gaming. While it is evident that while the Vita is a huge leap forward from its predecessor, handheld consoles will never be able to match the level of graphics and complexity of their bigger console brethren who are constantly setting new standards (and expectations) among gamers. Couple this with the new generation of smart phones and ‘bite sized’ game apps flooding the market, there are some serious question marks about whether there is still a place for the beloved handheld as we know it.
I certainly hope there is, and if any new handheld is up to the task it’s the Vita; however the answer can only come from you, the consumer.
What do you think? Will you be picking up a PlayStation Vita when it launches? If not, what would it take to make you purchase a handheld game player? Post your comments below.