The PlayStation Vita release date is next week and Sony kindly sent me a device to try out along with a pack of games I could download onto its 16GB memory card. It’s a decent piece of kit and you name it, it’s got it. It has a large 5 inch OLED touch screen, rear touch pad, gyroscope, GPS, microphone, dual analogue sticks and front and rear cameras and the launch titles all go some way to making sure they use some if not all the functions it has.
After a messy start getting the thing to work what with applying an update to the Playstation Vita and my PS3, downloading titles onto the PS3 and then transferring them to the VITA via its unique USB cable (not a plus point if you lose it I can assure you) I eventually got to try the games out and the first one I gave a spin was Uncharted: Golden Abyss. The game features the usual combat, climbing and colourful characters but now has all sorts of other things you must do that have been blatantly shoe-horned in to show off the VITA’s capabilities. You take rubbings, tilt the machine to avoid falling off logs, clean dust off artefacts and even stroke the rear touch pad to ‘climb ropes’. You can also paint where you want Nate to climb but thankfully most of these also have button press alternatives if you’re old fashioned like me. Refining your aim by tilting the VITA is a nice touch though when taking photos and trying to shoot the bad guys. There is one very annoying bit however where you must hold the VITA to a bright light to continue rendering continuing impossible if you are in fact playing nowhere near said light source!
Reality Fighters is a simple beat ‘em up that uses augmented reality to place your fighters anywhere you point the rear camera. You can take a picture of yourself, dress up your character and then fight on the living room floor or even in the bath. It’s no Street Fighter but it is rather funny when you hear the battle cry you’ve recorded on the microphone when you win or lose.
Little Deviants again lets you get hands on with the rear touch pad and use the camera as you shoot robots trying to get at the little fellas in a manner similar to Nintendo’s Face Raiders and then roll them around by deforming the land around them by ‘pushing’ it via the rear touch pad. It’s a bit odd controlling things in this manner but strangely compelling once you get the hang of it.
ModNation Racers comes to the handheld in the form of Roadtrip. It features all the tracks from the PS3 and PSP and also the in-game editor which lets you draw tracks using the touch screen.
WipEout 2048 takes the futuristic racing game on the move with the ability for you to race people playing on WipEout HD on their PS3. Truly a first!
There’s no doubt that this is the most powerful and feature packed handheld to date but I do worry for Sony because handheld gaming has changed since the advent of smartphones. Because the PS VITA isn’t cheap at around $250 US for the Wi-Fi only version and games costing between $40 to $50 I feel gamers may find this too expensive compared with the very cheap or free games they can download onto their phones. Nintendo are already feeling this with slow uptake of the 3DS so the question is, does the public want a bespoke handheld gaming device? Sure the PSP has its own app called NEAR, the ability to use Facebook and Twitter and plays music and video as well but so do smartphones which people already have in their pockets.
Time will tell if the PS VITA is a success. It is a very nice machine to hold and play on but the wider public might not see a need for it. Fingers crossed Sony!
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