PlayStation Vita hands-on: Glasgow 28 January 2012

The Nintendo 3DS suffered a lacklustre launch when it was released last year with poor sales following its release, and PlayStation Vita is following a similar path in Japan at the moment. Sony will be hoping that their powerful new handheld will do a lot better in western territories and it’s launch line-up is certainly aimed at Western tastes, with titles like Uncharted Golden Abyss and Wipeout 2048. But will it be able to lure back gamers who have been fed a diet of cheap apps in this smart phone generation? Critical Gamer went along to the PlayStation Access event in Glasgow for a hands-on session with Sony’s next generation handheld the PlayStation Vita.

The last PlayStation Access event we went to was tucked away in the Glue Factory in darkest Maryhill, but Sony have decided to hit the high street with their latest event taking up residence right slap bang in the middle of Sauchiehall Street, which is one of Glasgows busiest shopping streets. This is a shrewd move by Sony to put the Vita in the shopping window, so to speak, and we must say there was plenty of gamers at the event putting the Vita through it’s paces. The event was staged over two levels, with the bottom level having demo stations of Wipeout 2048, Ultimate Marvel v Capcom 3, Uncharted Golden Abyss, Rayman Origins and Reality Fighters, along with a counter where you could pre-order the console, and also a chance to win the console itself.

There was a great selection of games to play at the Access event.

When we finally picked up the console we were immediately impressed by how light the Vita was. It seemed a lot lighter than it’s older sibling the PSP, and the screen was a lot larger as well, packing a 5-inch OLED display. The graphics and colours on the screen were outstanding, and were a very close approximation of what can be achieved on the PS3, which is no mean feat. Obviously a big draw to the Vita is the addition of a second analogue stick, and we have to say the new sticks were a lot comfier to use than the PSP’s nub, and almost behaved as you would expect a Dual Shock controller to. The touch screen on the front functions as well as you would expect from an iPad or iPhone, and the rear touch pad is an exciting addition. With the power it packs the Vita is a lot bulkier than it’s older brother, and it has a vast array of buttons and ports that make a Swiss Army knife look inadequate.

Along with the two analogue sticks, there is the usual D-pad, Start, Select, the PlayStation button and also a front facing camera. Along the top of the console you have two shoulder buttons, a power button, volume button, and a port to house the Vita games cartridges, along with another one for accessories. The bottom of the console has a port for charging and USB connection and a memory card slot. There is also a port for headphones. The back of the console has the touch pad, and also another camera which is used for the augmented reality games that the 3DS made popular.

Staff were very friendly, and explained new Vita features like Near and LiveArena.

We started off by playing Wipeout, and we found it to be an admirable attempt to mimic the PS3 classic. Using the shoulder button to accelerate we sped around the track at a blistering speed, the game controlled well using the analogue sticks, and we were able to negotiate the track without bouncing from one barrier to the next, which was a gripe with older entries in the series. The graphics were crisp and detailed and very close to the PS3 original. With a lot going on in the game the Vita didn’t stutter at all, and it kept a consistent framerate throughout which was very impressive. The sound through the headset that was supplied also impressed, and the soundtrack kept your feet tapping as we sped around the futuristic setting. After Wipeout we tried Ultimate Marvel v Capcom 3, and this game literally smacked you in the face with it’s bright colourful graphics and fast paced action. Using the D-pad to play it felt very similar to the PS3 version, and the game zipped along nicely with all the on-screen action never stuttering. Rayman Origins looked and played just like it’s bigger brother, and the game really shone brightly on the Vita’s pin sharp screen. It felt strange playing an Uncharted game on a mobile device, but Uncharted Golden Abyss was another highlight of the show. The graphics were impressive, but not quite up to the standard of it’s PS3 forebears. The game used almost all the Vita’s new tricks, with the front touch screen being used for QTE’s, and the rear screen to zoom in if you’re using, for instance, a sniper rifle. You would think this would be quite difficult to accomplish, but it felt really intuitive, and certainly added something extra to the gameplay. We also put Reality Fighters through it’s paces, and it wasn’t long before we took our newly created fighter off to fight on the table we had in front of us. This use of augmented reality worked really well, with the rear camera being used to superimpose your fighters onto whatever you had in front of you. Although if you move the console around too much you can lose track of where your fighters are.

The event was packed with lots of eager gamers.

When we had finished with Reality Fighters we decided to head upstairs to see what else was on offer. There was a section being used to demonstrate the new features of the Vita, including Near and Live Area. Another table contained several consoles playing FIFA Football. We decided to have a shot of it and were really impressed by how close it came to replicating its home console brother. There were a few new features that utilised the Vita’s touch screens, with the front screen being used to select players to pass to, and the rear screen being used to decide where you want to place your shot on goal. The passing didn’t work very well, but the shooting was a revelation that finally enabled you to place your shots exactly where you wanted to put them. To do this a small goal appears in the bottom corner of the screen, and you use your finger on the rear pad to point to where you want the ball to go. It’s a small thing, but it makes a big difference to the game. While we were playing FIFA, we noticed a rather large Glaswegian who had taken a shine to one of the Access girls, and proceeded to ask the girl if she was single. Rather taken aback, she needless to say answered that she had a boyfriend. 10 out of 10 for trying though big man.

We were really impressed with the PlayStation Vita, it’s packed full of features, and is a powerful handheld, that gets a lot of things just right. The launch line-up has something for everyone, although there isn’t a killer app that makes the new handheld a must-have yet. But with Call of Duty coming in the autumn, that could well change and make the handheld irresistible to the masses. We certainly hope that’s the case, as the Vita is as close as you’ll get to having a PS3 in your pocket.

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Written by Kevin M

I’ve been addicted to gaming since my parents bought an Atari console way back in the 70’s. I progressed to the iconic Speccy, Amiga, and all the Playstation platforms. Having seen games evolve from single pixel bat and ball, to HD constructed environments, gaming has changed much from my early years. Having defeated the rock hard R-Type on the Speccy, the biggest challenge I’ve faced so far is putting up with the hordes of American teens spouting abuse in the current generation of consoles, noob indeed!

One comment

  1. KrazyFace /

    I had my first hold of a Vita in my (not so local) Game about two weeks ago and I have to say I came away feeling rather depressed. Not entirely because they insisted on keeping the plastic film on the screen so “people wouldn’t get the managers screen grubby”, but more because I ended up suffering a bit of cramp after playing Uncharted for 10mins. I sort of have this problem with the PSP (but less so) yet with the Vita it was almost instant, and I think I know why.

    The D-pad and buttons are located rather close to the edge of the machine, and force you to hold it (in my opinion) in a rather awkward and clumsey way. Unlike an actual pad that fits into your palm, the Vita seemed to balance upon my fingertips. The twin sticks also seem to be a lot smaller from the Vitas I’ve seen in adverts. The ones advertised look flat and comfy, the ones I encounterd were thin, pointy and felt more akin to twiddling nipple-covers on a stripper than sticks on a console. Sorry, but it had to be said.

    As for the quality of the OLED, all I saw was a bubbly and fuzzy mess really. Shame, because I was all geared up for getting one soon after launch, but I’m going to have to politely decline Sonys offer of this new machine until there’s either a re-design or I can get my hands on one of the “original” Vitas I’ve been seeing in those adverts.

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