Ease of Learning: 4 / 5
Ease of Use: 4.5 / 5
Enjoyment: 4.5 / 5
Design: 5 / 5
Value for Money: 3 / 5
It seems hard to imagine that the 7th Generation of gaming, marked by such heavyweights as the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, is already drawing to a close, and that the dawn of the 8th is upon us. The vanguard of this new surge of technology is formed heavily around the handheld gaming market, with two releases already on the shelves today. These are the Nintendo 3DS, and the PlayStation Vita. Whereas the 3DS is marketing itself on its 3D innovations, Sony with their Vita have seemed to focus on an attempt to produce the most powerful portable gaming device ever seen. That’s not to say the Vita doesn’t have a few hidden tricks of its own however. And so the question is, with the Vita, have Sony produced a truly worthy successor to the PlayStation Portable?
Upon first examining it, the Vita seems an incredibly stylish piece of tech. With a sleek black exterior, and a shiny 5 inch (130 mm) OLED screen, the Vita may even seem intimidatingly big for an apparently handheld device, but when it is actually picked up, the user’s hands slide comfortably into the grooves on the reverse of the device. Featured on the front are the typical stylistic features of PlayStation brand: the square, triangle, cross and circle signs nearly all gamers are familiar with. Included also is a d-pad, a shoulder button above each top corner, and an analogue stick on each side of the machine. This is not only an improvement on the design of the stick on the PSP, the device also benefits from having a second stick, unlike its predecessor. The device also has a front and rear 0.3 MP camera built into it.
Well what about under the hood, so to speak? The Vita packs a quad-core ARM Cortex-A9 MPCore processor, as well as a separate quad-core GPU SGX543MP4+ for GPU processing. Added to that is 512 MB of RAM and 128 MB of VRAM. All of that sounds very impressive, surely, but what does that mean for those of us in the public with less knowledge of technical terms? What it means is that the Vita at launch already was boasting games that ran smoother and better looking than many games on the PlayStation 2. It is a proven fact that even on the same platform, game development means that games produced further along the life-cycle of a platform will always be more powerful and better looking than the ones at launch. And so, for the Vita to be running such powerful looking games already, shows its potential as a gaming powerhouse.
The Vita does have many features aside from simply bringing powerful gaming. The front screen is touch sensitive, as well as the back face of the handheld. It may raise an eyebrow or two, for surely, what can be done with a rear touch screen? Well, many of the games released have already demonstrated its functionality to a great extent, and its potential is laid open to the developers. The Vita also has motion sensing capabilities, which are integrated into apps and games alike. It seems possible for these features to become gimmicky at time, but in the hands of trustworthy developers, they have proven to be enjoyable additions.
The Vita comes in a version supporting 3G, and a cheaper version supporting only WiFi, costing R. 3500 and R. 2999 respectively. The 3G version has its Internet functions accessed with a SIM card, and any of us who have a data device can merely remove that SIM card and use it in our Vita. This will use the account you have set up with your network provider, and will be paid out of that agreement. One strange function at launch is that the Vita allows for as much browsing as possible via 3G, but limits downloading to 20 MB files, with other files accessed via Wi-Fi. This seems a pointlessly annoying feature, but one which might be removed with a system patch later. The Vita comes with built in apps including Google Maps, an Internet browser and various Social Networking apps for other Vita users, as well as the obligatory Photo, Music and Video playback options. The Vita functions perfectly well as a music player, meaning that it can replace your old iPod, and videos watched on it look absolutely gorgeous, on the crisp big screen, giving a new life to portable video viewing. All of these files, including game saves are stored on a separately purchased proprietary memory card, which can range from 4Gb to 32Gb in size. These are about R300 to R800 depending.
As for games out at the moment, the Vita launched with roughly 25 titles, and has since released about a total of 30. The device is building up steam, and release dates seem to become closer and closer together. Aside from this, the Vita is compatible with all the old PSP games, which due to the lack of the UMD drive on the Vita, are available for download on the PlayStation Network. Therefore, those of us seriously aiming to download a lot of these titles would do well to purchase a larger memory card. Some of the hot titles that showcase the platform’s fun include Uncharted: Golden Abyss, Rayman Origins, and Resistance: Burning Skies. Uncharted in particular is a highlight of what your Vita can deliver, showing a glorious setting, with gameplay on par with its console brothers, and also incorporating very fun uses for the interesting features of the Vita. From moving the device to keep your balance, to taking a picture by actually moving the device, to zooming with a sniper rifle with a flick of the rear touch screen, Uncharted shows that these features do not hamper gameplay, can be ignored if wanted, and otherwise can make gameplay much more interactive.
The Vita is an amazing piece of technology in and of itself, and when considered as a multimedia device, gaming platform, and Internet-enabling machine, it starts to be more and more useful to have.
The Vita’s battery life lasts 9 hours with music playing, and 3-5 hours with gaming. This can seem short at times, but when actually playing provides a decent length of time for gaming in one go. If you have the money for it, rather save up for the 3G version, so that you don’t miss out on many of the apps and features. Invest in buying a screen cover for your Vita, so as to protect that lovely big screen. Many accessories including these are available at present in stores.