PS Vita and Games Review (From two months of use since JP launch)

Discussion in 'Console Games' started by Malus120, Feb 22, 2012.

  1. Malus120 macrumors 6502

    Jun 28, 2002
    This still has some rough parts so I'll probably be updating this periodically if I have time.


    I'll admit it, I'm a staunch Playstation fan, and an even bigger fan of the PSP. I was out there at 7:00 AM at a local store for the US launch in 2005, and was so impressed with the system I never looked back.

    I was ecstatic when Sony announced the Playstation Vita. Seeing as I now live in Japan, I waited almost two hours for just 10 minutes with one at TGS, and was out early on the morning of October 15th ( the day preorders opened here in Japan) to reserve one.

    I received my 3G Playstation Vita, along with an 8GB memory card and Uncharted Golden Abyss, on December 15th, and despite being in the middle of finishing up my master's thesis, still found plenty of time to play it.

    Seeing as it is launching in the US today, I thought I'd share my impressions with all of you in the hopes that they may provide a more down to earth perspective than those offered on the major review sites.

    The Hardware:

    As I'm sure you've heard elsewhere, the PS Vita is beautiful device with its 5 inch OLED Screen, and glossy black finish.
    The screen is absolutely gorgeous and very crisp. While some people may have reservations about the all touch primary user interface, once you get used to it, its a dramatic improvement over XMB on the PSP.

    The PS Vita is powered by a four core CPU and GPU, and the amount of power available to developers really shows. Titles such as Virtua Tennis 4 (the best looking/most realistic looking game on the system), Uncharted Golden Abyss, and Gravity Daze are a joy to behold in action. While the visuals don’t quite approach the levels of the latest PS3 or 360 blockbusters, they’re a lot better than what you’d see on the Wii, 3DS, PSP or a smartphone. Furthermore, Bend Studios (the developer behind Uncharted Golden Abyss) has made it clear that developers are still just scratching the surface of what the system is capable of, so its fair to expect that graphics will get significantly better over time (as they do with almost any system).

    The analog sticks and action buttons are a little small, but after a few hours with the system you'll cease to notice or care. That said, the start and select buttons ARE a bit too small and recessed, making them harder than they should be to access.

    One thing to note about the Vita is that along with its good looks, it is also, unfortunately a fingerprint and i would imagine scratch magnet, so be sure to get yourself a protective film (for the screen) and a case.

    Speaking of the case, while it doesn't come with the system this time, it’s easily the best designed case for a handheld system I've ever seen. Its integrated in such a way that it hooks onto the system so that you can remove it for play and it will just hang onto the bottom of your system, waiting for when your done. Even better, the case can be used as a stand if you want to watch movies or browse the web with the device.

    Getting back to the Vita itself, WiFi and 3G work as expected, although switching between them isn’t yet quite as seamless as I would like (when you start up the Vita its often in 3G mode and even when opening the Playstation store, it sometimes takes 10 seconds or so for it to hop onto WiFi)

    The 3G capabilities of the Vita at present are not especially enticing, you do get GPS which is a nice bonus. When combined with the always on internet which 3G provides, it is a definite plus. One nice touch is that with the (new) Maps application, you can get directions if you're ever lost with a dead Smartphone.

    I wouldn't be surprised to see developers take greater advantage of both the GPS and 3G capabilities in future releases, and I would imagine the 3G plans will improve over time. Considering the above and that in the US you are getting lots of special bundles which include the 3G model along with extra content, the US 3G version is an exponentially better value than it was in Japan and is definitely what I would recommend to those not wanting to risk buyers regret later on in the Vita’s life cycle.

    Regarding the touch functionality and games, its actually quite useful. You will likely initially find yourself frustrated when games force you to navigate menus and perform other critical functions using the touch screen. Eventually however, it becomes second nature, and when you play a game which don’t have such functionality (I'm looking at you Tales of Innocence R) you'll realize just how much of an improvement it really is.

    Battery life is excellent with the PS Vita generally lasting around five hours when playing games with WiFi and 3G enabled (albeit not being used). Although I haven’t’ done any scientific testing, I brought the Vita on a trans pacific flight with me (10 hours), and despite playing it quite a bit, I had enough battery life left over for about an hour or two of gaming on the train back. This leads me to believe that in airplane mode you can definitely get over five hours (probably closer to six and a half or seven), although your millage :)P) may very.

    The Launch Lineup:

    Perhaps the Vita’s greatest strength is that it has one of the strongest launch lineups in the history of console gaming. Uncharted Golden Abyss and Gravity Daze are both amazing AAA games (particularly Gravity Daze) which would be right at home on the PS3 (in terms of quality), while still making distinct use of the Vita’s unique features. Other strong titles include Wipeout 2048 (which can actually play with the PS3 version), Lumines Electronic Symphony, Hot Shots Golf World Invitational, and much more. Perhaps the best part about the Vita’s launch is that there is literally something for everyone, and for the most part they’re just good (without the qualifier of “for a handheld.”)

    That’s not to say everything’s perfect, there’s certainly trashy money grabs (Ridge Racer), and disappointments (Army Corps of Hell, a game I waited two hours to play at TGS only to be immensely underwhelmed), but given overall level of excellence of what will be out on day one, what will be out within the “launch window” and what will be out in the next few months, I just can’t think of a stronger launch.

    Conclusion: Should you buy a Vita and should you buy it NOW?

    In short, the answer to both of those questions is, IMO, an emphatic yes. You’ll immediately gain access to a small but quickly growing library of excellent original games (even more if you’re willing to sign up for a Japanese PSN), and you’ll be demonstrating to both Sony and third party developers that there’s still a market for a “gamers’ portable.” The hardware is excellent, and Sony has had more than enough time (two months) since the Japanese launch to work out any kinks in the hardware (which I never experienced).

    As to why you shouldn’t wait? While a price drop is always possible, the Vita is already a great deal. Consider, the 3G Vita is a far more powerful device than an iPhone 4S, yet costs less than half the price even if you factor in a memory card. Furthermore, while this may sound self serving, the more people who buy in early on, the better the Vita’s chances of landing more high profile releases down the road.

    If portable gaming is your thing, go out and pick one up now, and if you don’t have the cash, start saving.

    Hardware Score 9.5/10

    Game Reviews:

    Uncharted Golden Abyss

    First a quick confession, I’d actually never played an Uncharted game before touching abyss, despite owning a PS3 since 2008. None the less, I’d heard good things about them, and it appeared to be the most impressive launch title, so I picked it up as my first Vita game.


    The graphics in Uncharted Golden Abyss are amazing for a portable device, easily outclassing anything on the PSP, iOS, Android, or (from what I’ve seen as I don’t own one) the Nintendo 3DS.

    The environments are lush and the character models are well crafted with an amazing degree of motion capture adding a definite sense of realism to the game. Where the game really shines however, is its lighting and shadows. Watching ambient light sources selectively brighten the environment, reflect off objects, and caste detailed shadows, never ceases to amaze. The depth which this adds to the experience easily make up for the game’s few visual flaws.

    That said, the graphics aren’t perfect, textures could certainly be better in some areas, and the character models, while good, are not quite up to the standard of recent PS3/360 blockbusters. Perhaps the most unfortunate thing is that, according to various sources, the game does not internally render at the screen’s native resolution, and I can attest to the fact that the up scaling process has a hard to define but noticeable impact on
    perceived quality.

    While there have been some reports of the game dropping FPS amid heavy fighting in certain areas, I want to note that I never encountered (or at least noticed) this issue, and I don’t expect that it will negatively impact the majority of players.
    None the less, let me be clear when I say that the above complaints are really just nitpicking. The graphics are still amazing in action, and the sheer fact that we can criticize them by comparing them to PS3 games says a lot about the increase in graphics horsepower it provides compared to other handheld devices.


    The game’s musical score is very good, with a sufficiently epic quality to it which lends a very Hollywood-esqe feel. Combined with excellent use of ambient sounds, the game’s audio compliments the graphics to really bring the game’s environments alive. The (English) voice acting is top notch, with each actor/actress bringing a level of believability rarely seen in video games to their character. That said, I’d stay away from the Japanese VA as its pretty bad in comparison.


    The game handles very well for the most part. Everything from climbing to shooting works as it should (that is to say, as it would on the PS3), and the controls feel very responsive. As for the game’s use of the touch screen and other features, it's a bit of a mixed bag.

    Navigating the menus with the touch screen SHOULD be easy, but the game insistence of forcing you to swipe left and right to navigate the main menu is just dumb and frustrating (why can’t I just CLICK on the option I want). That said, aside from the main menu, the touch navigation works well as expected.

    The in game use of touch is similarly double edged. The “rubbing sequences” where you have to dust off an artifact with your finger are somewhat interesting, but can certainly grow tedious over the course of the game. On the other hand, rotating torn up pieces of a map, or broken pieces of an artifact and then moving them into place with your finger feels very natural, and makes for interesting (if often slightly easy) puzzles.

    The forced usage of touch in melee combat in Uncharted is disappointing as, unlike Gravity Daze, it results in a dumbing down of the meelee combat. While I personally don’t think its bad, it could certainly have been implemented a lot better. Then again, if all melee combat consists of in other uncharted games is tapping square repeatedly, then perhaps this actually represents an improvement.

    You can also optionally use the rear touch panel to climb ropes, the and the touch screen to scale walls (just click where you want to go). This works well, and while I imagine most people will just use the face buttons for this, its certainly nice to have the option.

    Perhaps the most impressive use of these features however, is a certain scene in which you must hold an artifact up to a light in order to decipher a message on it. Apparently the Vita’s Rear Touch Panel is light sensitive, as this involves tilting the rear of the Vita towards a light source to “peer through.” It may not sound like much, but I assure you, when you experience it, you’ll be impressed. This gives us a taste of the kinds of things creative developers could do to provide a truly unique vita experience.


    Without spoiling anything, I think it is safe to say that Uncharted Golden Abyss has a compelling story, and a great caste. The game is sufficiently long (well over 10 hours), providing ample time for the story to flesh itself out.


    Although its not perfect, Uncharted Golden Abyss is easily the most impressive launch title EVER. It has an excellent story, backed up by impressive graphics, sound, and controls, which really showcase what the system is capable of. While it sometimes takes the aforementioned desire to “showcase” the system’s various capabilities too far, and suffers from some minor visual issues, these are all easily overlooked when one considered that the developers at Bend Studios have managed to squeeze a full fledged AAA Uncharted game onto a handheld.

    Score: 8.8/10

    Next up will be Gravity Daze (Gravity Rush in the States).

    Let me know if you guys have any other questions you'd like me to answer, and feel free to offer feedback on the review itself.
  2. cambookpro macrumors 603


    Feb 3, 2010
    United Kingdom
    Great review, may have *just* swung me towards purchasing a Vita :D
    Have you played Everybody's Golf on it? It looks waay better than the PSP version but how is it compared to the PS3 version?

  3. MRU Suspended


    Aug 23, 2005
    Much the same as the PS3 version :)

    Only downside of the vita is the expensive memory sticks. I've already filled my €50 16GB card :(
  4. cambookpro macrumors 603


    Feb 3, 2010
    United Kingdom
    Cool. I played the demo of the PS3 one, but always preferred it on a smaller screen for some reason. Everybody's Golf on PSP was really good, so have high expectations for this one!
  5. Liquorpuki macrumors 68020


    Jun 18, 2009
    City of Angels
    Thanks for the review. Waiting to hear what you have to say about Gravity Rush. I wish that was out at launch over here.
  6. Smileyboy macrumors 65816


    Aug 6, 2008
  7. bjmach macrumors 6502

    Oct 10, 2008
    Great Review. Picked mine up yesterday along with Uncharted and downloaded Escape Plan. Tried the FIFA demo and Unit 13 Demo and they both are awesome. Gonna download Golf tonight. Overall this thing is awesome.
  8. f00f macrumors 65816


    Feb 18, 2009
    New Yawk
    Great, well-written review. Thanks for taking the time to bang it out. I took ownership of a Wifi-only Vita yesterday as well; absolutely loving it so far. I had originally pre-ordered the 3G early release bundle but opted against ultimately (I have a 4G hotspot I can use on the road if needed).

    While I do own Uncharted and Lumines I have yet to play either of them. Totally hooked on Super Stardust Delta right now! :D

    And just one thing to ponder:
    Is the touch panel really light sensitive, or is the game actually using the rear camera to detect the light?

    Cheers & thanks again , looking forward to further reviews :D
  9. Dagless macrumors Core


    Jan 18, 2005
    Fighting to stay in the EU
    Is it heck as ;).

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