Hands-On Impressions with the Playstation Vita

I constructed this article a while back about the upcoming Playstation Vita purely based on excitement and hope. Nothing was concrete because I hadn’t played the damn thing and it wasn’t even out yet. It still hasn’t reached American shores yet, but after waiting for what seemed like an eternity, I finally got to place my hairy primate hands on the device.

The first thing that stuck out to me was how it felt in my hands. Striking a perfect balance between being light and being sturdy, it was very comfortable to hold. Sony knows how to make quality hardware and it shines with the Vita.

A big concern I had was regarding the rear touch panel. The way I held my PSP before I accidentally punched it to death (true story) made it seem that I would always be unintentionally fiddling with the backside touch panel. This never happened, as the sensitive part is put in a perfect position to where it probably won’t be touched unless that is what you want to do. I might have smaller hands than you, but I don’t see this as being a problem.

Using the touch screens was also better than I expected. The rear touch actually works, which in itself is an achievement. The entire home screen, along with most menus, use the front touch screen and that works as advertised as well. It is a little odd that most menus don’t even lend an option for players wanting to use the d-pad, so it is a good thing that it is responsive.

Touch screens are nice but analog sticks are the real subject to focus on. Yes, freaking analog sticks. Two of them. It was almost an other worldly experience having a handheld with two sticks, something that should be a standard and not a clunky add-on (zing!). I even kept forgetting about the second stick, as my thumb would naturally gravitate towards the face buttons. These things defecate all over nubs since they are actual sticks, meaning greater control. Sticks are a big deal and will marginally improve a myriad of genres that handhelds couldn’t previously handle. I can’t wait.

Since I’m already talking about the interaction methods, buttons are the next thing that come to mind. They’re satisfyingly clicky like the PSP Go’s and much better than the normal PSP. The L and R shoulder buttons also share the same improvement. When they were on the PSP, I would tend to push them but sometimes nothing would actually register due to their loose feeling. The d-pad is where I don’t think there is a solid, definitive improvement. I was a huge fan of the PSP’s d-pad, almost preferring it to any console’s d-pad, but I don’t think I’d hold the Vita’s d-pad up there. I still liked the Vita’s, but I wasn’t sure how it would work in a fighting game. None of the games I played really used the d-pad, so when I actually use it, I might totally love it. I already kind of like it so it probably won’t be hard to win me over.

Speaking of the games, the system I was playing had a few demos on it. Uncharted: Golden Abyss, ModNation Racers: Road Trip, Escape Plan, and Wipeout 2048 were among the titles I had time to mess around with.

The OLED screen is definitely beautiful and impressive. This is apparent in every game and menu. You won’t mistake it for high definition, but it still looks damn good. It wasn’t as godly as the hyperbolic adjectives suggested when the hardware was first unveiled, but I walked away thinking it was a considerable step up from the PSP.

The screen’s showcase game should definitely be Wipeout 2048. You thought I was going say Uncharted! While Uncharted looked good (more on that later), Wipeout left me a little speechless. Every ship and environment just looked so sharp and really popped off the screen more than any other game. The racing was fun too and it handled well, but the game’s look is what stuck with me.

Uncharted: Golden Abyss, although not at the top, was a stunner. It’s not Uncharted 3, but the fact that you can even graphically compare them even a little is an accomplishment. Jumping around as Drake was good, but the demo was pretty lackluster. Don’t get me wrong, I’m dying to play it, but it showcased all the wrong stuff. Platforming is good in this series, but when the demo is just the platforming for five minutes, I was a little frustrated. Where are the gun fights that I desperately wanted to try out? Obviously, they are in the full game, something I’ll need to wait to see. Tantalizing, I know.

Fresh off my ModNation Racers review, I was definitely ready to jump right in and try it on a different platform. This smaller version of the game felt nearly identical, retaining that signature challenge from the console version (which is a good thing). Weapons handled a bit differently, but were familiar on the whole. Even though the load times were almost unbearably long (it is unfinished, meaning it’s probably not optimized yet) and I just got done playing the big boy version, I would still be down to race some more in this franchise, especially on the go.

Finishing out my short stint with the Vita was Escape Plan, Sony Santa Monica’s short, colorless game that was completely different from anything else I played on the system. Your job is to make a path for these blobs by any means. For example, you need to use the back touch to push out platforms or use the front touch to flick obstacles out of the way. Escape Plan piqued my interest and is on my radar for games to look out for, which is odd considering I don’t usually stick to these types of games. Utilizing both touch screens in different ways, it took a game like this to realize that the touch screens could be more than crappy, optional controls like those found in other games. If they price it right and if it keeps up the creativity, this seems like a game perfect for the platform.

The only real problems I had were inherent to it being a demo unit. Pressing the PS button quit out of the game entirely (forcing me to restart), the options weren’t available to tinker with, there was no sound, my PSN (or should I say SEC?) profile wasn’t available to be viewed, and the Uncharted demo sucked. All of these problems will be vanquished when the system releases for real, so these “complaints” don’t have me worried in the slightest. I was optimistic and anxious for when I actually can buy one, a feeling similar to one I had when I first played a PS3. If that’s any indication, we have a good system on our hands. Or maybe “in our hands” would be more appropriate.

3 thoughts on “Hands-On Impressions with the Playstation Vita

    • The demo units are at Gamestop so I stopped in after school and played with it for a long time.

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