Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Review: PlayStation Vita - A lot of potential

Due to luck and my wife being a vault of random knowledge, we were able to win a new PlayStation Vita. For anyone who hasn't been keeping up with it, the Vita is Sony's latest venture into the handheld gaming space and is the successor to the PlayStation Portable (PSP) system. Think of it as a PSP that had a sweet, sweet love-child with an iPod touch or a tablet. The Vita boasts two thumbsticks, a multi-touch touchscreen, rear touchpad, Wi-Fi (optional 3G), front and back cameras, microphone as well as several other goodies.

I don't get all that giddy over tech specs, so I'm going to dive right into the Pros and Cons of the system. If you're interested in reading about the rest of the Vita's specs, check out the detailed product page here.


Off the bat, the wife and I were impressed with the quality of the graphics that the Vita can put out. To date, I've played through the Welcome Park tutorials, Unit 13 demo, Uncharted: Golden Abyss demo, a few PSP titles, and the Super Stardust Delta demo... and wow they really do look good for a handheld. Sound quality is also pretty good, both on the actual games, as well as music and video playback. For a handheld device, the volume actually goes up very high and I find myself typically playing on 20-30% volume most of the time. 

It's actually pretty comfortable to hold, despite the size
Another thing that the system has going for it is the integration of the different control options. The touchscreen and rear touchpad are easy to use and are very responsive. For example, you can use the touchpad to manage the zoom of your sniper rifle in Uncharted:GA, use flashbangs in Unit 13. Sixaxis also makes an appearance, and works well based on my experience with the Welcome Park and Super Stardust Delta demo. Even with touchscreen and button control, the Vita is very comfortable to use. Button layout is close enough to the touchscreen that you don't feel like you need ape-hands to use it, and it rests in your hands pretty well, considering the size of the device.

When it comes to gaming, you've got options galore. For hard copies of the game, the Vita can only play Vita games. However, you've got a whole range of titles to choose from on the PlayStation Network. For example, there are many Vita titles and demos that are available via download only. There are also a plethora of PSP and PS Minis titles available for download. In essence, it's sort of backwards compatible (more on this later). Pricing for these games crosses a wide spectrum, with many of the Minis being available for under $10, PSP titles under $30, and Vita titles anywhere between $9.99 (i.e. Super Stardust Delta) and $49.99 (i.e. Uncharted). It is important to note that there are games across the spectrum, but you should expect to pay a bit more for the bigger "blockbuster" titles. You've definitely got some options to keep you occupied.

A very practical app that uses the camera system
In addition to the gaming capabilities, the Vita also offers several extra elements. The web browser is intuitive and allows for you to open multiple windows, save bookmarks, and track your history. As is to be expected, you use the touchscreen for selection, typing, and other assorted activities. Additionally, on a Wi-Fi connection, the Vita's browser has fairly speedy load times for most pages. Beyond web surfing, you can also download apps from the PSN for entertainment and social networking. Your entertainment apps consist of Music Unlimited and Netflix, and your social networking apps include Skype, Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and Flickr.

While there are several great aspects of the Vita, there are also a few flaws that potential owners should be aware of.


While the control layout is comfortable and responsive, users with big hands might find themselves nudging the touchscreen while trying to use the thumbsticks, or accidentally triggering the rear touchpad while holding the device. While this is certainly not a crippling flaw, it might cause you to accidentally trigger your sniper zoom while in a close quarters firefight on Unit 13 (speaking from experience).

My other complaint is in regards to backwards compatibility. I mentioned that you're able to download select PSP titles off of the PSN. There is intentional emphasis on the word select. There are a lot of titles that have yet to be released on the PSN for the Vita. While there will certainly be more games coming out over the next year or so, it is a little disappointing to know that there's a bunch of already released games that you'll be missing out on in the short-term (including Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker and FFVII Crisis Core). Additionally, PSOne Classics are not available on the Vita (yet). Here's to hoping that they become available, as I'd love to have Final Fantasy VII on the go.

Like how this looks? Expect to pay a bit more for it
The Vita can also be a bit pricey. Memory cards, which are required to do just about everything on the Vita, are range from 4GB for $19.99 to 32GB for $99.99. If you anticipate being an avid game downloader, then you might consider going for a 16GB or larger memory card to make sure you have enough room. This decision will cost you at least an extra $59.99 dollars. Also, some titles are kind of expensive as well. For example, Uncharted: Golden Abyss is $49.99. I understand that the game has a higher quality than your typical portable game, but I personally find it a bit sour that I'm going to pay that much for a handheld game. I might as well get a console game with better graphics and performance for just $10 more. It's worth noting that this is a personal objection and should be ignored if you have no problem with that price tag.


Overall, I give the PlayStation Vita a pretty high rating of eight out of ten points. It's an innovative piece of technology that successfully combines elements of a tablet with those of a handheld device. Many of its flaws can be easily updated by new apps and software updates (I'd love to see some sort of YouTube app!). A brief summary of the pros and cons is listed below, for those who jumped right to the end of my review.

Ultimately, the Vita will live or die based on the content released for it. The selection of launch titles is fairly dismal, with some entertaining games and a few decent games. However, decent doesn't justify a $250+ purchase in my mind. That's the downside - the bright side is that there's a lot in the pipeline with a good amount of potential. Gravity Rush is looking to be a phenomenal title, and PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale may be an interesting title. Moreover, things can only get better as more PSP and PSOne titles are made available.

Overall rating: 8.0 / 10


  • Crisp graphics and sound
  • Smooth integration of touchscreen, touchpad, and Six-Axis
  • Backward compatable (sort of)
  • Web browser and several handy of apps (Netflix, Skype, Facebook, etc.)
  • Several affordable games
  • Comfortable to use

  • If you have big hands, it's easy to accidentally nudge the touchscreen when using the thumbsticks
  • No flash plugin, no YouTube
  • Not entirely backward compatible, lots of PSP/PSOne Classics games that you can't play yet
  • Memory card system is a bit pricey
  • Some titles are as expensive as a traditional console game
  • No launch titles that really pop out

1 comment:

  1. Hmmm. Interesting review.

    My brother's had his eye on the Vita for a while so he can get his hands on Monster Hunter and Phantasy Star Online 2. However, he's got big hands -- to the point where he regularly complains about the Wii's buttons and how they're not suited for "American hands." I might have go give him a warning, but I doubt that alone will be enough to stop him.

    Anyway, great review.