Sony Playstation Vita – The Review

Sony Playstation Vita

If there’s one handheld console that has served me better than any other in my life, it is my PSP.. Nintendo’s offerings are fun but never feel like they provide any serious gaming offerings, Microsoft have never brought one out and so, for me, Sony’s devices have won the battle. And now, there’s the Sony Playstation Vita.

Personally, I never thought my PSP needed a touchscreen, but given that the Nintendo DS series have them and it’s also something that’s come to the fore with the rise of the smartphone, it was an eventuality. They went one better, though, and included a touchpad on the back. There’s also front and rear cameras and the main feature is undoubtedly that the touchscreen is a 5″ OLED one.

Haven’t heard of OLED? It’s a type of display which works without a backlight and can display deep black levels. It’s thinner, lighter and can also achieve a higher contrast ratio than an LCD, and thus will help it look at its most striking.

Going back to the camera, and while it takes both photos and video, I have to say I found it odd that it’ll do the former in 16:9 but the latter is just 4:3-only.

Go to page 2 for more thoughts on the Sony Playstation Vita.

Sony Playstation Vita

The PS Vita will also be able to play PSP titles, minis, PS one classics, video and comics from the PlayStation Store and everything is accessible from the main user interface, which you control via the touchscreen.

A great way to pause a game is to press the ‘Playstation’ button on the left-hand side of the unit, and it also allows you to get back to the main PS Vita menu, e.g. to change the game you’re playing. This is also the equivalent of a ‘back’ button.

The “Near” function is one where you can look for other players in a 10-mile radius, so you can chat with them about games you’re playing, share items and gifts within that radius by technically dropping them in the real world so that other PS Vita users who have the 3G version can go ‘geocaching’ to find them.

I couldn’t get this to work, nor for the PS Vita unit to connect to my network. I know the games had some network features disabled, so maybe it was something to do with the fact it was a review unit.

There are other online modes like “Party” where you can chat to others, but for me, it’s all about the games.

There are also two models available – Wifi-only and 3G+Wifi. The latest costs around £60 more on Amazon and also requires a monthly subscription from Vodafone. However, smartphone users like myself can, in my case, use an Android handset to tether that to my 3G network and get on that way. Well… for as long as my HTC Desire Z can do so until it’s useless battery decides to quickly deplete itself.

On the subject of batteries, another oddity is that the PS Vita does not have a removable one. They state it’s meant to last the lifetime of the unit… but why remove that choice? I don’t have any Apple products but I understand their batteries can only be changed in-store and not by the user’s hand.

And there’s something else it doesn’t do: output video. Unlike the PSP handheld, you are restricted to only seeing the games on the screen itself. This is very remiss of Sony as I love nothing more than to see my games on a bigger screen sometimes, and there are a number coming out for the Vita which will deserve to be seen on full display. Okay, so the PS Vita’s graphcs (960×540 pixels) are only a quarter of full HD, but they’d still look welcome. This loses the unit a point overall.

Go to page 3 for a look at some of the best games out now, which all come on memory cards rather than discs. For more info, click on the individual packshots and there’s examples about how you play with their interactive features on the above video. Oh, and about memory cards, you can buy ones to save your games on cards ranging from 4Gb to 32Gb.

Uncharted: Golden Abyss (£44.99)

I’ve never had a Playstation 3, but this is the game franchise I always wanted to play, so it was great to check it out as the first game I played on the Vita. It has fantastic, fluid graphics, but I feel they really do need to be seen on a big screen to do them justice. It plays out rather like a Tomb Raider-style game, but I only had a limited amount of time to play this game. Still, as well as getting from A to B, you have to collect trophies, find items, take photos and complete puzzles.

Use of the touchscreen comes up early as you can either use the buttons to leap up onto ledges to climb up a cliff face, or simply tap the screen. Similarly, when it comes to leaping across big gaps, you can lean across using the left joystick or you can tilt the device. The latter is also used when you’re on the ropes, literally, as you can swing back and forth, thanks to the six-axis motion sensing system. However, for this game, I prefer to use the buttons.

Another example of touchscreen innovation comes with going across some stones in a river where it tells you to “paint the path you want Drake to follow”, as well as tapping a baddie on the screen to perform a stealth takedown. Again, I preferred to time things right with button presses. Just tapping the screen feels a bit lazy sometimes.

The rear touchpad also comes into play, if you choose, when climbing a rope. Instead of pressing buttons or dragging your finger up and down the rope, you can drag them up and down the back.

If there is an annoyance in this game, it’s getting used to the fact that the camera doesn’t just turn with you when you turn your left joystick and you *have* to turn the right one.

Score: 4/5

Wipeout 2048 (£34.99)

Anyone who’s ever played a Sony console in the last 15 years has played at least one version of Wipeout and so you’ll know what to expect. Get in your ship and zoom a long at fast speed. Pick up bonuses along the way, avoid those which slow you down, get past the other AI racers (or play online and beat real people) and get in first place if you can. hThere’s also a Time Trial event.

The problem with Wipeout is that, for me at least, it’s a big-screen experience. And while this offers a sharp image, if you have played it on a big screen before, this new version does feel rather underwhelming, so I wouldn’t make it your first choice.

Score: 3/5

Reality Fighters (£24.99)

This is a curiosity, but for me, not much more. Every gamer has player a beat-’em-up at some point, and this one does precisely that, but in a novel way that means you can point the Vita at, say, a table top, and then through your screen (thanks to the rear camera) you’ll see the character going toe-to-toe on your furniture.

I tried it out on my PC keyboard. Good for a while, but longevity will only be for those still engaged in this gaming genre.

Score: 2/5

Go to page 4 for more games out now.

Everybody’s Golf (£34.99)

Again, another franchise that makes an appearance on every Sony platform, this game offers the usual choice of single player, multiplayer and online offerings where you can tee off to your heart’s content across real 9- and 18-hole courses, unlocking new greens, characters and outfits as you go, or even buy them in the new shop feature as long as you have another points amassed.

Hone your skills, replay shots from a number of angles, and you can tell the golf course graphics are lush, but they really would better suit a TV screen.

Overall, this is another game for die-hard fans only who really must have another version.

Score: 3/5

Modnation Racers: Road Trip (£34.99)

This is the first time I’ve played a game in this series and it’s very much inspired by Mario Kart, so should sell well on a handheld, but, to be honest, it’s not really my sort of thing, as it’s aimed at younger players. I preferred the likes of MotorStorm: Arctic Edge, also from Sony, as while I don’t want anything too simple like Modnation, I also don’t want to go for something as serious as Gran Turismo.

There’s also Wipeout-style elements in here such as shooting bolts at the other players, so as to knock them off-course, literally, plus turbo boosts and temporary shields.

Those who are into this will be pleased to know that you can drag and drop items to easily create Mods and karts, you can download tracks, karts and racers created by the community on PlayStation 3, and also use the touchscreen to draw tracks, and the rear touch pad to manipulate your terrain.

Score: 2.5/5

Little Deviants (£24.99)

This is a combination of mini games including one similar to Reality Fighters where you have to ‘fly’ around the room, looking out of your viewing window and blasting all the baddies who are trying to shoot down your Deviants, with the rear camera filming your actual room. This game really does provide a complete 360-degree experience.

Another game sees you rolling a Deviant about a landscape, collecting bonus health and star points, before getting the key and then heading for the exit. This game makes great use of the rear touch pad as you can only move your character about by pushing the ground up from behind to make him roll elsewhere. Quite bizarre, but clever as you can’t control his movements any other way.

Score: 3/5

Go to page 5 for more on the Sony Playstation Vita, plus conclusions.

Sony Playstation Vita

So, out of all of these games, clearly Uncharted: Golden Abyss walks away with the prize. However, I can tell that the Vita’s killer titles are yet to be released. For example, we must have a sequel to the amazing LittleBigPlanet coming this year on this handheld? Please?

The Vita also contains a PSP emulator, so that in addition to the main physical releases, plus the
Vita-specific PSN download-only titles such as Escape Plan, Super Stardust, MotorStorm RC etc. there’s a great number of PSP content on the PlayStation Store that’s also available to buy. This content is made up from “PSP Mini’s” which are priced from 60p upwards, to full PSP titles, such as God of War: Chains of Olympus.

PSP titles running on the Vita are also improved via the emulator, both visually, and with the option to map/reconfigure the original controls onto the 2nd analogue stick and touch screens (front/back).

Of course, inbetween the PSP and Vita, there’s been the significant take-up of tablets, which can also be used to play games. Well, yes, they will all have a bigger screen (up to 10.1″ compared to the Vita’s 5″ OLED screen) but I *do* like my buttons and joysticks and the tablets have none of those. To me, I think tablets are just a laptop missing a keyboard anyway, so really aren’t my bag.

And you can also play games on smartphones, but they are generally smaller and my HTC Desire Z has slowed down to a crawl in less than a year of use anyway, so there is definitely still the market for a dedicated unit, as Nintendo’s handhelds have shown.

Games like Uncharted: Golden Abyss and Little Deviants give a taster of what’s possible with the PS Vita and its various attributes so I’m looking forward to seeing what else it can do in the coming months.

Overall: 4.5/5

Detailed specs:
Distributor: Sony Computer Entertainment
Price: £197.99 (Wifi), £259.99 (3G + Wifi)

Sony Playstation Vita Features

    Multi-touch 5-inch organic light emitting display (OLED) as the front display
    Multi-touch pad on the rear of the device
    Dual analogue sticks
    Two digital cameras (front and rear)
    Software titles on small, dedicated flash memory-based cards
    Three motion sensors, gyroscope, accelerometer and electronic compass
    Wi-Fi connectivity
    Free PlayStation Network access, including trophy support and new Vita features “LiveArea” and “Near”
    Vita can play PSP titles, minis, PS one classics, video and comics from the PlayStation Store

Technical Specifications

    CPU – ARM Cortex-A9 core (4 core)
    GPU – SGX543MP4+
    External Dimensions – Approx. 182.0 x 18.6 x 83.5mm (width x height x depth) (tentative, excludes largest projection)
    Touch Screen – 5-inches (16:9), 960 x 544, Approx. 16 million colors, OLED Multi touch screen (capacitive type)
    Rear Touch Pad – Multi-touch pad (capacitive type)
    Cameras – Front camera, rear camera
    Game Media/Storage – New dedicated flash-based game medium; dual slots, one for the new game medium, the other is for storage media to be utilised for personal content and download content
    Sensors – Six-axis motion sensing system (three-axis gyroscope, three-axis accelerometer), three-axis electronic compass
    Battery – Internal/embedded (not removable)


      Built-in stereo speakers
      Built-in microphone


      Wi-Fi location service support

    Keys / Switches

      PS button
      Power button
      Directional buttons (Up/Down/Right/Left)
      Action buttons (Triangle, Circle, Cross, Square)
      Shoulder buttons (Right/Left)
      Right stick, Left stick
      START button, SELECT button
      Volume buttons (+/-)

    Wireless communications

      IEEE 802.11b/g/n (n = 1×1) (Wi-Fi) (Infrastructure mode/Ad-hoc mode)
      Bluetooth 2.1+EDR (A2DP/AVRCP/HSP)
      Connectivity subject to Wi-Fi availability coverage limitations.

Box Contains

    PS Vita Console
    Safety Guide
    Quick Start Guide
    Parental Controls Booklet
    PSN Sign-Up leaflet
    Power Lead / AC Adaptor
    USB Cable
    Wide Area Augmented Reality (WAAR) Cards


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