30th Jun 2012
The PlayStation Vita was launched with much fanfare and an assortment of firang babes in kinky attires, rickshaws, and bath tubs. Two thumbs up to Sony PlayStation India for the lovely distractions. I say that because I managed to get my paws on the yet-to-be-unveiled handheld device, while everyone was busy ogling at the booth babes. Needless to say, this calls for a quick preview of what's best described as massively shrunken PS3 duct-taped to a screen.
No amount of photos and promo videos can prepare you for the sheer size of this thing. While all iterations of the PSP could fit into your trousers, it's physically impossible for a PS Vita to squeeze into your jeans pockets. This is a gizmo that warrants carrying a bag of some sort at all times. It may be unwieldy, but its sheer heft makes it the most ergonomic handheld gaming device I have used. The build-quality is impressive as well, with high-quality plastics used all around.
Armed To The Teeth
The PS Vita's silhouete and button layout may be similar to the PSP, but it comes with loads of new goodies. You get an impressive 5" OLED touchscreen complemented by a secondary multi-touch pad at the rear. This will be leveraged by games that let you execute touch commands while keeping your thumbs free for the old-school tactile controls. There's even a pair of cameras (front and rear) for Skype and augmented reality applications. On the flipside, the display could have been less reflective and a bit brighter for better sunlight legibility.
Like its full-blown console cousin, the portable gaming device is also capable of Six Axis control thanks to an inbuilt gyro and accelerometer working in tandem. It's no slouch either with the quad-core CPU and GPU allowing developers to pump up the eye candy, as it is evident in the launch titles. However, I believe its most awesome feature has to be the inclusion of the dual analogue sticks. These are proper ball-and-socket-joint analogue sticks and not the insipid potato masher excuse for a thumbstick, which comes with the PSP.
Enough of the specifications. How does this puppy actually fare? For starters, the interface is a mixed bag. It's touch optimised alright, but it can't shake a stick at its predecessor's elegant XMB. The gaudy colour scheme, daft bubble icons, and the horrid peel-over animation effects of the PS Vita UI will make you wonder if you're using a Chinese imitation of an Android tablet instead of a state-of-the-art Japanese product.
However, unlike an Android tablet, the portable console handles its menus and animations without a hint of stutter or lag. I couldn't really test the browser, social networking integration (Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare) and other web-enabled services such as Skype due to a lack of 3G and Wi-Fi infrastructure at the event, but you do have a tell-tale notification bubble at the top of the screen fetching you a steady stream of updates.
The gaming credentials of the device are confirmed with the third person shooter Unit 13. This launch title pretty much proves that the PS Vita delivers an experience of the same calibre as expected from a full-blown console. The dual-analogue sticks were precise and a delight to use, and soon enough I was scoring headshots with ease. Any PS Vita hands on isn't complete without a token demonstration of the gizmo's much-vaunted augmented reality capability. I guess I'll have to include a video of Reality Fighters being projected onto a nondescript chair, just for that purpose.
It would be unfair to judge a gadget based on just a few hours of usage, but the PS Vita looks promising. That is once you ignore the fact that at Rs 19,000 for the Wi-Fi and 25,000 for the 3G version, it costs considerably more than the PS3 itself. This pricing anomaly may prove costly for a portable gaming device that has to prove its worth against the growing breed of smartphones, which are just as capable of running elaborate 3D games. Keep your eyes peeled for a full review.
Hands On: PlayStation Vita
A quick look at Sony's latest handheld console.
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