One bottle of purified water mixed in with one bottle of dirty water, mixed in with one bottle of toxic water.
Reviewed by Nicholas ‘Nick’ Mirabito
Now that I’ve had my PS Vita for a week, and have spent a fair bit of time playing around with it, I think I’m now qualified to do a full review. This is just for the unit itself, I will do separate reviews on launch games later on. Especially since 4/6 of them are Japanese only, and I’ve only finished about 30 minutes of each, the reasonable thing to do is wait till I’m further in to write something up.
The Vita comes in quite a small box, I was expecting it to be much larger then what it is. Looks very nice though, Playstation is in the middle of a rebranding and I must say I really like the whole new blue influence. PSN looks great with the new look, the blog looks slick and so does the Vitas box. It’s really cleverly sort out too, having small compartments storing certain things like the charger, manuals and such out of the way. The manuals are also really cool, not your normal letterbox, but it actually folds out like an accordion map. Something small, but really cool just nice to see some attention to detail. There are a few other single page pamphlets advertising features and upcoming features and games. All nicely packaged, and well protected. So as for boxing and protection quality it’s a solid 10/10.
Once you start up the vita that is where it really shines! Gone is the dreary boring XMB in place for a sexy mobile influenced bubble system. The vita boots up and you’re asked to slide the page, and then you use the touch screen to adjust the time, language and other settings. I found it extremely easy to use. Setting up and syncing PSN accounts was a breeze. Once setup is complete you’re greeted with a small cut scene styling the vitas capabilities. Lots of people have complained about not being able to use the buttons for the home screen, but that really defeats the purpose for me. I really like flicking through screens and bubbles, it’s really clear the Vita has taken a lot of cues from mobile devices, and that’s not a bad thing. So as for startup and ease of use it’s another 10/10. I can’t think of anything that could have been added to improve setup and ease of use.
This is where the Vita REALLY falls down! Looks wise I’m a bit disappointed. It looks very slick, I’m very pleased they have decided to go with a shiny piano black finish instead of matte black. Lots will complain that it’s a fingerprint magnet, but so what that’s what cases and a great new invention called cloths are for. Cleaning it every once in a while is that hard is it? That said though, I’m disappointed this looks a lot like the PSP. The whole point of the PS Vita is it’s a whole new device. It’s not a PSP2, it’s not a successor to the PSP. Which is why Sony has called it Vita, and not PSP 2. It’s supposed to be a whole new device. So why does it look so similar? It’s like Ferrari creating the 458 Italia, the replacement for their F430, exactly like they have done. But taking that fabulous new body off, and putting the F430s body on. That’s what the Vita is, it’s the 458 underneath with a Botox face lifted F430 body. There are so many gorgeous mock-ups of what the new portable could have and should have looked like. So why did Sony go with a Botox version of the PSP? Let me ask you what looks better?
I don’t know about you, but I think every one of those looks 10000000 times better than the Vita! Even from an engineers standpoint they would not be that hard to do. PS Vita is actually lots lighter then what I expected. Thickness wise it’s not a fat beast, but it’s not exactly slim either. Especially when you consider the phones and tablets out there. Yea they had to add the touch pad in, but I was still expecting it to be lots slimmer then what it is. Look at the new Samsung series TVs, thin as a piece of paper! Or even the new Macs, slim as hell and they have a WHOLE PC built in!
Length wise I was expecting it to be larger. It’s not a small device by any means, but the videos and pictures and such you see online make it look a lot bigger than what it is. It feels a bit too small for my liking, I mean this is a dedicated gaming device; it’s not suppose to be small. Anyway, I was just expecting it to be bigger. The bezels are really thick too, which is to be expected on a first model release. Hopefully Sony will release a Vita slim or whatever which will have smaller bezels thus increasing the room for the screen and buttons. That brings me on to the next problem with the portable console: The face buttons. They are so small! I don’t have big hands, but if I put my thumb on any button and press down I end up pressing it and the button next to it. Bit of a problem. The touch screen is very responsive, so is the back touch pad. All the buttons have a nice click to them and feel really stiff which is nice.
Another thing design-wise I don’t like are the analogue sticks. First they feel really loose. Just the rotation of them feels really slippery – it requires no force to move them. Almost feels like you could move them with a blow. Secondly, Sony has gone with the concave instead of convex tops. I really was hoping they would replace them with the ones like the 360 controllers have since so many people have complained about them. But they haven’t, they have a nice smooth finish on the top unlike the DS3 ones but besides that they’re the same. Last thing I’m disappointed in with the sticks is there is no R3 or L3. The vita has no R2, no L2, so it really needed L3 and R3. It’s limited to how many buttons it can have, so clicking sticks would have been the perfect solution by adding 2 extra buttons while taking away zero space. Disappointed they’re gone, I just can’t understand why they have chosen not to include them.
Shape-wise it is really hard to hold too. Just the way you need to cramp your hand in weird positions to get a good grip on it. There is slots at the back where your suppose to curl your fingers up to hold it, but I found that extremely uncomfortable. I found resting the side of the device in both hands, compared to resting your index fingers on top of the device and the rest just stretch out away from the touchpad much more comfortable. Either way, the Vita is an extremely awkward uncomfortable device to hold! Boxing day I was at my Cousins house for family lunch, they said the same thing. So in a design standpoint it’s not looking good. An outdated design, awkward to hold, really small buttons. Because of those in this category I can only give it a 5/10. Very disappointing!
A very wise man once said you never ask a Hardware company to do software, and you never ask a software company to do hardware. Look at the 360 and ps3 and you will know why. Microsoft, a software company does the Xbox 360 and it had so many hardware issues they got sued countless times! Sony, a hardware company did the ps3, and its OS was so insufficient it was joked as the vista of the gaming devices! It has such a larger hardware footprint than Microsoft’s dashboard. Also was ugly as hell! And as easy to use and finding things as firing a gun in space in a space shuttle at a moving target travelling the speed of light while juggling 10 flaming swords while drunk. I’ve always HATED the XMB so you can imagine how delighted I was to hear it’s gone in the Vita! That saying goes away today, because Sony a hardware company has come up with a brilliant easy to use sexy OS! It’s quite obvious they have taken a lot of cues from the mobile market, and that is a good thing. As I said, a lot of people hate that you can’t operate the home screen with the buttons, you have to use the touch pad. I like that though, just feel more natural, and intuitive than using buttons. I really like the look of the home screen, and it is really cool how you can set your own background settings. I’ve mixed mine up so every few seconds you get a shadow, a melding of colours that looks quite trippy.
However, I’m a little disappointed on the multitasking abilities. Smartphones have been able to run multiple different tasks for years now! So why can’t the Vita? I have been able to run a game and a web browser on my phone for what, 6 years now? So why can’t the Vita? The PSP GO had the ability to “pause” games, start another game, then end that game and start off right where you left in the first game. So why can’t the Vita? This is the successor to the PSP GO, so shouldn’t it be able to do everything it can do and more? Just seems kind of pointless releasing a successor which can’t do what its predecessor could. It’s like Ferrari replacing the F430 with the 458 but have the 458 slower. So because it can’t do multitasking as well as it should, and can’t run multiple games like its predecessor could, I can only give the Vita an 8/10 for this category. Good, but not as good as it should of been.
Unfortunately I have not received any cases, or accessories to test with the vita so I can’t give much of a input into them. However I will cover the battery life and charger. First off the charger cable is far too short. Seriously, Sony cables are that expensive are they? I only sit 2Ms away from my ps3, and if I want to use the remote play feature I had to go spend 45 bucks on a USB extension cable. The Vita uses a proprietary slot too, so it’s not like you can go spend 5 bucks on a 5M mini USB cable like you could the older PSP. As for the battery the life is not too bad, actually. I have found about 3 hours in Uncharted golden abyss, and if you have the game running in the background, as in hit the PS button then put the system on standby, it won’t consume much power. So really there is no reason to quit the game unless you want to play something else. The battery life is pretty good, much better than what I was expecting. Charge time from flat to full is around 2 hours. Much shorter then I was expecting which is nice. Despite what you may have heard, you cannot remove the battery from the outside. I’m sure if you open up the device you could remove it, but normally that means voiding warranty. Now Sony will conjure up some tripe that this is to stop piracy, but that has not stopped them. Just like the PSP GO. There is a portable charger due late 2012 that is supposed to double the battery life and charge the Vita, however how they’re going to create a device that clips into the socket without making it more awkward to hold, and not blocking the controls is another kettle of fish. Only time will tell. So the Vita has done pretty well in this category. Better than expected battery life, shorter than expected charge time, decent stand by time, albeit no removable battery. So I give the it an 8/10 in this category. Again good, but not as good as it should of been.
Ah, of course! where would the Vita be without games? Well so far I have tried Shinobido 2, Army Corps of Hell, Little Deviants, Uncharted Golden Abyss, Dark Quest Alliance, and Asphalt Injection. All but Little Deviants and Uncharted have been pretty mediocre. Especially the 2 games made by Gameloft, DQA and AI. Not bad games by any means, but they just feel like crappy mobile ports. They’re not taking advantage of what the Vita can really do. As for little deviants, it’s the best mini game compilation I have ever played! So much fun, and a great variety of mini games each using different features of the Vita. As for Uncharted, well this is the title to prove you can have console quality games on a handheld! The graphics are very disappointing, especially after hearing all the press cream themselves over it! It looks ok, but to be honest infinity blade 2 knocks it into next week! Texture detail among other things really holds the title back. Allot of jaggies too, it’s funny whenever you’re in cover Drake is super high res looks very nice but other things around you have jagged pixels surrounding them. A bug obviously, but just does not look nice! Another big problem with the games my Vita being an import, is that a lot of the games do not support multi language. It’s very weird how Sony has the Hong Kong PSN setup. Some HK games are available in Japanese only, 99% of the launch titles. But some are available in Chinese and English only, no Japanese available. So you’re always going to have compatibility issues. What if you speak only Japanese, then in HK you can’t understand Uncharted Golden Abyss or Little Deviants because there only available in English or Chinese. Very strange.
Future of the Vita
The future of the Vita relies on 4 things. 1 Price. As it is now the price of the unit, accessories and games are a bit too expensive. I’m not so sure many are willing to shell out for it at its current price. 2 What Sony does with it. Are they going to repeat their action on the ps3 by removing features and go sue-happy on anyone who opens up the device? Already reports are coming in that the system stores information about files you have on your Vita, PS3, and PC and uploads them to Sony’s servers. I hope this is not true, otherwise they’re going to find themselves in some hot water! 3 The Vita has lots of capabilities, things Smartphones and tablets cannot do. However will Sony force developers to use them, or will they do what they usually do and leave it up to the developers? I fear a lot of the games the Vita will get are going to be boring cheap crappy mobile ports. The Vita has so many features, even features with the PS3. If Sony forces developers to utilize them then it will have much a better chance of doing well compared to if they leave it up to the developers. Developers have enough on their plates, if you leave it up to them then 2% of all games released will use them!
The Vita will have strong competition from mobile devices, so unless Sony forces developers to use Vitas unique capabilities, things Smartphone’s cannot do, then I fear it will flop in the sea of Smartphones. In this world you need to do 1 of 2 things to be successful: Either do things your competition cannot, or do it better. Vita has so many features Smartphones don’t. However having the ability to do something, and actually doing it are 2 different kettles of fish. That’s what worries me with the Vita. Sony constantly comes out with new cool features, but they never get used because Sony leaves them as optional so we never see the benefit of them. Trophies for instance. Trophies came out and no new games supported them because it was not a requirement. If it was still optional now how many games do you think would have them? I really hope Sony push the capabilities of the Vita onto developers instead of leaving them optional. If not, I can’t see the Vita surviving in a sea of ever evolving Smartphones. 4 The games. There are so many big names lined up for Vita, which is extremely exciting to see especially so far before release! However, will they be games designed for the console, or games taken from the ps3 and ported? That is another problem I’m worried about. PSP failed mainly because a lot of the games on it were available on ps3. Or extremely similar ones. It’s nice to have sequels, well known IPs on a device but you also really need new things that could have only been done on that device. Perfect example is the 3DS. I LOVE Mario! Mario 3D world looks amazing, lots of people are calling it the best Mario game since Mario 64! But I refuse to buy one simply because, well, it’s a game very similar to what I can play on the Wii. Sequels are all and good, but you also need games defining the system, and ATM the Vita does not have those.
The Vita is a brilliant device, held back by some silly decisions. The old design, the small buttons, the awkward shape, the restricted multitasking, the ridiculous cost of memory cards, games and accessories, the lock of 1 PSN account per unit, the lock of 1 user account per unit, the lock of memory cards so you can’t have 1 card for multiple systems. No game saves sharing for instance. The no removable battery, the decent but could-have-been better battery life. Problem is a device like this is a sum of its parts. So you have one bottle of purified water mixed in with one bottle of dirty water, mixed in with one bottle of toxic water. Some things are brilliant. Some things are mediocre. And some things are so bad they make you think twice about buying the device! I really hope Sony come to their senses and fix some of these things before the rest of the world gets the Vita come February 2012. But I doubt they will. And because of that I can only give the Vita an overall score of 7/10. The hardware itself is brilliant, it has so much potential! The idea of Assassins Creed, or Bioshock on this thing makes me all warm and fuzzy! But there are just FAR too many limitations Sony have forced onto owners. And not limitations that make sense, limitations that really don’t and seem like they should not have been in there. Why can’t we have multiple user accounts and therefore multiple PSN ID’s like the ps3 lets you for instance?