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I am proud to say that I am one of the lucky owners of the latest must-have gadget, the Sony PlayStation Vita handheld console. I purchased the Wi-Fi only console as this suited my needs, but a console with both Wi-Fi and 3G capability is also available for around £40 extra. Having played a large variety of the Vita’s launch titles I feel that I am now able to offer a reasoned opinion on the device.
As the successor to the Sony PSP, from a distance the Vita looks very similar. But upon closer inspection you can see that a great deal of improvements and changes have been made.
This is perhaps most noticeable with regards to the screen. The Vita features a five-inch OLED screen. The quality of the picture is pretty amazing, the visuals on games such as Unchartered: Golden Abyss are staggeringly crisp and clear. Both the screen and the back of the console are touch sensitive, and while this is a novel addition, it is difficult to see how games can effectively utilise this feature in a meaningful way. Indeed, on most of the launch titles this feature is little more than a gimmick.
The PlayStation Vita makes use of a bespoke operating system known as LiveArea, instead of the XrossMediaBar (XMB) utilised by both the PSP and PS3. I found the operating system to be clean and professional, and thanks to the touchscreen capability it is very easy to navigate.
What is immediately apparent after picking up the Vita is how more suited it is to actually gaming than its predecessors. This is helped a great deal by the inclusion of dual analog sticks on a portable system for the first time, which makes the experience feel more like using an ordinary console controller. This also allows shooters to make a much more seamless transition to the portable platform than before (as illustrated by games such as Unit 13). I found the system to be lightweight and comfortable to play for long periods. The console also feels surprisingly durable.
I feel that the PlayStation Vita is much more of a success than the PlayStation Portable because Sony have finally worked out what they want the system to be. No longer is the console a multi-functional electronic gizmo that is trying to be all things to all people. Make no mistake about it; the Vita is designed for gamers, and while it lacks the vast functionality you get from your smartphone, it offers a much better gaming experience on the move.
The PlayStation Vita has truly embraced the digital age, and allows for downloads of all full Vita games from the online PlayStation Store. You can also download digital versions of PSP games and PSone classics that have been adapted for portable gaming. Other things such as game add-ons and demos can also be downloaded through this virtual market.
One of the key drawbacks of the Vita is the fact that it has no internal memory, and as a result you have to fork out additional money to purchase expensive Sony memory cards for the device (as SD memory cards are not supported). These memory cards range from between 4 GB and 32 GB in size. Such an additional expense is hard to swallow considering the high RRP of the console unit itself.
You’ll also only be able to play games for a few hours at a time because of the poor battery life of the Vita, which is pretty lacklustre by today’s standards. But as fully charging the device only takes a couple of hours, this isn’t as big of an issue as it could have been.
The PlayStation Vita also lacks a video output option, which was included with the original PSP. While this isn’t a huge issue, it would have been nice to see, particularly since the visuals of the console are so strong.
With a strong selection of launch titles and a variety of new features, the PlayStation Vita represents Sony’s continued desire to challenge Nintendo in the handheld gaming market. If you’re looking to purchase a portable system and don’t already own a PSP, then the Vita is a must for you.