‘PlayStation Vita’ breathes new life into hand-held gaming

Adrian Hedden/The Washtenaw Voice

Nearly seven years since the release of the PlayStation Portable, Sony has finally released a successor. The PlayStation Vita has launched, and it packs console graphics into a portable device.

With the increase in tablets and smartphones, Sony is attempting to compete in a space that is crowded with devices. Fortunately, the Vita stands out despite a few small issues and creates a great hardcore gaming experience.  

The system features a five-inch OLED screen with touchscreen control, and a rear touchpad on the back of the system. The OLED screen is gorgeous, but doesn’t hold up to sunlight and fingerprints well. The smudges are hardly noticeable when the system is on, but if you’re into keeping your systems in pristine condition you’ll need to clean it frequently. Increasing brightness can also help with the sunlight problem, but at the cost of battery life, which is usually around 4-5 hours on lower settings.

The front and rear touchscreen works well, but the rear touchscreen seems gimmicky. I have yet to use it for any practical use. Hopefully, later game releases will find ways to use it for something unique.  

One other device that the Vita has incorporated is a gyroscope and accelerometers for tilt controls. This provides some games with the ability to tweak shooting by tilting the Vita in a direction, or rolling an object on the screen. This all works well, but seems to be used sparingly in games.  

All the motion gaming is optional for most games, and you can use the dual analog sticks and face buttons for main use. All buttons are responsive but I find the analog stick not as precise as I would like. If the sticks were just a bit longer they’d be much more comfortable and precise.

The Vita sports front and rear cameras that don’t provide the greatest pictures. They seem grainy, but work well enough. For all the state-of-the-art features, I was expecting a crisp, clear picture.

The interface the Vita features is an app-style screen that you flip through and find what you’re looking for. One downside to this is that it can become cluttered, and in the future will get even worse. By the time the system is out for a year, you could be flipping through 7-10 pages of games and apps. Hopefully, with future updates to the system they’ll have folders to place apps and games for easier management.

The Vita comes preloaded with apps, but there are a few to also download for free such as Netflix and Facebook. The Internet browser is a nice perk, but there are some major problems with it. You can’t open it while playing a game and it doesn’t support Flash. If you were looking to use it as a dedicated Internet device, look somewhere else.  

The most important thing about a system launch though, is the games. Luckily, this is where the Vita shines and outclasses Nintendo’s 3DS. It has a pretty strong launch lineup. It covers all the bases well, from blockbuster games like “Uncharted” to small indie titles like “Escape Plan.” While you can buy most of the games on game cards, you can also download all of them digitally. The nice thing about this is you’ll be saving about $5 on each of the games.  

This leads to one of the biggest agendas for the system, the attempt at cross-platform play. Content Manager, a preloaded App on the system, allows users to plug the Vita into PCs or PS3s and swap things between them. A promise that eventually you’ll be able to play full console games, then move saved data on to the Vita and continue playing on the road is a great concept.  So far, the only thing that allows cross-platform play is “Hustle Kings,” but there are more games planned for this feature later.  

The Vita price is $250 for the Wi-Fi and $300 for the 3G version, which is a steep starting price for a handheld. This also includes an extra $20-$100 dollars, depending on what memory card you want to buy, which may cause many people to think the system is too pricey for an initial purchase.

However, for gamers who have a PS3 or want console quality gaming on the road, there is no better handheld than the Vita.

Product: Playstation Vita

Company: Sony

Price: Ranges from $250-$300, depending on product package

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