March 22, 2012, 15:30

One Month Later… With The PlayStation Vita

By David Howard, Editor-in-Chief and Founder

One month later…

The all too commonly used technique which sees a particular sequence or period fast-forward in time to skip out hours, days, months or even years of potential monotony in order to get to the point which always seems far too far away, is an ability that would be extremely useful in real life. However, much like the purposefully wordy sentence that lay before this one, such time leaps are not possible in the real world – or at the very least, not to my knowledge – and we much all live out our days via the strict linear fashion of time previously dictated.

Why bother raising such a potentially pointless subject you might ask. Well dear reader, it felt rather apt given that the following series of words will attempt to depict and describe what my life has been like since the PlayStation Vita landed on my doorstep; or the relevant bits at least. Unfortunately, February conspired against me and my not-so-wittingly-named-title of “28 Days Later” given this particular years necessity to correct the clocks.

One Month Later... With The PlayStation Vita

Regardless, I digress, the real purpose of this prose was to provide a brief insight of my thoughts and opinions on Sony’s latest console offering. Originally, I was going to write a piece on my views within the first week of having the shiny bit of kit, but given the plethora or reviews and ‘hands on’ pieces from other outlets across the web it seemed a tad pointless. So I decided to wait and bide my time, not too dissimilar to a komodo dragon waiting for a wounded buffalo to fall – although not nearly as sinister or fatal. My reasoning was that those that wanted a Vita probably already had one as they were the folks that were itching to get their hands on one come launch day. There are another batch of potential customers though, sitting out there, waiting to hear what the day one purchasers think after some more substantial time.

Opinions on tech can change quite quickly with prolonged use. Bugs can appear in software, quirks in hardware functionality and general usage can be determined after the honeymoon period has dissipated. So, what do I think of the Vita having had it for a month? Has my opinion wavered from the opening few hours? Not in the slightest; just as the day I got it, the PlayStation Vita is a stunning bit of tech that seduces me into playing with it time and time again.

I’m still wowed everything I turn on the glistening five-inch OLED screen and reassured when, even after long periods of play, it’s still comfortable to handle. “Wow” is almost always the first response by a friend of colleague to seeing the sharp and vibrant visuals emitting. The touchscreen continues to be responsive and the buttons and joysticks are essentially perfect in both placement and feedback. The start button is, however, awkwardly placed and the necessity to press it to pause certain games is frustrating as it can be rather detrimental to your performance. As for the rear touchpad, it can occasionally get in the way if a game has prolific use for it, but generally it’s not a problem. The camera, other than the occasional use within Little Deviants and other titles, just doesn’t get used, which is no great lose given it’s shoddy quality. Most smart phones have a far better camera and photo editing capabilities and renders the Vita’s almost as an AR-only feature.

One Month Later... With The PlayStation Vita

Other than a single crash a few days ago – that was easily fixed – the system, from a hardware perspective, is wonderful. What I’ve found most surprising is that the same can be said for the OS. When I initially saw some screenshots of the big bubble buttons that the Vita was going to utilise it was ghastly. Given my fondness for the XMB, to create such an eye-sore of an OS was bemusing; however, seeing it in motion, it just works. Whether its their size, vibrant colours, or the subtle movements, I can’t help but adore the somewhat child-like essence of the OS. It may not be as slick or futuristic as others, and some of the icons are quite hideous, but it’s fresh and works beautifully with the device and it’s feature set.

That’s not to say there aren’t a few issues with it though. On many occasions I’ve been left frustrated by the handhelds incessant need to disconnect from the PlayStation Network when not in use. The obvious conserving of battery life is apparent and often acceptable, but when I leave my Vita to download a new game, only to find out a few hours later that it has barely progressed is rather annoying. The ‘Live Areas’ are good enough, although a more obvious notification of updates would be preferable.

In regards to the software already installed: the PlayStation Store is both easy to navigate and use, all of the settings and menu options of clear and concise, and whilst the video and music players could do with some work on the file storage front it’s not something that has or will really affect me – given my lack of interest or necessity to play audio or video from it. The one feature that leaves me puzzled, despite ample attempts at trying to decipher it, is Near.

Now I’m constantly receiving goods and bumping into friends and other Vita owners in my vicinity, but the actual meaning and purpose behind this is lost. The lack of a real tutorial on exactly what and how the service does is glaring and even though I continue to return to it in an attempt to finally crack the code, it remains elusive and mind-boggling. The usefulness of the browser is rather a null point given the proficiency of better ones on smart phones, tablets and PCs, but at least it’ll make do in a tight spot.

However, as a games console, it’s what you end up playing on it that matters the most and already the Vita seriously impresses. My time with some of the big hitters (e.g. Uncharted: Golden Abyss and WipEout 2048 for starters) has been extremely limited due to the necessity to play other titles for review purposes, yet, what I have sunk some considerable time into already has been fantastic. FIFA Football is nearly as good as its home console counterpart, whilst Lumines, Unit 13, Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack, Super Stardust Delta and Motorstorm RC provide some terrific experiences. With the likes of Rayman Origins, Everybody’s Golf, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and more all waiting to be played as well, there’s a wealth of quality and also quantity to absorb your time.

One Month Later... With The PlayStation Vita

A couple of games, such as WipEout 2048 and ModNation Racers: Road Trip, have less than satisfactory loading times that deter those particular titles from being pick-up-and-play. However, the ‘multi-tasking’ abilities, as limited as they may be, do allow you to keep one game in a frozen state whilst you perhaps check your friends list or the PlayStation Store, so jumping back into a game is quick and easy.

Much has been made about the Vita’s memory card prices and it’s more the capacity than the price that concerns me. With a 16GB card almost full after just a selection of the launch day titles, adding to that over months, even years, will leave me constantly swapping and changing memory cards. Hopefully, bigger cards – in the region of 64GB and 128GB really – will be available in the not too distant future.

The PlayStation Vita is a console that you’ll want to spend time on. It has the games, the power and the feature set to keep you thoroughly entertained for hours. The battery life isn’t as bad as I thought – though it could obviously be better – and my personal experience has been rather glitch free to date. After the first few days I’d have gladly recommended a Vita to anyone based off both its current performance and future potential, and with one month’s hindsight now in my favour, I’d unequivocally back up that statement today. With a mouth-watering series of games already announced for this year, the PlayStation Vita is the only next-generation handheld on the market, and one that any gamer would adore.