Tuesday, 20 March 2012

PS Vita - One month later.

OK! The Tech-Demons won! I got a Vita and I cannot stop playing it! I mean to write about it, but just end up playing Uncharted or the stupidly addictive Motorstorm RC. The deals at HMV were too good, a Wi-Fi Vita and Uncharted: Golden Abyss for £229. The generous trade in offers helped as well. So I managed to snag the bundle and a 8GB memory card (Sony's hidden twist), which is required to for game saves.

Now, for the long dormant Sony fanboy to wake up. It really is a thing of beauty. The first thing that will grab people's attention is the 5-inch Super AMOLED multi-touch capacitive touchscreen (try saying that five times fast). It is stunning and the depth it adds is incredible. Games look incredible, the front end and social apps are crystal clear.  Then you get to the other features Sony have packed into this beast, including:
  • A rear touchpad
  • Sixaxis motion sensing
  • Dual Analog sticks
  • Cameras - front and back 
  • Connectivity - Wi-Fi, Bluetooth + 3G (only on 3G model)
  • and the kitchen sink... 
Sony have seemed to set themselves a target to fill the PSP's successor with every single piece of techno-gubbins left lying around their R&D department. The result is a home console experience in your hand. I have not been blown away by a device since getting my first iPod. To be able not only to play games with console quality visuals, but also chat with friends, play against them on-line, access the marketplace for games and content and also stream and upload media from your PC or PS3.  Add to that the now standard Facebook, Twitter and Flickr apps and you have a very smart and powerful device.

Then you have apps like Near, Sony's answer to Streetpass on the 3DS. It is like Streetpass turned up to 11. When you start it up it shows you all of the users within a two mile radius and shows you what they are playing and exchanges Game Goods from certain titles. The only thing is I am not sure if these people are just Vita owners or just Playstation Network accounts. It is very impressive (well for a statto like me!) and I can see it becoming an integral part of the social gaming experience on the Vita.

The integration of the Playstation network is simply amazing. Being able to interact with friends on their Vita or PS3 consoles brings a new level of gaming communication. Then add in to the mix Cross-Platform play, the abilty to play the same game with PS3 owners is incredible. Motorstorm RC is the a brilliant example of this allowing you to set times with all of your friends no matter what they play on. Let's hope this is trend that continues with future releases. Imagine being able to play Call of Duty: MW4 in a coffee shop with your mate on his PS3 or teaming up for a co-op session on Borderlands 3. Maybe this could be the future.

Integrating the Playstation store in to the console is another smart move by Sony. Steam has proved that digital distribution can work and given the right model, people will use it. Having every single Vita launch title available on the store from day one, along with DLC, demos and an extensive PSP back catalogue, was a clever move. I know that I tried things that I normally would not of tried and also have been looking at PSP games that I have missed out on.

The LiveArea interface replaces XMB interface of the PSP and PS3. It is a very functional front end and makes it easy to navigate between open programs and menu screens. Tap an icon to launch the programs home page. Select start to launch the program or select one of the other options. Uncharted for example allows you to access the Uncharted forums on the web, the Black Market add-on game and the developers web site. Once in the game or application a quick press of the Playstation button on the unit seemlessly drops you back in the LiveArea for the title. You can then flick through your other open applications or another press of the PlayStation button will zoom out further to show all open menus in a line for quicker navigation.
Customisation also plays a big part of the LiveArea experience. Users can change everything from the bubble arrangement, add new menu screens and customise the backgrounds. There are already a great sets of custom wallpapers that allow you to add that personal feel to your system (I recommend starting here: NeoGaf - Vita Wallpapers).

Microsoft gave the world Achievements, but Sony has gone and taken their trophy system and put in the palm of your hand. The Achievement junkie in me loves being able to access my own separate Trophy app and sync it with PSN and then compare my achievements with my friends. Though the joy of seeing that Trophy unlock message pop up in the corner of your screen when you are on the train or sat in a traffic jam (as a passenger!) takes the addiction to new levels. I have already begun my second playthrough of Uncharted: Golden Abyss so I get to collect those missing trophies.

Even after all of this there is features I have not touched yet. The Augmented reality cards are still sat in the box waiting for the day I get around to trying Table Football or Cliff Diving. The remote play functionality needs a PS3 to work and don't have one (Although, I am very tempted to get one now). I haven't even given the media options for video and music a good go yet.

What I have been doing though is immersing myself completely in the most accomplished attempt yet to take the home console experience and deliver it into a portable unit that works. I dare anyone not to be impressed by Uncharted: Golden Abyss or drawn into the competition of Motorstorm RC. Although the gaming press is running stories of poor sales and whether the Vita is doomed to fail. To me it doesn't matter I have found the ultimate portable gaming experience in the one place I did not expect to find it, with Sony.

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