It may seem like a bit of a daft idea, but from what I can tell, no other websites have done what I’m about to do, that comes straight my research which consisted of 10 minutes of Googling, 2 Facebook statuses, a tweet and a mention of the PS Vita to my barber. So if you happen to be one of the people who have tried to sell the PS Vita to readers in this manner, accept my apologies and prepare to see how it’s done properly.
From the moment on I’m writing in the sense that I would if I was talking to my mates, how I would tell my mates about the Playstation Vita. So, going forward, you’re all my mates and I invite you to read along and comment when you finish. Let us begin…
The PS Vita, as most know by now, is Sony’s second-hand held console. That much is obvious, it’s the successor to the Playstation Portable (PSP) and it’s quite an upgrade. I’m not going to bamboozle you with facts about what it’s processor is, or what computer module makes the thing look so good, for the simple fact is not everybody cares about what’s going on inside, what’s important to you and me, the end users, is how it plays games.
Before you go straight down to the comments and leave some remark about being a “Sony Fanboy” or ” Sony Bum Lover”, let me make this perfectly clear: I don’t care what company makes a console. I’ve no interest in the politics of who makes what and why so-and-so is better than so-and-so, I just care about the experience provided and value of the product. I see no point in arguing over which console is better, so if you’re reading this hoping for some sort of “Console War” showdown, you’ll be sorely disappointed.
This isn’t a product review as such, but just one avid gamer telling another why the PS Vita is worth your money.
Well, let’s get on with it then…
First of all, lets start with the actual console itself.
The PS Vita has one of the best screens that you can put in your pocket, there’s no doubt there. The screen is tough and robust, particularly useful if you’re anything like me. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve dropped it, placed it face down, or put in a pocket alongside a load of loose change and keys. Despite the abuse I’ve inflicted upon the poor bugger, the screen remains as clear and scratch free as the day I first got it.
It’s not just the practicality that make it good, but how it looks makes it great. Colours are sharp and vivid with enough pixel power to show all the glorious details in games, films, videos, pictures and whatever else you find yourself doing with your PS Vita. I cannot stress enough how good it looks, it’s almost like having a nice big TV shrunken down and whacked in front of your face with very little taken away.
The screen, as you may know, also doubles as a touchscreen allowing you to use it as an input method. This is particularly useful considering the PS Vita lacks the R2, L2, R3 and L3 buttons, so to make up for them the touchscreen and rear touch panel are used as alternative input methods. You might already play games on your smart phone and find that touchscreen input isn’t the best, but you’ll rarely find yourself curing the PS Vita’s. Most games use it just for the convenience it brings, for example, in Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation you can tap the on-screen mini map and it brings up the full view for the map, or tap the weapon icon and it’ll bring up a quick menu for you to quickly chance weapons. Most of the time it works well and doesn’t hinder the gameplay, being as responsive and easy to use as much as any other touchscreen device currently available on the market.
You don’t just use it in games though, it’s used for getting around the PS Vita’s home menu, typing, adjusting options etc. It’s a genuine pleasure to use and only very rarely have I gotten annoyed with it, mainly due to my fingers being wet or greasy, which as you would expect, makes the touchscreen less responsive.
If you had a PSP, you’ll remember that using the browser was a pain in the arse, typing in what you wanted was a real chore due to it being g more akin to texting on a Nokia, but without the buttons. On the PS Vita it’s easy as anything else that uses touchscreen keyboards, you can happily sit and tap away on the in-built browser without a care in the world.
So that’s the screen covered, what about the buttons and sticks? Well, you’ll be happy to know they are excellent. If you’ve grown up with the classic Playstation controller design, you’ll find it easy enough to get the grasp of the PS Vita’s controls. The D-Pad is satisfying with sharp and clicky buttons, the four face buttons which may look a bit on the small side are actually big enough and very easy to use, more so that on a PS3 controller I now find, but that’s just me…
The right and left triggers are more or less just like the ones found on the PSP, but they work just as well as you could wish.
One of the biggest selling points for the PS Vita is undoubtedly the twin sticks. These two sticks open up a whole range of possibilities in the way games can be played. Where the PSP suffered with camera controls and first-person shooters, the PS Vita was basically built for them. No doubt a lot of people still enjoy playing the PSP and may see no reason to upgrade to the PS Vita “just for the twin sticks”, but trust me, gaming on the go is just a completely different kettle of fish with the PS Vita. More on that later…
The Start and Select buttons are also present, though a bit on the small side for my liking, but I’ve got massive hands and thumbs the size of spoons, so that’s just me…
In addition to the standard face buttons is the rear touch pad and the Playstation button, the latter being a similar idea the Playstation button found on your PS3 controller. This is a stroke of genius in my opinion, by pressing the PS Home button you instantly pause whatever you’re playing and are free to navigate around the PS Vita’s various menu’s, maybe even go online and Google some tips for whatever game you happen to have just paused. It’s a brilliant show of what power lies underneath the brilliant screen that the system can instantly pause a game, let you do whatever you fancy and with the tap of a screen be instantly back in the game at the exact point you left, seamless and simple.
Then there’s the rear touch-pad, something I was a bit cautious about when I first heard about the PS Vita. I admit, I wasn’t fully convinced by the idea when it was first announced, but in all fairness, it’s another great idea that’s been well implemented. As I mentioned earlier, the PS Vita lacks the R2, L2, R3 and L3 buttons, so to compensate, the touchscreen can handle some input and the rear touch-pad also gets in on the action. Usually it’s just minor things like mini games, or zooming in on sniper rifles etc. The best use for the rear touch-pad that I have found is the ability to map the four quadrants to be emulate the missing R2, L2, R3 and L3 buttons, though only in Playstation One Classics that are available from the Playstation Store. It makes playing those golden oldies, my favorite being Spyro, a pleasure and not a chore. That’s what you want from your gaming, fun, and the PS Vita has been designed to provide it by the bucket-load.
That’s not all, there’s also the two camera’s which I almost completely forgot to mention, for the simple reason: they’re rarely used.
The two cameras, one rear facing and one front facing are pretty low in quality, but they’re mainly used in mini-games within the full PS Vita titles, like holding the rear camera up to a bright light to reveal some secret on a bit of parchment in Uncharted: Golden Abyss, or for the augmented reality games, but to be honest, I’ve not really got a lot of time for camera games, they seem like a bit of a gimmick. The best use I’ve found for the camera is in Wipeout 2048‘s multiplayer. At the start of an online race you have the option to take a picture of yourself to display to other players should you finish in the top three spots. I like to take a picture of myself pulling some sort of face, it provides a few laughs and I’ve had a few people message me just to say “LOL BRO.” It’s pretty nifty and would be good to have the option to present a picture in all multiplayer games, but that’s not the case. Still, it’s better to have it than not to have it…
Before I get onto the topic of games, let me just give you a bit more on the twin sticks, just so I can really drive it home how amazing they are.
They’re a little bit on the small side, but they work just as well as the analogue sticks you find on the Playstation 3 controllers, minus the R3 and L3 clicking in buttons. The great thing about the addition of them is the ability to play games they way they should be. You’ve probably tried playing a first-person shooter on your smart phone or maybe on you Nintendo DS or Nintendo 3DS and found the controls a bit awkward, I know, because I’m in that crowd. Physical controls are a must have for proper gaming, it’s all good and well saying “well I play Call of Duty: Black Ops Zombies on my iPhone”, but is it really that good? It’s fun, yeah, but it’s just not comparable to actually feeling the buttons beneath your thumbs, feeling the click of the triggers as you aim precisely down the sights and pop a round in the head of the foe, exactly where you were aiming, not some auto-aim shoddy job. That’s the type of experience you can only get with physical buttons and sticks, something only available on the PS Vita. I’m not saying playing games on smartphones isn’t fun, there are some great game available for cheap or free, but for the most part they aren’t in the same league.
Now, enough about the physical properties of the console, what about the games?
The good people of the internet would have you believe that the PS Vita has 3 games and an instructional video on how to bury your PS Vita, because apparently the PS Vita is dying a slow and painful death and we would be kinder to just pull the life support and whack them all in one big massive mass grave.
I’m telling you different. There are games. There are loads of games. There are loads of good games. There’s a few great games. There’s the odd shit one (I’m being completely honest, remember.)
In fact, I’m pretty sure there are hundreds. Yes, hundreds. Yes, not all of them are PS Vita games, some are PSP games and some are PS One Classics, but that’s far from a bad thing.
First, I’ll get on with the PS Vita’s games.
The PS Vita actually launched with a decent, if not the best collection of titles available for any console on its launch day. Off the top of my head I can’t remember the exact amount, and as you know by now my research methods are dire, so I’ll just put it at a rough guess of about 20 (I think it was more actually,) that’s a strong number for any console and prospective buyers would have no difficulty in finding a game to sink some time into. The amount of titles was actually bolstered by a couple of hundred pretty quickly with the addition of PSP titles, but more on them lot later.
I’ll start with Uncharted: Golden Abyss as it’s probably the best of the launch titles that uses pretty much every single input method available on the console.
Uncharted: Golden Abyss is a third-person shooter/action-adventure game which see’s you run around as Nathan Drake looking for treasures, climbing stuff and shooting people. Standard.
Graphically, Uncharted: Golden Abyss is without a doubt the best looking game on the console, the graphics are sharp and the colours are vivid with lot’s of nice lighting effects and all the other fancy visual magic we’re used to.
From a graphical point of view, this would have been considered a great technical triumph if it has come out on the PS3 a few years ago, it’s easily on par/ahead of launch titles for the Playstation 3 and surpasses the graphical fidelity of Uncharted: Drakes Fortune (the first Uncharted for those not in the know.)
However, graphics don’t make a game, it’s the way it plays and it plays superbly, thanks in no small part to the various input methods available and the twin sticks which are integral. Done right, every game for the system could look just as good and play as good, if not better than Uncharted: Golden Abyss. I’m basically using Uncharted: Golden Abyss as the prime example of what can be done with the handheld, and when you see for yourself, it’s more than impressive. It’s all good and well me showing you pictures, or looking at gameplay videos on Youtube, but it’s not until you actually see a PS Vita up close and personal that you really appreciate what it has to offer, so I urge you, get down to your local video game retailer and have a go on a display model or have a go on a friends one, it will astound you.
It’s not just Uncharted: Golden Abyss that makes the PS Vita a serious console, it’s the other great games on the shop shelves too. The likes of Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation, which you may be surprised to hear that it’s being called better than the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 version of Assassin’s Creed III, Need for Speed: Most Wanted, such a close match to the console versions you’ll be amazed at how little is lost in translation.
Rayman Origins and LittleBigPlanet Vita, two of the best platform games released in years, and probably the best platform games released so far. I pay particularly high praise to LittleBigPlanet Vita for its robust online community where you’ll find literally thousands of user-created content to play. Granted, some are crap and others are great, you’ll find yourself digging into the pit of shit in the hope of finding a golden truffle, but it’s made a lot easier by the community doing what any good community does, communicating. All you need to do is get online and find the LittleBigPlanet forums and there will be thousands of other players recommending the best finds, asking for help in creating their own levels and giving it when needed. What more can you ask for? For a full review of LittleBigPlanet Vita, click here.
The PS Vita has got games, lots of them, and there’s more on the way.
Ah, I almost forgot, the crap games. Might as well get it out the way.
Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified was supposed to by the “system seller” for the PS Vita, but it in fact turned out to be utter shit. I don’t say that very often about games, but Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified warrants it, more so than any other game in recent memory, even more so than the abysmal 007: Legends, which in comparison to Black Ops Declassified, it looks like gold.
Ridge Racer Vita, another turd. Avoid at all costs, even if somebody offers to buy it for you, they obviously hate you and you should sever all ties with that person. It’s rubbish and is little more than an expensive demo. If it’s a racer you want, go for Need for Speed: Most Wanted, trust me.
All the Lego games for the PS Vita. Basically, this is on principle more than anything. The PS Vita is more than capable of running the console versions of the Lego games, Lego Harry Potter: Years 5-7, Lego Batman 2: DC Superheroes and Lego Lord of the Rings.
Instead of getting the high quality we all expected, the scum who make the games opted to just port the lower quality Nintendo 3DS versions to the PS Vita, albeit with “nicer” graphics and a few tacked on touchscreen features. Avoid at all cost, they are a complete rip off and the company behind the games, Travellers Tales, are dishonest bastards. Let me tell you, I bought Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes, downloaded from the PS Store, got about 30 minutes into it and kept hitting a glitch which caused the game to freeze and had to restart the console. After emailing the developer I was told, basically: tough shit. I’m not joking, I even rang them up to complain at the lack of support and I was told if I don’t like it, buy the console version, but when I tried to stress the point that the product didn’t work I got hung up on. So if you can, avoid this lot. Wow, what a rant. Sorry, back to the PS Vita…
So, as you can expect with any console there are games that are crap, the PS Vita is no exception, but it’s looking like there are more great ones on the way.
Take Killzone: Mercenary as an example. It’s coming later this year, September 17th to be precise. What’s more is it looks fantastic. The recent gameplay video released by the developer this week makes Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified look like a crappy PS2 game in comparison. It’s not the only one coming, there’s Tearaway, an unconventional adventure game from the people who brought us LittleBigPlanet, Sly Cooper: Thieves In Time and much more that just hasn’t been announced yet.
Speaking of games that haven’t been announced yet, what about the developers we know who have pledged support for the PS Vita? Rockstar is the one I’m talking about, they were on the list of developers who are developing for the console, and if I’m right, I reckon there’s a Grand Theft Auto title coming for the PS Vita. Maybe not GTA V itself, but maybe an ‘Episodes’ games, much like the ones that released on the PSP. I remain confident that any GTA game that Rockstar release for the PS Vita will be, without any shadow of a doubt, amazing. So we have a lot to look forward to, in the mean time, there’s enough games to keep you occupied until more get released.
I am of course, referring to the large collection of PSP titles and PS One Classics that are available for fair prices on the Playstation Store. Everything from the original Spyro games to Final Fantasy, Metal Gear Solid and Crash Bandicoot, all of which will cost you less than the price of a McDonalds meal (lasts longer too.) Yeah they may not make the most of the PS Vita’s lovely 5 inch screen, but they look a damn sight better on it than on a TV, trust me. Try playing Crash Bandicoot on your 42 inch TV without feeling sick with the massive blocky pixels jumping all over the place. At least on the PS Vita they look a lot smoother than they ever did on the Playstation 1 or the PSP…
That’s games just about covered, nearly. Playstation Plus, in case you didn’t already know is Sony’s subscription based online service, kind of like Xbox Live Gold, except they aren’t ripping you off and shoving adverts down your throat.
Playstation Plus is the best thing that happened to this generation of consoles, a truly remarkable phenomenon where, get this, you pay some money and, here’s the kicker, you actually get something back. It may sound crazy, I know, but it’s just like how the old days used to be. Pay a fee, get a product. It may seem like I’m holding a grudge against the Xbox 360 and its online service, because to be quite honest, I am. After having had Xbox Live Gold just to play online, I became very aware that my money could be better spend elsewhere whilst I play for free on the Playstation 3. I’m not going off course here, not much anyway, because it’s still relevant to the PS Vita. The same philosophy of paying a fee and getting something in return is just as well implemented on the PS Vita as it is on the Playstation 3.
Online play is free, providing you don’t need a network pass for whichever game your playing. It’s easy too, just connect to your WiFi and you’re ready to go, easy as you could wish for. Getting online brings you a whole host of new possibilities, including the Playstation Plus service.
The service was only added to the PS Vita at the back-end of 2012, but already it’s a blazing success with myself and other PS Vita enthusiasts being more than happy at what’s on offer. So far, this is for the UK and Europe by the way, my £39.99 1 year subscription has already paid for itself in the games I’ve gotten for free with the service. Check out the massive savings I’ve made so far:
Uncharted: Golden Abyss – Free with PS Plus – £35 New in shops.
Wipeout 2048 – Free with PS Plus – £30 New in shops.
Gravity Rush – Free with PS Plus – £30 new in shops.
Mortal Kombat Vita – Free with PS Plus – £30 new in shops.
Jet Set Radio – Free with PS Plus – £6.49 on PS Store
The above games are just a snapshot of what I’ve managed to get for my moneys worth, well over £100 worth of goodies, plus the other ones that I just can’t remember off the top of my head, plus the discounts on other digital downloads, all in all, I’d say I’ve probably managed to get at least £170 worth of savings for my £39.99.
Of course not all the games made available will be to everybody’s taste, for me Jet Set Radio was a waste of time and effort, I’ve no interest in roller blading or graffiti, but it was worth trying it out, it was free of course. Updated every month with new games and freebies as well as discounts, it makes you feel a tad sorry for the people who are handing over their hard-earned cash to Microsoft just to play online or use Netflix. Value? You get it by the bucket load with PS Plus.
The one downside I’ve come across is there can be too much. Yes, too much. Though it’s mainly down to me not getting a larger memory card, but I’m often at odds with myself deliberating which game should be deleted to make room for a new one. I hate having to do it, but there is no chance in hell I’m paying more than £50 for a 32GB memory card, I strongly recommend against it until the price come down to a more reasonable level. It’s frustrating that Sony have decided to go with propriety memory rather than allow normal Micro SD memory cards which are conveniently cheap enough and have enjoyed widespread use across digital cameras and mobile phones. Suppose we’ll just to have grin and bear it in the mean time. If you really are desperate for a bigger memory card though, I’d go second-hand and scour eBay and Amazon for cheaper deals.
So there you have it. The PS Vita. It’s a remarkable machine and more than justifies it’s asking price, £200 for this is, quite frankly a bargain. When you look at all the things it can do, then you compare it against a high-end tablet PC like an iPad, it’s not hard to work out which customer is getting the better deal. Of course games are going to be more expensive for the PS Vita, that’s because they are real, proper games. Not crappy rip off’s like N.O.V.A or Modern Combat, but real games from big studios and AAA franchises, the likes of Assassin’s Creed, Uncharted, LittleBigPlanet, Need for Speed, Fifa and more.
Just ask yourself, what would you rather do: Pay £600 for an iPad to play free/cheap mediocre games, games which rarely have anything in the way of substance or story, or pay £200 for a PS Vita and play more expensive games that are full of character, story, physical controls, online multiplayer, fantastic graphics and much more.
The smartest among you will be able to do the maths very quickly and will come to the same conclusion as me: it’s a no brainer.
The PS Vita isn’t even that expensive any more. Buying a brand new one will set you back a few pounds, but you can get one used in good condition on Amazon for less than £150. My mate got one from Amazon, £160 with a game included by the seller, described as good condition. When it arrived it still has the screen protector on and the only damage visible was to the actual PS Vita retail box. Not all sellers will be this good, but for less than the price of an actual home console, but with the home console experience, you can’t go wrong.
I think I’ll leave it there, this has dragged on for more than 4300 words and my fingers are starting to bleed.
Have I managed to change your opinion of the PS Vita? Or do you still hold a bias against Sony and flat-out refuse to buy anything from them, simply because you have an Xbox 360 under your TV? Let me know in the comments whether you’re going to at least look into getting one, I’d like to know what you think!
In fact, if you actually go and buy a Playstation Vita after reading this article, send me a picture with you and your PS Vita with a bit of paper addressing The Games Cabin to The Games Cabin Facebook page (here) and I’ll work something out to get a FREE game your way. Yeah, a free game. Even we’re better than Microsoft…
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