PLAYSTATION VITA LAUNCH

PlayStation Vita Launch
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PLAYSTATION VITA LAUNCH



Written by Chris Price
19 Monday 19th December 2011

The original PSP succeeded in providing the gamer on the go with faithful next generation franchises in their hand. PS Vita is continuing this precedent, while bolting on two more contemporary elements of portable technology – utility and casual entertainment. And although Sony (like the rest of the world) are now wretchedly complicit in dancing to Apple’s tune, the Playstation’s heritage is evidently front of mind – PS Vita is for the gamer – but it’s positioning itself as being for all gamers – whether you want a 15 minute time waster, or a 15 hour journey through another world.

Physically, it’s a surprisingly light and comfortable unit, bigger than the originally PSP with its new low consumption, super-bright 5-inch organic LED taking the lions share of its facia. Now dual-thumbsticks straddle the screen, arranged around the iconic Playstation buttons, and left and right triggers. The generous space afforded by the larger screen means that thumbsticks and front buttons rarely clash, and the clawing of thumbs in no longer necessary if you have larger hands.

PS Vita incorporates both a front touch screen and a reverse touch pad, in addition to pointed gyroscopic controls, making it feel more like a malleable object rather than a screen and buttons. Developers have kept the touch screen interface front of mind, comfortably melding with that critical gaming element of button input. Intuitive menu navigation via flicks and prods seem like second nature to anyone who’s ever used a smartphone.

But how this has spilled over into gameplay suggests some emphatic innovation on the horizon. Helping Nathan Drake to escape from a burning building in the PS Vita exclusive Uncharted: Golden Abyss requires using the thumb stick to locate your next foothold (under duress of buckling timber) and a tap to scale. Resistance: Burning Skies sees you flicking grenades at Chimeran footsoliders.

If these illustrate show how increased interactivity is going to expand on gaming, Reality Fighters glimpses at how the new front and reverse camera’s incorporate live video and facial scanning into a customisable brawler taking place within the real world through Vita’s viewfinder.  Although succumbing to the pitfalls of ambient lighting, it still provides a remarkable robust backdrop (where you physically need to follow the characters about their ring) for a pretty solid 2.5D fighting system with enough natty strike registration and fluid combinations to appease the most critical fight-fan.

Just like everything from vending machines to exercise bikes, Vita has full social networking capabilities too. Ported from a PS3 dashboard-alike and a comparative ‘Appstore’ - where Twitter and Facebook can be utilised but fully integrated to punt out your achievements, or screenshots of your finest moments. Near uses scans the local environment for people to join in games (with more range than the 3DS’ Streetpass). Party allows wireless video and text chat and the Live Area serves as an interactive portal for news and updates. PSN will also serve as a portal for digital delivery of games titles, something that was floated with PSP Go, but never remained buoyant. PSVita hasn’t yet shaken off the call of wider gifting audience to also deliver games as a physical product - a new closed format SIM-style  card.

One of the great achievements on display with PS Vita has been show to use is the portability and interaction with the PS3, allowing you to transport in-progress games with you, or utilise it as a controller. Both Motorstorm RC and WipEout 2048  were on display allowing for this. Capcom’s PS Vita update of Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 will allows external PSVita control. Skills can be honed in public, to be showcased at home on the PS3 with friends. This type of second screen play is a key differentiate of gaming consoles versus mobile handsets, and is something Nintendo’s new Wii U will be looking to utilise. Personally, I’ve always lamented piling hours in Tekken 6 on the PSP and then stumbling over the comparatively chunky Sixaxis pad on the PS3 version, so titles require nuanced timing and control such as the upcoming Vita editions of Ninja Gaiden, Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter X Tekken, will make a compelling argument for purchase.

The PlayStation Vita will come as a base model with Wi-Fi support for £229.99, and a more expensive model with built in 3G, supplied by Vodafone for £279.99. It’s a bold move to allow a dedicated mobile connection that doesn’t require vaulting roaming BT connection gates, but no word yet on data packages from Lewis Hamilton’s favourite mobile network.

Other titles on display were the likes of Littlebigplanet, The Michael Jackson Experience, Little Deviants, ModNation Racers, Everybody's Golf and pool-sim Hustle Kings which show considerable breadth of titles. Touch My Katamarishows a more hardcore level of fan service, a curious pastel ball-shoving epic which is perfectly pitched to take advantage of the twin-sticks. TheEscape Planwhile owing a debt of gratitude to Playdead’s macabre classic Limbo, showcases the back and front touch-pads physically pushing objects towards and away from yourself to allow safe pass of inky miscreants Laarg and Lil. Gravity Rush is a mesmerizing Japanese experience, where a small black cat twists gravity for a plucky heroine and allows you shift grounding to any flat structure, caught somewhere between Kiki’s Delivery Service and Inception.

With an opening window of nearly 40 PS Vita games including Fifa 12, F1 2011, Rayman Origins, Virtua Tennis 4 and Vita-versions of games such as Bioshock, Assassin's Creed andCall of Duty planned, the potential of Vita is certainly assured. Positioning itself as a coherent link between your home console and the internet, it’s a smart comfortable piece of kit that crucially makes ‘sense’ – with some envisaging this to be Sony’s final pure-gaming handheld, it seems that the PS Vita is intent on making an impact and being equally useful as it is entertaining – and on the basis of the few hours I spent in it’s company, there’s certainly plenty to be excited about and visible mileage – even if it does prove to be Playstation’s portable swansong.

 

PS Vita will be arriving in the UK on 22 February 2012.

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