Though we've heard a lot about Sony's "NGP" in the months leading up to E3, the conference finally gave us two very important things: time to spend with the device hands-on, and a proper name for the device. Say hello to the PlayStation Vita. I'll be the first to admit that I wasn't initially impressed with the name, but like all terrible gaming names (I'm looking at you, Wii and Kinect), I'm sure it'll grow on me.
The PlayStation Vita is definitely an impressive piece of hardware, and while it isn't going to revolutionize the PlayStation experience, if you are looking for high-quality portable gaming that mirrors a console experience (with a few interesting tweaks), the Vita is going to deliver the best experience anywhere.
When we held the Vita for the first time, we were struck immediately by how large it was. Its dimensions are easily much greater than that of the PSP-1000 model. However, it is not heavy, and though it will not fit in most pockets comfortably, it is easy to hold and your arms won't get tired after playing with it for hours.
The button layout is nearly identical to the regular PSP with the addition of the twin thumbsticks. The small analog nub has been replaced with beefier thumbsticks that are much easier to manipulate and feel a lot more precise. The front and reach touchpads are incredibly responsive, and from the demos we were able to check out, both touchpads are remarkably precise. Touching and swiping elements on the screen feels seamless, and the experience is remarkably like that would get playing a game on an iPhone. And since touchscreen games seem to be where the industry is headed, that is certainly a good thing.
One feature that hasn't been talked about as much is the gyroscope feature. However, despite not being a focal point for the system, it works extremely well. We demoed a game called Gravity that uses the motion controls to help you navigate around a three-dimensional world where you are the master of your own gravity. Moving around with the gyroscope and aiming our character with motion controls felt natural, and I hope that developers use this feature in more titles in the future.
Though the hardware was certainly impressive (and extra shiny to boot), what I came away most impressed with was the near-console experience that the Vita is able to deliver. Though you might have seen the incredible visuals that Uncharted on the Vita is able to deliver during the press conference, nothing compares to actually seeing the visuals for yourself. The graphical power in the Vita is truly an impressive thing, and witnessing near-PS3 quality graphics on a handheld system is something that I must say I wasn't fully expecting. And while it is unrealistic to think that all games on the Vita will have this level of detail, everything that we saw was presented with a level of detail that is unprecedented in the handheld world.
Much of that is probably thanks to the ultra-bright five-inch OLED screen. Though the PSP had a very nice screen, it couldn't deliver the type of resolution that console gamers have become used to. But the new screen on the Vita is certainly vibrant, and displays incredibly sharp animation, vivid colors, and rich textures with zero lag. The Vita's touchscreens, dual cameras, and gyroscope are certainly great features, but the Vita's high-resolution display is what will sell most gamers on the system.
The PlayStation Vita is a system that will cater to a certain type of gamer. If you like high-end games that mirror what you can get on a console, then the Vita will finally take handheld gaming to a level that is on par with what you would expect from your PlayStation 3. Though no Sony reps wanted to discuss whether the Vita's power was equivalent with the PlayStation 3 (or close to it), the experience is close enough that we really couldn't tell, which is telling enough by itself. With amazing graphics and plenty of gameplay possibilities (including confirmed AR support), the Vita is a handheld in a class by itself. It is scheduled to be released this holiday season, and will have two models: a wi-fi only model retailing for $250 and a 3G/wi-fi model that will be $300 (plus an unannounced service fee for the AT&T 3G service). We should have plenty of impressions of the Vita's game library coming soon, so stay tuned for our continued E3 coverage.
By Amanda L. Kondolojy
CCC Senior Contributing Writer
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*