Matt Greenop gets to grips with the PlayStation
Vita, Sony's latest hand-held gaming device.
When Sony first announced plans for a replacement for its
ageing PSP hand-held gaming console, it was easy to dismiss
it as a device that would struggle in the smartphone gaming
Then the pictures dropped, and it appeared to be nothing more
than a tarted-up PSP with rounded edges and the new moniker
But after having a couple of weeks of hands-on mobile gaming
fun, it's pretty clear Sony's got its eyes on a core gamer
market, rather than those content to play hours of Angry
Birds or, heaven forbid, Farmville on their
The Vita does appear to be a modernised PSP, but has a whole
lot more to offer, and though it does cover some of the same
ground that Android and iOS smartphones do when it comes to
gaming, it's the "real" games that will dictate how it sells.
The fact there are dual analog joysticks is a solid step in
the right direction - as anyone who tried playing EA's
terrible attempt at porting Battlefield to the
iPhone will attest.
The full complement of buttons - key to playability for
almost all decent games - added to the stunning 5" (12cm)
OLED touchscreen, and rear-mounted touchpad tucked away at
the Vita's rear, means it feels far more like something
that's designed to play games on, properly.
Six-axis controls a la PlayStation 3 seem effective,
shoulder-mounted L and R buttons allow for fairly complex
control schemes, and a single home button kills off games and
takes you, er, home, with a minimum of fuss.
Trying to use the touch screen while holding the Vita
normally is significantly less successful.
Smartphones, iPads and tablets are useful and all, but
they're primarily used for something else and gaming is
There are two versions of Vita - a Wi-Fi only version
available online at $449.99, and a Wi-Fi/3G version at
$539.99. Both these models sport front and rear-facing
cameras that are capable of shooting HD video.
It's finished in a tasteful combination of black and silver,
sitting in a surprisingly robust plasticky chassis, and
though it's not exactly small, it is light enough to use for
extended periods without wrists giving up the ghost.
It does beg for a carry case - between the screen, the two
diminutive joysticks and the slots for SIM cards and the 16GB
bundled memory cards, there's a reasonable chance of gadget
injury unless you're super-careful.
The device tested came pre-loaded with a bunch of games, some
old favourites reborn to show off the Vita's abilities, and a
few new ones cracking their way into the augmented reality
Graphically, games look fantastic, courtesy of the
966x544-pixel OLED display - not quite up to the superb
Retina Display on iPhone 4s, but better than Nintendo's DS
Like the PSP before it, ad-hoc networking gaming is well
catered for, and it's possible to take on your mates over
either Wi-Fi or 3G if your network and data cap allow.
Is the PS Vita worth the entry fee? If you're dedicated to
playing proper games properly, and own a PlayStation 3, it's
almost a must-have.
If you're happy planting virtual mung beans in
Farmville, then you'd be best served to stay there.