I recently had the opportunity to go into good old London, to visit Playstation’s Vita Rooms: a pop up store dedicated to get people interested in the new handheld before its release this week. Did this joyous, oddly placed event convince me, the most critical of critics? You bet it did. Here’s the first of two articles, about the actual console.
The console itself was fantastic. I had already briefly used it at Eurogamer Expo last year, but this was my first long session with the gorgeous machine. And gorgeous it is. The console has been designed beautifully, with a sleek form factor to rival even the best of Apple’s products. And that screen … I’ll go into more detail on that later, but it takes up most of the space on the device, and that just augments the feeling of complete and utter delight you get when your eyes set upon the Vita. It is way better looking than the PSP, that’s for sure.
Perhaps more importantly, it’s lightweight. It didn’t hurt my hands to hold it up for ages. When I first picked it up I was actually surprised by how light it was, especially for something so big. And it’s definitely big, but that’s not necessarily a downside. Holding it at an average gaming distance means that the screen practically fills your view, making everything more immersive.
Now, that screen. It’s amazing. Crisp and bright, it is easily the best screen on a handheld. Ever. And that’s pretty impressive. I’d even say that the display bests my iPhone’s Retina Display. It’s just great. I also think that the brightness of the screen will make the console playable outdoors with ease, but I can’t confirm that. Better yet, the touchscreen is incredibly responsive. Not once did I have to repeatedly tap to get it to do something. It worked beautifully.
The console felt really comfortable to hold. The joysticks are exactly that: joysticks, as opposed to the nubs previously seen on handhelds. That makes moving them all the better, although a tad more resistance would have been nice. They were perfectly positioned on the device: close enough to the screen, yet within easy reach of the face buttons. Speaking of which, the face buttons are also great. They look tiny, but I found them really easy to press precisely. Could just be me, but there you go.
The strangest addition to the hardware: a rear touchpad. It was pretty good. It did feel a bit unnatural to use, but I can imagine that in a normal environment, where the Vita isn’t chained to a stand, it will be fine. It did surprise me that it was shiny though: the images had given me the impression it was matte. Your finger was met with a lot less friction than I expected, but this wasn’t a big issue.
Hardware-wise, the console is great. I didn’t really use the cameras, as they’re not exactly essential to gaming, but I’m sure that they’re good enough. A brief use in an AR game all but confirmed that to me.
I didn’t get ages to play with this, but it was really intuitive. You can peel an app (really hard to explain) to close it, as if you’re turning a page. A very nice feature indeed. If you press the PS button a couple times, you quickly get to the full list of apps, arranged in a very Apple-esque style. From here it’s very easy to launch anything. So, from my first impressions, the Vita will be very easy to use.
That’s it for the actual console. I really recommend buying one, based on the hardware alone, as it is a truly spectacular device. However, they say that games make or break consoles. Look for my next article, in which I give detailed impressions on almost everything in the Vita’s launch lineup.