Playstation Vita: “Is The Best Device I’ve Ever Held In My Hands” [Editorial]

Last week me and my colleague Gary Swaby were invited to a private Vita event where Sony had playable demos of every first party launch game and a few other treats. As a diehard Playstation 3 fan I’ve been anticipating the Vita for an awfully long time but now that I’ve played it for a few hours my anticipation level is at an all time high. The Playstation Vita is without a doubt the best device that I’ve ever held in my hands. Better than any previous handheld, smartphone or tablet. With all the recent talk about Android and iOS devices taking over the handheld gaming market the Playstation Vita serves as a stark reminder that no phone can compete with a dedicated gaming handheld.

My iPhone is a cool platform to game on while I wait for the train but it never quiet manages to scratch my gaming itch like a console does. Not only can the Vita provide those experiences which I crave, the PSN Store will also allow for those quick fire games that currently destroy our iPhone’s battery life.

Sony are currently working to ensure that gamers of all types will have something to play when the Playstation Vita launches in February. Uncharted and Gravity Rush are there to serve the hardcore, Little Deviants and Reality Fighters are perfect for casual or younger gamers, Escape Plan and StarDust are for those who like a challenge, Motorstorm RC, Wipeout 2048 and Modnation Racers will keep racing fans happy and Everybody’s Golf, Hustle Kings and Top Darts are there to represent for sports enthusiasts.

Of course there will also be handful of third party games available on day one and although very few announcements have been made you can expect the likes of Ridge Racer, FIFA Football, Lego Harry Potter, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom, Michael Jackson: The Experience, Rayman Origins, Super Monkey Ball, Touch My Katamari and Virtua Tennis.

On the hardware front the Vita is both a gorgeous and a technical marvel. I’m not going to bore you (or myself) by going over the exact specs but graphically the system sits somewhere between the Xbox and the Xbox 360.  Initially I was disappointing that Sony ditched the Go design in favour of the original PSP’s layout but in the end they chose comfort over aesthetics and you can’t be mad at them for that. The device I played was tethered down so I wasn’t able to check if it could fit in my pocket but all signs point to “no”. With that said, I’m not sure if I’d want to carry a Vita around without a case anyway. The large display and raised analog sticks may make the system susceptible to damage if left to roam around freely in your pocket or bag.

The four face buttons are much smaller than I thought they would be but during my playtest their size never presented a problem. Both the touch screen and rear touch panel were extremely responsive and the Vita was able to handle augmented reality applications more eloquently than the 3DS can thanks to the Vita’s more conventional form factor. The analog sticks also felt great although I was a little disappointed that they don’t click in to provide L3/R3 inputs. Playing Super Stardust Delta demonstrated just how receptive the sticks are and I’m convinced that they will finally make great first person shooter possible on a handheld.

I didn’t get a chance to check out much of the system’s pre-installed features as our devices weren’t connected to Wifi but navigating through the menu’s using the touch screen felt intuitive and was extremely smooth. I was especially impressed with both the speed and design of the trophy application which absolutely embarrasses the PS3’s slow and cumbersome viewing process.

At $250/£229 for the Wifi model, the Playstation Vita is an absolute steal! I still haven’t had the chance to check out any the PS3 connectivity or online features but if all goes to plan I should have a Vita of my own before the year is over.

Stay tuned to The Koalition for more Vita impressions throughout the week, the system is due to hit stores in Europe and North America on February 22nd 2012.