Everyone's dying to get their hands on Sony's new handheld and E3 2011 was the place to do it. Grilled beef sandwiches, hot dogs, tater tots, open bars, blaring music and one extremely long queue, it simply goes to show just how much excitement and anticipation there is for the PlayStation Vita, despite complaints about the device's official designation. We were there, we have the stickers that prove we "Touched It," so here is GamingUnion.net's first impressions of Sony's new portable gaming device.
The first noticeable aspect is that the Vita is surprisingly light, even with the device tethered to a podium. It's only slightly larger than the PSP and fits rather snugly in the palm of our hands - I will admit that it took some time to step away from my PSP "finger-hook" grip. Despite its light weight, the Vita still felt reasonably sturdy. We've poked it, jabbed it, shook it, you name it. Outside of literally punching the device, the Vita is quite a well designed piece of hardware. Buttons are ergonomic and exactly where you expect them to be; the touchscreen is really responsive, as is the rear touchpad; the 5 inch OLED screen is outstanding and the dual analog sticks, despite being smaller than they look, work pretty darn well. Sony's also gotten rid of their signature PlayStation gloss surface and replaced it with a nice matte one - now you won't have to worry about smudging the surface with finger prints.
So how about the software lineup? Games on the show floor included the likes of Uncharted: Golden Abyss, LittleBigPlanet, Virtua Tennis, Little Deviants and Sound Shapes. We won't go into details here, but each title incorporated the many facets that the Vita offers like touch controls, built-in cameras, six-axis sensors (3-axis gyroscope, 3-axis accelerometer) and more. Needless to say, they all looked great, especially Uncharted: Golden Abyss and LittleBigPlanet. Let's not forget about third party support either, including Bioshock Infinite from Irrational and Street Fighter x Tekken from Capcom and Namco Bandai.
More importantly, we also experienced CrossPlay, a feature that pits players on the Vita against players on the PS3 in a competitive online space. Our Editor-in-Chief took on Sony Studio Liverpool Technical Director Dr. Stuart Lovegrove in a CrossPlay between WipEout HD/Fury on PS3 and 2048 on Vita. He got his arse handed to him by the Doc of course, but more importantly, there was no lag or disturbance when playing through CrossPlay, be it with HD/Fury on the PS3 or 2048 on the Vita. Not to mention, 2048 looks absolutely gorgeous on the 5 inch OLED screen. Other potential titles to feature CrossPlay include the likes of Uncharted: Golden Abyss, ModNation Racers and LittleBigPlanet - they are still pending final confirmation, but it's a start and gives you a good idea on what to expect.
Another interesting feature that the Vita offers is the concept of game continuity from handheld to home console and back again. Ruin showcased this feature with ease. We weren't entirely sure what had happened when Sony moved gameplay from Vita to PS3, it seemed surprisingly seamless and intuitive.
The real kicker is the $249 price point. Many were surprised that the entry-level model matched the 3DS in price while the 3G model runs at only $50 more. Even so, considering all of the new features, there really is quite a bit of value for your dollars, especially when Nintendo is capable of getting away with a $249 price tag on the 3DS. While the device isn't out until the end of the year, it's easy to see that Sony have managed to convince many that the Vita is a serious competitor in the handheld market, offering many features and services akin to smartphones, as well as an impressive software lineup worthy of brandishing the PlayStation brand.
Stay tuned as we pump out more hands-on previews of the Vita titles on show this year.