The mobile gaming landscape has undergone a seismic shift over the last decade. A market once thoroughly dominated by Nintendo has been besieged by smartphones, tablets and other devices capable of providing bite-sized experiences for gamers on the go.
While these newcomers to the portable gaming world offer affordable games geared toward the casual crowd, they simply can't replicate the type of gameplay experiences users are accustomed to getting from their home consoles. Even Nintendo, for all its success in the handheld gaming arena, has been unable to bridge the great divide that separates portable and console gaming.
That is what makes Sony's new PlayStation Vita a truly revolutionary gaming device.
Simply put, the Vita puts the power of a modern home console in your hands, delivering the same type of games that you'd expect to see on the PlayStation 3 no matter where you are. Any number of devices can let you play "Angry Birds," but only the Vita offers full console-quality experiences without the console.
The first thing you'll notice about the Vita is, without question, the gorgeous five-inch OLED touchscreen display. While the 960x544 resolution isn't technically high definition, you'd be hard-pressed to tell the difference. Colors are rich and vibrant, black levels are better than many LCD televisions, and everything is presented in razor-sharp detail. Whether it was the bright colors of "Rayman Origins" or the monochromatic stylings of "Escape Plan," the Vita does an amazing job of rendering breathtaking visuals. The only downside to the Vita's stunning screen is its highly reflective nature that makes playing the system outdoors difficult.
But the Vita does more than merely replicate console-quality graphics. It also allows for console-quality gaming experiences.
The Vita's dual analog sticks offer the same precision control that gamers have come to expect from modern controllers, making things like first-person shooters and action games feel right at home. The Vita also includes the standard PlayStation face buttons and two shoulder triggers, in addition to the front touchscreen and rear touchpad. Like the analog sticks, the buttons and triggers feel solid and responsive. Even the directional pad feels more sturdy than what was seen on the PlayStation Portable. Front and rear cameras and sixaxis motion controls add even more ways to play.
At first I was concerned about inadvertently hitting the rear touchscreen while using the Vita, but to my surprise that never happened. Holding the Vita was far less uncomfortable than I imagined it would be, though extended play sessions did cause some minor discomfort. From a purely aesthetic point of view, the Vita is a sleek, sexy piece of tech. Though it's made of plastic, the unit feels extremely solid and well-built. The Vita's battery is good for about 4-6 hours of nonstop gaming, but those numbers improve significantly when the system is used in real-world settings. The Vita drains next to no power when in sleep mode, and I was able to stretch a single charge over several days by placing the system in sleep mode when it wasn't in use or when I was driving to and from the office.
One of the most attractive features of the Vita is its ability to communicate with the PS3. Not only can you stream music and videos from your PS3 through the Vita, but cross-platform play allows Vita owners to compete against PS3 gamers. Cross-platform play only works with one title right now, "WipeOut 2048," but Sony has promised to add more titles in the future. Remote play is another intriguing feature of the Vita. The ability to play PS3 games through the Vita is certainly appealing, though "Killzone 3" is the only game revealed to allow remote play. Videos have surfaced showing users playing "Batman: Arkham City" and "Battlefield 3" via remote play on a hacked Vita, but Sony has yet to announce any specific plans to expand the library of compatible software.