LOS ANGELES - Sony announced that their new handheld gaming console, previously called the NGP, is officially named the Sony PS Vita. At a Sony press conference for the E3 gaming expo, we got a chance to play with it.
First, we asked Sony representatives about the rumors that the PS Vita is more powerful than the PlayStation 3. Sony reps wouldn't confirm the specs, but a representative told TechNewsDaily that the Vita is "about on par" with the PS3 in power, which is impressive indeed for a handheld gaming system.
We didn't get to test the PS Vita's horsepower extensively, but we did play "Uncharted: Golden Abyss," which is part of the "Uncharted" franchise from the PS3. "Uncharted 2" looked amazing on the PS3, and we can say with confidence that the PS Vita version looks just as good.
Part of that has to do with the 5-inch OLED screen, which is bright, vibrant and very sharp. Colors pop and movement is smooth. There was certainly no lag even though the game is a hefty load for mobile graphics processors.
One of the most interesting new features is the touch capability of the OLED screen. It completely changes how games can be played. For instance, in the "Uncharted" game, you can use the traditional analog stick control s, or you can touch to direct the character and carry out actions. While this wasn't very useful in combat, it's great for traversing terrain when the character is climbing. Simply swipe along the path you w
ant to go, and the character does its best to follow it.
There's also a touch-sensitive pad on the back of the device, nearly as big as the screen on the front. This introduces some interesting new game mechanics and allows you to use a touch interface without obscuring the screen with your hand. However, the feature seems to be a little underused by games so far.
There are also front- and rear-facing cameras on the PS Vita. Aside from the obvious image and video chat features, the cameras also make it possible to have augmented reality apps and games. We played "Little Deviants," which has a mini-game that appears to have characters zooming around the room you're in. Instead of using the controls to navigate, you must move the entire device around to target. The camera and accelerometer can track the device's position and display the onscreen characters accordingly. It's slightly gimmicky, but it's also immersive and entertaining.
The hardware design of the PS Vita is sleek and reminiscent of the PlayStation Portable that preceded it. It's surprisingly light, making it easy to support and carry around. And the internal hardware makes all interactions snappy. The touch screens in front and rear are both highly responsive, and the interface never experienced any lag.
Overall, the PS Vita is a very impressive device. If developers can make enough games that take advantage of the many features in the Vita, it will be quite a good competitor to Nintendo's 3DS.