Now that the staff has had a chance to put Sony’s new handheld device through its paces, what does it think? 

Sebastian Haley, Reviews Editor
The more I play the PlayStation Vita, the less I like it. It’s unfortunate to say that, as I fully acknowledge that the Vita is the most technologically advanced portable gaming device in the world. It’s truly a work of silicon art and corrects a lot of the mistakes made by Sony’s own PlayStation 3 (while making a few all-new ones). On that level alone, I would be satisfied. But that’s not all Sony promised, is it? It had to go one step further and implement a lot of questionable, yet potentially interesting, gimmicks. And so, one would expect the system to live up to that flaunted potential. That’s where the disappointment begins….

Whether it’s the obnoxious motion-controlled aiming in Uncharted: Golden Abyss, the awkward implementation of the rear touchpad in Super Stardust Delta and FIFA Soccer, or the mundane minigames in Little Deviants, the Vita-exclusive features don’t add anything to these experiences. Rather, they detract from them. The Vita’s highly touted gimmicks actually make games worse. What Sony doesn’t understand is that we don’t want the Nintendo-ized version of Uncharted. And, if we wanted to play crappy iPhone games, we’d do so on our iPhones. The Vita had the promise to be something else — something more.

Luckily, almost every game’s Vita-exclusive functionality can be toggled off, making it entirely optional. Roughly half of the launch titles simply ignore these gimmicks altogether, and those tend to be the ones I enjoyed most. Rayman Origins and BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Extend, for example, are super-sharp ports of excellent, gimmick-free games that I can now take anywhere and enjoy on a beautiful high-resolution OLED touchscreen. The Trophy support is also a nice touch.

I’ve now played every launch title, each for a couple hours minimum, but quite a bit more in some cases. I take it with me everywhere, usually just to discover other nearby Vita owners and see if they have any gifts for me (I’m very materialistic). While I am enjoying some of the games, the Vita overall is pretty hit-and-miss. There’s not a single title that uses the handheld to its full potential. I’m left wondering not only if there ever will be, but also if certain features like the rear touchpad have a place in video games to begin with, and I cringe at the idea of watching developers struggle to shoe-horn it into Vita games over the next few years, just as they did–and continue to do–with the Wiimote.

Nick Akerman, Reviewer
I’m worried for the PlayStation Vita. If early indications are anything to go by, Sony’s newest handheld doesn’t know its own identity. First impressions are vital, and right now, the hardware fails to carve out a niche that promotes it as an unmissable investment for consumers. In many ways, Vita is stuck in limbo. If Sony and its developers don’t do something special, you can bet your right analog stick it wont absolve for the PlayStation Portable’s sins.

Sony already has experience in mobile gaming and overpricing players for a shallow experience. Uncharted: Golden Abyss sets a dangerous precedent for Vita. The system doesn’t only simplify the series, it alienates the fans who followed it to success. As the handheld’s first major title, it raises a number of concerns. Can we really expect an original console experience from Vita? If Drake’s outing is anything to go by, Sony’s new hardware will provide the gaming giants with a number of substantial problems.

Vita must be questioned while the handheld remains an infant. If we don’t, progression will never happen. Sony unveiled a system that packs plenty of bells and whistles, but if you listen carefully, it still sings the same tune. In order to establish itself amongst a fiercely competitive market, Vita needs to work out its main selling point. So far, a plethora of counterfeit ideas leave the system’s credentials unfavorably poised. Sony has already turned Drake’s hair gray before his time, and it’s important players aren’t left at arm’s reach for much longer.

James Pikover, Contributor
The Vita is an extraordinary piece of hardware in almost every way. The display is the best, plain and simple. The controls are wonderfully built. The overall design is large but very pleasant and definitely worth carrying around. The problem, as Sony has found time and time again, is the software.

LiveArea is a mess. There are so many apps that it’s like the Vita ships with bloatware. Even with exceptional, state-of-the-art hardware, the Internet browser and Google Maps are slower than dumbphones from years back. And getting media onto the Vita is the saddest attempt at content management I’ve ever seen.

The good news is, nearly every major problem can be address through firmware updates. How long it’ll take to actually fix them is anyone’s guess. Until then, the Vita is still a badass video game console.

Dean Takahashi, Lead Writer
With 17 ways to control a game, the Vita is a wonderful piece of hardware that developers are only beginning to learn how to exploit. It makes it possible to do shooters on a handheld with greater precision in aiming than has been possible before. Uncharted: Golden Abyss shows what is possible with controls such as tilt-based precision aiming and screen-tapping for grenade tosses, but the execution is still lacking. If developers truly figure out how to do shooters on the Vita, that will be a differentiator.

The graphics are great, the audio is crisp, and the analog sticks enable rapid movement. It has all the makings of a great hardware platform for games.

Dan “Shoe” Hsu, Editor-in-Chief
I love how the Vita feels in my hands: solid, rugged, and a lot more comfortable than the PSP. It’ll be hard to go back to the 3DS after this. I want the built-in dual-analog sticks and the big, hi-res screen.

But I just can’t picture a scenario where the PS Vita has huge success in this market. As much as I like the physical device, I just know mine will be sharing dust-collecting duties with the 3DS within two or three months. Why? The iPhone. The dual-analog-less, tiny-screen iPhone. Forget about email, web surfing, GPS, or…well, the actual phone bit. Just looking at it as a gaming machine, the iPhone still wins with its huge library of cheap, readily accessible games. And whatever long-term developer support the Vita will get, it’ll never come close to what Apple’s baby is garnering.

That’s just too bad. ‘Cause I love them sticks and that screen.

Dan Hsu image via