Thursday, February 23, 2012

Playstation Vita

I received the Vita yesterday, and Eli 10.6 and I took it for a spin last night, in addition to me spending an hour or so with it today.

In short: phenomenal hardware, poor user experience. Please note, however, that I would rather have it this way than the reverse, if forced to choose.

Let's start with the hardware, which is absolutely beastly. The OLED screen is nothing short of stunning, and it's huge. Huge! The colors are stunning, the black levels are inky, and the screen is nothing short of an A+. Actually, it's an A++.

Sound? Same thing--excellent (and spectacular with headphones). A+.

Yes, some games (like Hot Shots) have shimmering textures and anti-aliasing. This, however, in no way indicates a limitation in the hardware, because Rayman Origins is simply jaw-dropping. Rayman is like watching an animated cartoon, and there is zero-aliasing--the image is downright creamy.

Certainly, Rayman Origins represents the single best display of graphics I've ever seen on any gaming system, and that covers a lot of gaming systems and a lot of years. Lumines also looks phenomenal, although that game is certainly much less taxing on the GPU.

I can't even imagine what watching a movie in HD would be like. Incredible, certainly, and I hope to find out at some point.

Those are the positives.

On the negative side, once again, Sony has butchered the user experience.

Let's start with the downright bizarre combination of touchscreen controls and button presses needed to navigate through menus. Look, either totally support touchscreen, or totally support navigation via the physical controls, or even do both-- but don't do it halfway for each. It's ridiculous to have to touch the screen, then press the button, then touch the screen--seriously, who do you guys have designing this shit? Sadists?

This OLED screen is so beautiful and I don't even want to touch it. I don't want fingerprints on it. But I have to touch it, because Sony makes me. I have two analog sticks, a four-way D-pad, four buttons, a start button, and a select button, but they FORCE me to touch the screen.


Then there's the standard Catch-22 element. We have a wireless router that, when you access the Internet for the first time, requires a password. No big deal. So I try to set up the wireless connection and it won't let me enter a password. Fine, I'll read the user manual. Hmm, it's online, and I can't access it until I do a system update. And I can do a system update--wait for it-- until I connect to the Internet.

So I connect the Vita to my PC via a USB cable. But the Vita tells me it's not connected unless I download and install a program to the PC, and I don't know about that unless I go to a troubleshooting menu and go through the options.

Why not just tell me the first time I try to connect, at the top, instead of burying the information? Nobody knows.

I did eventually take care of the technical issues, and once you've solved them, them don't look complicated in retrospect. But there are plenty of casual users without much computer knowledge who will be completely stymied by this, and it's totally unnecessary--just poor documentation and interface design on Sony's part. Plus, and this is even more stupid, any problems with the wireless connection and Sony's poor user help in fixing same prevent people from buying stuff that Sony is trying to sell them. Insane.

After connecting to PSN, I purchased ($8) and downloaded "Tales From Space: Mutant Blobs Attack", and it's also excellent. A bit of Katamari, a bit of 50s monster-movie, clever animation--it's very fun.

Would I recommend buying the Vita? Yes. Sure, there's the standard flagon of Sony shit attached, but there's no denying that it's a staggering piece of hardware, and its potential is undeniable.

I'll have updates on the user experience in a few weeks after we spend more time with the system.

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