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Vita – The PS4’s secret weapon

Vita – The PS4’s secret weapon

Okay, let’s get the first thing out of the way because you’re thinking it, we’re thinking that you’re thinking it and it’s making everything awkward between us. The ‘lack of games’ argument that’s been rattled out by forum warriors worldwide since Vita’s launch is no longer an issue with Vita.
_sony_Screenshots_19961Uncharted-P_Cliff-Opening_02aVita has a mixture of big triple-A titles (Uncharted: Golden Abyss, WipEout 2048, Metal Gear Solid HD Collection, LittleBigPlanet Vita), fresh IP (Gravity Rush, Soul Sacrifice) and indie darlings (Spelunky, Hotline Miami, Retro City Rampage). Tearaway was one of our favourite games at E3, even if it was mostly because the running animation is The Best Thing We’ve Ever Seen, and that’s joined on the upcoming list by Killzone: Mercenary, Puppeteer and Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate.

Another minor point, but worth considering, is that you can play PSone and PSP games on Vita, which means you have the likes of Resident Evil and Final Fantasy playable on your portable. It’s slightly restricted by the fact that the rearpad serves as the L2 and R2 buttons, which makes some PSone games that heavily rely on those controls borderline unplayable – Syphon Filter was hard enough to control back in the day, let alone when you’re trying to wrap your fingers around the rearpad like an octopus. Even so, the short version is that there are plenty of games to choose from.

More importantly, if you subscribe to PS Plus, you get a lot of Vita games for free. In recent months, the likes of Uncharted: Golden Abyss, WipEout 2048, Sine Mora, Limbo and BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Extend have been made available for free to PS Plus subscribers, so there’s a healthy dose of new games to play even if you aren’t going out of your way to buy any.

 

VITA + PS4 = WIN

But we’re not here to explain that. Like we said, we just wanted to make things less awkward because we’re awkward enough human beings as it is. No, we’re here to discuss why Vita is going to bolster PS4 and that begins with the other benefit of subscribing to PS Plus that isn’t quite as obvious as free games. PS Plus subscribers get the option of saving to the cloud. When saves are uploaded to the cloud, you can access them from anywhere in the world. What this means is that, for games that support Cross-Save, you can save your progress on PS3 and carry on from where you left off on Vita. For example, if you start playing Guacamelee on your PS3, you can upload your save to the cloud and play it the next day on your Vita when you’re busy at college, work and so on.

And cross is a word that will be very important to Vita and PS4. One of the biggest initiatives that has been kicked off in recent times is Cross-Buy, which lets PS3 owners of certain titles buy the Vita equivalent for a discount or even get it for free. For example, PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale owners who bought the PS3 edition could then unlock the Vita version without having to spend a penny more.

Even better than that, this ties into the Cross-Play initiative too, which allows players on both versions to play against each other. So, you can buy PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale on PS3, then get the Vita version for free, then have the two versions playing against or with each other online. Not too many games take advantage of this yet –PlayStation All-Stars, WipEout HD/2048, Dead Or Alive 5 and Street Fighter X Tekken are the only other standout titles that support Cross-Play – but expect Sony to go big on this for PlayStation 4.

 

STREAM PS4 GAMES

_sony_Screenshots_20621PS-Vita-Amphiseum2One big sign of what to expect in Vita’s future is Remote Play. Once set up, this lets you access your PS3 through your Vita and you can even play certain PS3 games this way, such as Tokyo Jungle. It’s a strange feeling browsing through your PS3 XMB through your Vita, but that’s what Remote Play allows you to do – useful if someone has taken over your TV to watch Eastenders or Glee or whatever nonsense.

The main problem with Remote Play right now is the crippling lag involved. Poking around the PS3 XMB on your Vita highlights the surprising amount of lag, while actually trying to play something is impossible. It seems to be more of an experiment for Sony to figure out the tech than an actual practical feature at the moment – the main hurdle is that the Cell SPU in PS3 wasn’t designed to support such a feature, and it shows. It’s something we expect will be fixed when Sony eventually rolls out Gaikai for PS4 and PS Vita, the streaming technology able to deliver games faster than your Remote Play can currently stream them to your Vita from your PS3. Even so, as a technology gimmick, it’s fun to play around with.

How will this tie into PS4’s future? As said, both PS4 and Vita will be able to stream PS3 games, meaning the amount of games for each will explode once Sony enables the option, but more importantly Sony will look to have Vita ‘playing’ PS4 games. Sony has made it mandatory for developers that all PS4 games have to support Vita Remote Play (the only exception being PS4 games that used the stereoscopic camera PS4 eye).

Sony Computer Entertainment boss Fergal Gara has explained that the video coder chip inside PS4 enables live broadcast of gameplay without putting any overhead on the CPU and GPU combo. Translated from moon language into English, this means that your gameplay can be broadcast without slowing the game down through frame-rate or performance. The end game is that you can play PS4 games through Remote Play on your Vita, and Sony has built PS4 with that in mind.

 

VITA VS SMARTGLASS

_sony_Screenshots_21426LBPV_Customize_02_LogoVita is also perfectly positioned to help PS4 counter one of Xbox One’s strengths. Apart from dribbling on about ‘the power of cloud’, as though anyone knows what that means, Microsoft has also been bigging up the SmartGlass aspect of Xbox One. SmartGlass is the free iOS app that Microsoft has released which will feature heavily in Xbox One titles – for example, you can call up enemy info in Ryse: Son Of Rome or call in airstrikes in Dead Rising 3.

There’s nothing to stop Sony doing the same thing with Vita – there could be small free releases of games or apps on the PS Store that serve the same function that SmartGlass compatibility will do for Xbox One games. The only real difference, as far as developers are concerned, is that SmartGlass will have a broader audience (those with smartphones) than Vita (those who have bought a Vita).

But, there’s a bigger difference between the two that puts the Vita at an advantage – it works as a controller too. Sony has recently been pushing forward the cross-controller capabilities of Vita with games like LittleBigPlanet 2 and Guacamelee, where you can control the action on your HDTV using your Vita. This means you’ll have touchpad and rearpad control possibilities for all releases and it figures to become even more important once PlayStation 4 is released.

THE FORGOTTEN VITA FEATURES

One of the most successful features of 3DS is Street Pass, which enables you to pick up avatars of nearby 3DS owners even if the portable is in sleep mode. These avatars then feed into various mini-games on the portable and the passive nature of it – you don’t have to be playing it to be nabbing avatars of fellow owners and the reward of playing these games meant you could unlock hats and clothes for your avatar. It was a smart system.

Vita attempted a semi-equivalent with Near, which was designed to be a location based ‘tracker’ telling you where nearby Vita owners are, what they’re playing and how to share game goods (small items unlocked by playing various games). There were several problems that meant Near was soon forgotten about – the UI was too complex, the game goods were pointless and the location data was only accurate for those using the 3G version of Vita, as Wi-Fi simply tells you the location of the ISP hotspot.

This could be changed with PS4’s release if Sony rethinks its Near strategy. It doesn’t need to bolster the game goods or change anything dramatically but, rather, it could use Near to flag up nearby players of Cross-Play games to help build a community. For example – play MotorStorm PS4 (if it happens) and if it supports Cross-Play, the Vita version of that could tell you which nearby players also have it, meaning that games against them aren’t going to be as laggy. We hope Sony thinks about revitalising it for its new console.

PS4 looks like it will be a brilliant console. Sony’s been ticking all the right boxes, developers have been singing its praises and it already has a huge PR lead over Xbox One. Vita is PS4’s secret weapon – while there has been some criticism over the fact that PS4 is ‘just another console’ that will look to crank up the visuals so every game has 10,000 GRAPHICS or whatever overeager marketing departments will shout, Vita can and will make PS4 games more interesting and exciting. It’s possible, given how important the integration between PS4 and Vita will become, that Sony may release a package that bundles the two together.




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