A TV model in need of tun­ing


FThe launch of PlaySta­tion TV and on­go­ing DriveClub is­sues re­veal some old prob­lems lin­ger­ing at Sony

or its Ja­panese re­lease last year, it was branded as PS Vita TV, and no won­der. What ar­rives in the west bear­ing the more mass­mar­ket name PlaySta­tion TV is clearly a Vita in slen­der cloth­ing, with the same OS, menus and Home screen mu­sic. Yet where Vita it­self is large by hand­held stan­dards – more showy hard­ware de­sign from a company fa­mous for it – PSTV is almost amus­ingly small. Mea­sur­ing a mere 6x10cm, it’s just tall enough for the rear to ac­com­mo­date an Eth­er­net cable, an HDMI cable, USB drive and Vita mem­ory card, plus the power sup­ply. On the side sits a slot for card-based Vita games. It was the head­line fea­ture for a de­vice that launched in Ja­pan four months be­fore PS4, but PSTV’s role in the west is very dif­fer­ent. The £85 de­vice forms a third pil­lar of Sony’s gaming strat­egy that, on pa­per at least, is ripe with po­ten­tial: a low-cost My First PlaySta­tion that launches with a vast li­brary of games from across Sony’s two decades in the videogame business.

Cur­rently, the big sell­ing point is Re­mote Play, al­low­ing stream­ing of PS4 games over a lo­cal net­work or the In­ter­net. It’s never been per­fect, but its flaws have been eas­ier to for­give given the thrill of play­ing a PS3 game on the move, us­ing a de­vice with an OLED screen that does a fine job of tidy­ing up vari­able video data. On PSTV, things are dif­fer­ent: you’re play­ing on a big screen, al­beit one in the bed­room, and games are cut back from their full splen­dour, capped at 720p and 30 frames per sec­ond. In our tests, even with both PS4 and PSTV wired into a home net­work as per Sony’s rec­om­men­da­tion, enough in­put la­tency was in­tro­duced to ren­der Des­tiny and Sleep­ing Dogs: De­fin­i­tive Edi­tion un­com­fort­able, if not un­playable, with arte­fact­ing sul­ly­ing busier mo­ments. Our hopes that things would im­prove when run­ning a less graph­i­cally in­ten­sive game were dashed when Rogue Legacy per­formed sim­i­larly.

Luck­ily, a Cross Play-en­abled Vita ver­sion of that game ex­ists, and when thought of as a Vita with HDMI out and support for Dual­Shocks 3 and 4, PSTV makes more sense. The sys­tem up­scales from Vita’s 960x544 res­o­lu­tion to a max­i­mum of 1080i, and while the scaler isn’t best in class, it doesn’t di­min­ish the sat­is­fac­tion of play­ing on an HDTV and a sofa games de­signed for a five-inch screen. The thought of con­tin­u­ing the com­mute’s Per­sona 4 Golden run on the big screen of an evening is an en­tic­ing one, as is play­ing a game ill-suited to

On a big screen, games are cut back from their full splen­dour, capped at 720p and 30 frames per sec­ond

Vita’s small screen and ana­logue sticks – a shooter, say – on a big­ger dis­play and with a DualShock in your hands. If only we could. Per­sona 4 Golden was one of the few games that ac­tu­ally ran dur­ing our test, with PSTV’s lack of touch­screen support sound­ing the death knell for a chunk of the Vita cat­a­logue. While we didn’t ex­pect to be able to play Tear­away and other games built around Vita’s swollen fea­ture­set, nor did we ex­pect er­ror mes­sages when try­ing to load first­party big-hit­ters such as Grav­ity Rush or Un­charted: Golden Abyss.

Even games that use the touch­screen in su­per­flu­ous, op­tional ways fall foul of this lim­i­ta­tion. If you want to play Lumines: Elec­tronic Sym­phony or Every­body’s Golf: World Tour, you’re out of luck. Street Fighter X Tekken, which lets you map spe­cial-move in­puts and but­ton com­bos to quad­rants of the front touch­screen and rear panel, but is per­fectly playable with tra­di­tional sticks and but­tons, is another that sim­ply re­fuses to load. While some newer games have been made func­tional by patches, older games have been ig­nored. Of the 11 games avail­able at Vita’s UK launch in Fe­bru­ary 2012, only one, Evo­lu­tion Stu­dios’ Mo­torS­torm RC, works. Six of the cur­rent top ten sell­ers on Ama­zon are sup­ported, which still doesn’t feel like enough. For­tu­nately, Sony has se­cured support for what might be the only game that mat­ters.

PSTV’s po­ten­tial as a Minecraft box could be crit­i­cal. It is the most popular game go­ing with the de­mo­graphic at which PSTV is aimed, and at un­der £100 for the sys­tem and a down­load copy of the game, it of­fers the cheap­est route

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