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