Previews

PlayStation Vita: Everything you need to know

Hands-on with Sony's new handheld...

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POWER AND CONTROL
Uncharted's use of Vita's unique tech feels natural and instinctive, in contrast to any of the embarrassingly shoehorned-in Sixaxis stuff (Look! You can balance) seen in early PS3 games.

It's not just Uncharted. Take the mini-game assortment, Little Deviants. It's built around motion control and touch screen ideas, and one of the best adverts for the console's potential, whether it's simple tasks like guiding a drifting monster by tilting, or a whack-a-mole style game where you tap the front or rear touch pad to slap freaks depending on whether they're facing you or not. There's even an augmented reality shooter where you fight robots projected into the real
world via the rear camera's view. By moving the Vita you target and fight in 360 degrees. Simple, but exciting.

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CORE GAMING
There are lots of traditional games, if you're not fussed about motion or touch controls - plus, wisely, most of the new control methods are optional. Street Fighter X Tekken is a good example, and it looks (like most Vita games) every bit as good as the PS3 version. Even the really big names are on the way, with Ken Levine recently announcing a (promisingly exciting) incarnation of BioShock Infinite.

Vita comes in two models; a Wi-Fi-only version and a 3G network one. Things like browsing and multi-player obviously benefit here, but there are far cleverer ideas in the pipeline than simple deathmatches.

For example, the action-RPG Ruin is always connected. It lets you build your own dungeons, which other players can then invade and potentially loot while you go raiding theirs... and even if you're not playing, the game is still on, still evolving. Remote, cloud-based saves mean you can mix your time shamelessly and seamlessly between Vita and PS3 versions too, a feature shared by the upcoming Metal Gear and God of War HD reissues - a clever idea that means games aren't trapped on one console anymore.

Communication? Vita has two interesting ideas. First there's Party, a chat system that lets you talk to other players using the built in mic, even if you're in different games. The second link between machines is Near. This lets Vitas talk and swap Trophies, various game stats and even items, such as outfits or weapons. It works just as long as the other console is somewhere 'near' (See?).

It's an enticing package: a full-sized console that (almost) fits in the palm of your hand, with a full suite of traditional controls, plus touch and motion; a machine that's online but not just for multi-player, offering up-to-date communication and even Augmented Reality. And that screen.

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We caught up with Sony Europe CEO Andrew House at E3, who told us the £280 UK price listed on Amazon.com was 'pretty much where he predicted it would be', but couldn't confirm the release date - we're guessing early 2012, as part of a staggered global release. For the record, 'Vita' means life - and Sony hope to breathe it into the handheld market.

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