Got some hands-on time with a PlayStation Vita unit today, and it was impressive. I had seen pictures, but this was the first opportunity I had to actually hold it, and I was struck by how much larger and thinner it was. Flatter, even. Although it resembles the original PSP, it doesn't feel like it at all.
The screen is literally a thing of beauty and I loved having two sticks even though it will get take some getting used to—the new one throws off my PSP muscle memory, and I kept hitting it on accident when I meant to hit X. The game I was playing took advantage of the front touchscreen and it functioned well, but it took a good two or three minutes before my brain could process that actually touching the screen did something. Learning curve, y'all.
The Vita was familiar, yet totally different at the same time. I asked the developer whose game I was playing what he thought of it, and he had nothing but raves. According to his estimation, it was only slightly less powerful than a standard PS3. It may be launching at a higher price point than the 3DS, but as long as Sony comes up with a good selection of games, it's going to be impossible to ignore the WOW factor. It is really, really impressive, no doubt about it. Another plus? No head-splitting headaches caused by 3D effects.
To be perfectly honest, I wasn't quite sure what to make of this. Visually, it's reminiscent of a cross between Monster Hunter and Demon's Souls, but it doesn't play like either one.
How the game works is that the player has a set character. I asked whether there were different classes available or how much weapon customization was included, but the rep at the booth did not know. This character then has two "helper" AI characters along for the ride. The d-pad gives them simple commands like "go", "come here", and so on. Combat feels like standard third-person action with an extra layer of commands to switch between melee and support weapon. (In this demo, a bow or a shield.)
From that point on, it seems as though each level is fairly linear with the player beginning at one end, cutting through groups of rabble along the way, and then eventually ending up at a boss at the end. I asked how open other levels were, and how much a role exploration plays, but again, the rep did not know.
The first section I saw had me face off against a giant gryphon in a field. My support characters kept calling out for me to do cooperative actions with them, but they were always too far away and I couldn't get to them in time. As I was struggling to understand how to cue these actions, the gryphon was tearing my party to shreds. Near death, I managed to grab a hold of the beast and climb onto its back. At that point, the controls shifted and I had absolutely no idea what was going on. Suffice it to say, that didn't end well.
The second section I played was underground in a series of caverns. After dispatching some minor creatures, I entered a larger area with a huge manticore laying in wait. This particular battle strongly reminded me of Monster Hunter, although with only a fraction of the depth. I was clumsily hacking away at the beast while my AI teammates were doing their own thing. We brought it down after what seemed like ten or fifteen minutes, and I have to admit that I was disappointed my character did not carve any skins or claws off of the carcass. This particular fight felt very mashy and unfocused.
To be fair to the game, I had precious little idea of what I was doing, but at the same time, I got the sense that the game was designed for a more casual breed of player than either Monster Hunter or Demon's Souls.
Out of the games I saw that Capcom's booth, this was definitely the biggest question mark. I had no idea at all what to expect, so I think the easiest way to explain how this game plays is to first, click this link. That's basically what the game is—hyper-cinematic scenes that the player engages in by shooting things with crosshairs or pushing the correct buttons during QTE events.
There was one very brief segment with the player controlling the main character in a third-person brawler fashion, but it was quite shallow and over in the blink of an eye. Based on what I saw in the demo, my impression was that this game is basically a slightly playable movie.
During the last three days of coverage, I haven't even scratched the surface of all of the smaller, indie games that I saw. I'm going to try to cover them all in one giant roundup tomorrow, so stay tuned.