The queues for pretty much every big name console and PC game at Gamescom were huge, so if you wanted to check out a top title like Black Ops II, Resident Evil 6 or Dishonored, you needed to be patient. If you wanted a quicker gaming fix however, there were plenty of handheld machines dotted around the various halls, each set up to demonstrate an upcoming or recently released AAA title. I have already talked about the 3DS units on display at the Konami stand, displaying the rather great looking Castlevania Lords of Shadow: Mirror of Fate. There were far more Vita consoles available to check out though, with of course most of them being situated throughout Sony’s own stand in hall 7.
As well as being a great place to try out games like LittleBigPlanet Vita and MLB: The Show 2012, these Vita areas were also a nice place for a rest as most of them included some very comfortable beanbags to sit on whilst gaming. I made sure that I made full use of both the comfy seats and the handheld offerings as I bring you a round-up of the Vita games I played at Gamescom.
Firstly I was keen to check out Street Fighter X Tekken as I had heard good things about the Vita port and it seems to be a focus for Sony for this Fall/Holiday period. I picked up a unit innocently not realizing that it was all hooked up for ad hoc play and that a Sony rep would need to sit down and play the game against me. I just hoped he wasn’t too good. It turned out that he wasn’t and although he won the first round by the time I got used to the controls and blasted out a few dragon punches, the victory was mine. I did later manage to get some more time with the single player mode however and that was just as enjoyable.
The graphics looked wonderful on the Vita’s screen – really bright and colorful and with stacks of detail in the backgrounds. There was one or two slight stutters in the frame rate, but this should be ironed out before release. I played on a stage where dinosaurs were rampaging through deserted city streets and it all looked wonderful. I had previously played Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 on the Vita and Street Fighter X Tekken easily trumped it for looks. The tag battle system however does lead to some extremely lengthy bouts, so if you were looking for a quick 30 second battle you may be best off looking elsewhere. For tactics and gorgeous graphics however, definitely check out Street Fighter X Tekken when it launches later this year.
The next game on my list was the Vita version of Little Big Planet. I was a little worried about this one, bearing in mind it was another top PlayStation franchise that had been farmed out to a third-party for a Vita conversion. I needn’t have worried however as everything LBP seemed to be present and correct and the Vita specific controls work really well.
The demo started in the now familiar pod which you can decorate to your design as per the previous PS3 games. From there the player had the choice of several different demo levels. I tried out what seemed to the be the hardest and most lengthy one as it was last on the list and had a blast for the next 15 minutes or so. The game showed off a nice mixture of existing and brand new gameplay mechanics, specifically using the rear touch pad to move blocks forward and the front touch screen to press them back. In essence you found yourself constantly switching between the analogue stick and the touch screens (with some tilting thrown in for good measure) and it worked really well, perhaps more so than any Vita game so far as it actually felt tailored to the device. It all looked lovely as well, with absolutely no differences as far as I could make out between this version and its older brothers on PS3.
The last new game I played on the Vita was Assassins Creed III: Liberation, which unlike the other two was not located in the ‘beanbag area’ but rather in a booth located inside the main Sony enclosure, perhaps because of its more adult nature. I was expecting great things of this one, particularly after just playing Assassins Creed III on PS3, however I have to admit to feeling slightly let down at this early stage.
The main reason for my disappointment were the controls. Firstly I couldn’t work out how to invert my view which didn’t make for a good start to the demo as I was constantly fighting the setup. Even ignoring this though it all felt rather unnatural and just not intuitive at all in the way the console version was. Early on in the demo the player had to take control of a canoe (the game is set in Louisiana remember) and the controls for that were horrendous. Despite having the option of using either touch screen or physical buttons, neither method seemed to work properly and just seemed either over-sensitive or unresponsive.
The graphics were certainly serviceable but I couldn’t say they blew me away at any stage either. Perhaps this kind of title will always compare unfavorably with console releases whilst games like Little Big Planet, Super Mario Land 3D and PlayStation All-Stars look better on handheld. Despite that though, the demo level I played in Boston definitely seemed a lot sparser in terms of activity on the streets than the console games.
All in all I wasn’t too impressed with Assassins Creed III: Liberation, although again I hesitate to point out this was based on a limited demo with un-inverted controls. If they can improve the controls whilst making the game a bit more impressive visually I may well be interested, otherwise at the moment this seems to be going a similar way to Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified, a title which was ominously absent from the show in any capacity.
The Vita had a decent showing at Gamescom all in all. Sony certainly didn’t seem to want to hide the system away as they did at E3 and there are certainly some decent games coming our way on the system. I’m still a little confused that Puppeteer wasn’t announced as Vita exclusive as it would seem ideally suited to the system, but with the announcement of Cross Buy and some pretty impressive games announced it seems like the handheld is due for a resurgence. Could we have a price cut though please?