The 10 Best-Looking PlayStation Vita Launch Games

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With Christmas almost upon us and the big videogame releases of the year under our belts, it’s this time of year that a gamer’s thoughts turn to sunshine, spring, and the next round of videogame releases. While the WiiU is still on the far horizon, the PlayStation Vita is starting to loom large as an exciting reality.

To get you ready for release day, and to help you make your pre-order choices I’ve been trawling through footage and screenshots to sniff out the best games to go for. Revisiting this again brought back the excitement I had when I first held a Vita at E3 this year. It maybe a little bigger than I am used to for a handheld but visually it really did look on a par to the PS3.

The first pre-order choice you have is which form factor you want. The Wi-Fi only model is $249.99, The 3G/Wi-Fi model is $299.99 and the first edition bundle is $349.99. I think I will be going for the cheaper model as I don’t intend to be playing online out and about a huge deal, and I’m keen to preserve my battery when I do.

Choosing which games I will be playing first on PS Vita is more of a conundrum, though. The games range from $9.99 for download titles to a hefty $49.99 for top-tier boxed games. Between these two extremes everything else is either $29.99 or $39.99. To help me sift through the impressively big launch list I roped in fellow blogger Chris Jarvis to help me pick the best launch games, and here’s what we came up with…

1. Uncharted: Golden Abyss (Pre-order from Amazon for $49.99)

Uncharted Golden AbyssUncharted Golden Abyss

Uncharted Golden Abyss

Uncharted: Golden Abyss promises the big console experiences on a handheld device — but this time has a few tricks to make accessibility the key.

With Uncharted: Golden Abyss that promise of legitimate adventures ‘on the go’ is closer than ever. The newly announced PS Vita seems to combine the graphical power we would expect from a Sony console with the touch screen and tilt control that is now almost a minimum requirement for a handheld gadget. But it’s interesting to see how these control additions affect an established title like Uncharted.

The core game play of Uncharted: Golden Abyss seems faithful to the main titles from the PlayStation 3. While there are a host of additional touch-screen prompts and ways to control the game, I feel comfortable knowing that I can bring my experiences from Uncharted 2 & 3 and play Golden Abyss as though it were simply another Uncharted title. This is especially true now that the PS Vita has implemented the long-sought-after dual analogue sticks — why have we been waiting so long for a handheld to do this?

There are only two drawbacks to the PS Vita controls that I have seen. The melee combat seems to introduce a slow-motion camera for touch-moves, which is in danger of breaking the fluid pace that makes Uncharted‘s combat so addictive. Secondly, the motion controls have to strike a tricky balance between being sensitive enough to trigger without have to resort to wild movements, yet resistant enough to avoid unintentional use. I would hate to be playing on Uncharted: Golden Abyss while lying on my side only to find that Drake is jumping off to his death. Hopefully the feature can be turned off.

While the new controls promise to add some nifty tricks and shortcuts to make the experience more suited to a handheld medium, I am comforted that I should be able to pick up Uncharted: Golden Abyss and drift into old habits of control and tactics. If there is any one game from my home console I would like to be able to carry with me, it would definitely be Uncharted.

2. Escape Plan (Purchase with PSN Credit from Amazon)

Escape PlanEscape Plan

Escape Plan

Escape Plan PS Vita is another thoughtful dark side-scrolling platform game, with a dash of cartoon wit and comprehensive touch controls.

Visuals draw a lot of comparison to Limbo due to its black and white display and the sudden and gory nature of the deaths involved for the two heroes. For me, with the more rounded 3D scenes, it is more reminiscent of Tim Burton’s Stainboy or even some of the early black and white Disney cartoons of the 1920s.

Rather than using the front controls of the PlayStation Vita, Escape Plan allows you to guide the heroes through obstacles using touch controls, including moving objects by touching them from either the front or rear touch pads. It would seem that the aim in this game is to exercise careful thought and possibly even more careful control in order to succeed. However it turns out it is certainly a unique title for the Vita and promises a rare offbeat treat for a launch game.

3. Super Stardust Delta (Purchase with PSN Credit from Amazon)

Super Stardust DeltaSuper Stardust Delta

Super Stardust Delta

Super Stardust Delta finds a more natural home on the PS Vita due to the second analogue stick and version specific features.

Super Stardust Delta is the handheld iteration of a game that went a long way to define the twin-stick shooter, with movement on one stick and 360 degrees of shooting on the other. It’s a phenomenal experience on the PlayStation 3 (especially in 3D), but sadly the PSP version attempted to map the shooting controls to the face buttons, which never really proved satisfying.

Thankfully the Vita does provide that much-needed second stick and Super Stardust Delta promises to be the definitive handheld version of this game. The control benefits of the Vita do not stop there, with the rear touch screen used to deploy miniature black holes as a special move.

As well as this, the motion controls have been used, allowing the player to move the camera by tilting the console, avoiding having to lose control of the ship. Additionally the Vita can be shaken to unleash a “Shockwave” attack.

How much these touch and tilt controls add to the game — above and beyond showcasing the Vita’s new features — remains to be seen but at the very least if this is faithful to the original Super Stardust HD then Vita owners are in for a treat.

4. Wipeout 2048 (Pre-order on Amazon for $29.99)

Wipeout-2048Wipeout-2048

Wipeout-2048

Wipeout 2048 again promises to provide a run-out for a new console, while expanding the portable racing with some engaging multi-player features.

The Wipeout series has long been used as a flagship title for Sony’s new consoles, all the way back to the original PlayStation. In fact, the series’ trademark urban cool, flashing lights and driving electronic beats were plastered over video screens in nightclubs during the original promotion. This has been attributed by many as the turning point of gaming becoming more accepted in wider popular culture and understanding.

The most exciting feature — which Sony Liverpool promises will be available from the day of release — is cross-platform multi-player. Players on PS Vita and PS3 will now be able to race together, utilizing Wipeout HD/Fury on the PS3. This suggests that Wipeout 2048 will have access to the tracks from Wipeout HD/Fury on top of its 10 new tracks. Whether the new 2048 tracks will be made available in reverse to the PS3 version remains to be seen. Whatever happens there is a range of multi-player styles, from pure racing, to the death match style of Eliminator which will hopefully make it to this edition.

Although some of the features feel like their inclusion is box-ticking on the new device, overall Wipeout 2048 is a generous proposition with a lot of racing options. It certainly demonstrates the strengths of the PS Vita well.

What will be fascinating about this cross-platform multi-player is the level of skill players on each platform can achieve with the respective controls and systems. Once players of Wipeout 2048 have caught up with the established experience of racers on Wipeout HD/Fury it will be interesting to see who comes out on top, competitively.

5. Mod Nation Racers Road Trip (Pre-order on Amazon for $29.99)

Wipeout-2048Wipeout-2048

Wipeout-2048

Mod Nation Racers: Road Trip not only brings the addictive kart racer to the Vita but also allows you to paint the road ahead using the tip of your finger.

Mod Nation Racers: Road Trip is to kart racing what LittleBigPlanet is to platform games. At the same time it promises fast and frantic racing with speed boosts, weapon power-ups and friendly jostling alongside a powerful track editor allowing you to create an endless variety of new tracks — and download those created by others.

With the new touch-screen controls of the Vita, track creation is now easier than ever. The basic track shape can be drawn simply by dragging a finger over the screen to trace the desired route. Also utilized is the rear touch pad while editing the landscape deformation. The rear touch allows hills and mountains to be pressed out of the ground while the front touch allows shallows, lakes and canyons to be drawn in. Within a few moments you will be able to create an entirely new track.

As a kart racer, Mod Nation Racers: Road Trip also looks pretty solid, with bouncy and fun handling and cheerful characters. There’s plenty of choice for tracks as Sony have previously suggested that the 2 million user-generated tracks previously published on the PS3 version of Mod Nation Racers will be available in the Vita version from launch.

There’s no confirmation of online multi-player as yet, although the previous PSP version did support online multi-player for up to 6 players so it would be a real pity if it didn’t feature in this Vita version.

6. Ridge Racer (Pre-Order on Amazon for $29.99)

Ridge RacerRidge Racer

Ridge Racer

Ridge Racer definitely looks the part on the Vita, but is in danger of disappointing players by offering only a tiny amount of content. Early reports are indicating that the retail version of Ridge Racer, boxed and download, will come with only three courses and five cars.

Either way this looks more than a little impressive and brings the big screen drifting experience to a handheld that can keep both frame rate and polygon count high enough to impress. Although this is now a launch window rather than launch day title, there is still plenty to be excited about here.

7. Unit 13 (Not listed on Amazon.com yet)

Unit 13Unit 13

Unit 13

Unit 13 promises an exciting new idea on the PlayStation Vita, born from the legacy of great online shooters. Although a launch window rather than launch day title, there is still plenty to be excited about here.

A third-person military shooter developed by the team behind MAG and SOCOM, this is a significant heritage, as the early SOCOM games were the driving force behind many PS2 players making the effort to game online. Featuring large online multi-player battles and voice chat (for many for the first time), SOCOM set a standard for online console shooters. Make no mistake, before there was Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, there was SOCOM.

Meanwhile Unit 13 is set to provide 36 engaging missions across nine locations. It will also feature online competitive multi-player as well as a co-operative mission mode. It is a modern special forces shooter with mission premises designed to ring true with modern headlines. So, SOCOM in all but name?

Fortunately, this game has been designed entirely with the PlayStation Vita in mind, so it is likely that the experience will suit the new handheld perfectly and will avoid any potential messiness created by trying to force a previous title onto new hardware. Perhaps this is the reason to break away from the SOCOM franchise, to encourage players that this offers a totally new experience?

But that best fit is more than a purely technical consideration. Unit 13 has been designed to fit in with the ethos of the portable console: bite-sized game play and non-linear missions that will suit gaming on-the-go.

8. Gravity Rush (Pre-order on Amazon for $39.99)

Gravity RushGravity Rush

Gravity Rush

Gravity Rush promises a shift in perspective to the standard third person adventure, with a compelling visual style.

A launch window rather than launch day release and there is still a lot unknown about this. Part animated adventure, part Gothic fantasy in the style of Dark City, the dirty, industrial and oppressive world of Hekseville already presents an intriguing narrative hook.

Clearly the third person adventure genre already has a great many titles to offer, but the twist in this case is that you will be given control over the gravity in the scene, allowing the heroine to run up walls, leap from one building to another and escape dark forces quickly. Gravity Rush also promises touch-screen controls and the gyroscope will be linked to motion control over the direction of gravity.

The story is told through a mix of in-game animation and comic-book styles paneled narrative which provide character and drive the story forward. This is combined with fast and frenetic group combat and looks to up the ante with boss challenges.

This is already shaping up to be an interesting and hardcore title for sci-fi and fantasy fans and we will eagerly await more details and hands-on look.

9. Touch My Katamari (Pre-order on Amazon for $29.99)

Touch My KatamariTouch My Katamari

Touch My Katamari

Touch My Katamari is the return of a hilarious object collection series and challenges you to roll up everyday artifacts like never before.

It’s been a few years since we last saw the King of all Cosmos binge-drinking his way to infinity and then tasking The Prince with picking up enough pieces to fix creation (Ed: quite a story that). With Touch My Katamari the series returns to its roots with a handheld installment.

If you’re not familiar with the original Katamari Damacy the premise of the game is that you are in control of a rolling ball which collects objects to which it sticks. The ball starts off a few centimeters across, picking up batteries and sugar cubes. Once it is larger, you’ll find yourself picking up cows, cars, buildings and eventually becoming enormous.

Touch My Katamari seems to share the unique visual comedy and surreal writing of previous titles. Hopefully this will be combined with the addictive object-searching and puzzle-solving which made the original great.

If there is a reason for Katamari‘s decline in popularity in recent years, it must be down to how stale the simple formula of rolling over objects became. Thankfully, in Touch My Katamari, touch-screen controls provide a new control system as well as rear-touch controls which allow the ball to be stretched into a rolling-pin shape or squashed small to fit through tiny gaps. Hopefully these simple additions will provide the game with a much-needed freshness.

10. Lumines: Electronic Symphony (Not listed on Amazon yet)

Lumines VitaLumines Vita

Lumines Vita

Lumines: Electronic Symphony marks a return to the handheld classic with a pounding electronic soundtrack and a variety of game modes on Vita.

It’s interesting how Sony is turning to classic PSP games to make an impact in the Vita’s launch lineup. Lumines: Electronic Symphony joins Wipeout, Hot Shots Golf and Ridge Racer in retreading the spread of titles which defined the original PSP’s early lineup.

With Lumines, this is certainly no bad thing. The original’s block-matching action and enthralling soundtrack made it an instant hit and is still regarded as a classic. Despite falling on hard times in recent years the PSP made a good impact with its early titles. For me I’d like to see a return to the turn-based action of Metal Gear Ac!d.

In this new version, there will be four different games modes called Journey, Duel, Stopwatch and Masters. No details are currently available about how these will actually play, but Duel suggests that a multi-player mode similar to Tetris‘ duel may be among the features.

Also tightly under wraps is the actual play-list, with the only hints being the inclusion of The Chemical Brothers and Kaskade. However with a focus on a DJ-produced set-list and catchy Electronica, it’s sure to be a fantastic musical journey.

That leaves the following launch day titles to choose from:

And the following launch window games:

And, finally, games that will follow through the rest of 2012:

 

 

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