You really can’t do a lot right out of the box unless you purchase a game and memory card. Memory cards are required to save games, and of course to download anything from the Playstation store.
The Vita comes with a Party application, which lets you use a Bluetooth headset to speak with friends and other games in channels. The Friends application lets you monitor and edit friend gamertags on the Playstation Network, and you can even do Group Messaging.
The system does come with Google Maps and a useful web browser, but like many console browsers does not support Flash or HTML5, so you can’t really use YouTube or many other video-streaming sites. The browser is rather slow, as it only loads the parts of the page it has to display immediately. Scrolling a web page will appear blank until the browser can catch up. Given that the Vita has twice the RAM as a PS3 I find this unacceptable.
Of course there is the Playstation Store application and Trophies, which works like Xbox Live’s Gamer Points.
The system also comes with a capable MP3 player, but does not natively support streaming. You either need to copy files to the system’s memory card, or use a web-based interface to browse your local network’s media.
The same thing applies to Vita’s Videos application, but videos that you download from PSN automatically appear here. You can manage/delete your videos directly from this application rather than going into System Settings.
The original PSP introduced Remote Play, and you can do the same with the Vita once you connect the handheld to a Playstation 3.
Sony finally introduced a way to manage downloaded games and content via the Content Manager application. Many people run out of space on their memory cards, and instead of having to delete them and redownload from the Playstation Store, you can copy the stuff you’ve paid for to a PC or PS3. Of course you have to download software for the PC or register your Vita with the host console, but then you can select which items you want to transfer to your handheld.
The Photo application works very similarly to the camera apps on the Nintendo DS. You can toggle between forward and rear-facing cameras, and can even take video. The photo quality can easily be outdone by the cheapest of digital cameras, and there is no LED flash or lighting. Much like many cell phones, you can take a screenshot of any game or system screen from your Vita by holding down the PS and Start button at the same time. The captured screenshots appear in this Photos application.
There is a “Near” application which grabs your GPS information and shows you other Playstation Vita players in your vicinity. The application works so well that it’s actually creepy, but you can easily find the gamer tags of other people and browse what games they play, which can help you find friends in the real world.
The system comes with a “Welcome Pack”, which basically showcases all of the ways games can use the features of the PSP. There are very simple mini-games that use multitouch, camera, tilt, microphone and sound.
On the next page we look at the stuff you can get for free…