|For Your Inbox| #2

Pete: This week we have Rich Grisham of GamesRadar  (among other things) and host of the excellent Box Score podcast. Thanks for joining us Rich. I guess we can start with something right in your wheelhouse – sports games on the Vita. Virtua Tennis 4, Hot Shots Golf: World Tour, FIFA, and MLB 12: The Show make a pretty goddamn good argument that sports games are going to thrive on this device. What sports are each of you hoping to see the most (I know the obvious answer is ‘all of them’) and do you think inter-connectivity between the vita and PS3 versions is essential or just a nice perk?

For the sake of this conversation, Camus, we will consider Soccer, Cricket and Rugby to be sports, I guess.

Camus: There hasn’t been a decent rugby game since the PS1, and there has never been a very good cricket game, so I’m not optimistic there.

I’d love to see some more arcade sports games come to the Vita. Sims are great, but I want the game that is to FIFA what Motorstorm is to Gran Turismo. Something in the vein of Sensible World of Soccer, which will mean nothing to you philistines.

I have no interest in transfarring™ my sports games, unless they come at the price of two-for-one.

Mik: I think I’m on record as saying I’m most excited at the prospect of sports games on the Vita (and if I wasn’t before, I am now). Concluding a several-days-long business trip last night only reinforced that excitement. Being able to take my Road to the Show career in MLB 12 on the plane, and have the experience be so close to its console sibling, is terrific. But it occurred to me that one of the most important things that the Vita brings to portable sports gamers, sadly, is the ability to patch and update them much more seamlessly. I say “sadly” because the truth of the matter is that sports games are always–I know that word smacks of hyperbole, but I will not back off from it in this instance–always released broken to some degree.

It’s the bane of a sports gamer’s existence, and one reason I could never get comfortable with sports games on a portable before (and maybe one reason to embrace Camus’s desire for a more arcade sports experience).Remember when EA finally released NCAA Football for the PSP? I was euphoric that I could play my favorite sport on a device that delivered a “near-console” experience. That is, until I discovered that the game had a bug that completely ruined it. For some bizarre reason, after each play the ball was always spotted at the point where the runner was first contacted. So, for example, if your halfback broke a tackle one yard beyond the line of scrimmage, then rumbled for 37 yards after that, the ball was spotted one yard beyond the previous line of scrimmage, negating the big gain and first down. Unplayable. And, at that time, irreparable.

The Vita can correct that and make sports games on the system the same as they are on home consoles: almost kinda totally somewhat playable after three months and 12 patches.Also, not even crickets like cricket.

Camus: I will resist the urge to go toe to toe with Mik on the relative merits of cricket and baseball, but a billion Indians can’t be wrong (well they can, but they’re not in this case).

Rich: Glad to be here! Thanks for letting me barge into your world here; I’ll try not to drag it down too much. My God I love sports games on the Vita. All the titles you mentioned are various shades of spectacular, each for their own reasons. Hot Shots’ asynchronous multiplayer, FIFA’s console-quality gameplay, MLB The Show’s amazing integration between Vita and PS3, and Virtua Tennis’ wonderful career mode all make compelling arguments that the Vita is built for sports. And that’s just scratching the surface.

Where I get the most value from my Vita these days is The Show, because of the cloud saves that let me do my thing anywhere. I’m on the road constantly, and the fact I’ve been able to take my starting pitcher with me from Vegas to Galveston to Orlando to Chicago the past month is a big reason I’m well into my second full season; in past years I would have trailed off by now because frankly I get very little time in front of my big-boy console anymore. I see the same thing happening for NCAA Road To Glory, my Madden Superstar, my NHL Be A Pro, and so on. In the past, if given the opportunity to play for an hour on the PS3, I’d almost always go to my franchise/dynasty/whatever and my individual guys would end up stuck in limbo; they remain there to this day.

These are game modes that I know I’ll finally dive deeply into because I don’t have to be tied to my console, but I can if I want to. Even if I play 80% of the dudes’ careers on the Vita, being able to boot ’em up every now and again on my PS3 is key. It’s amazing how great my Road to the Show guy looks when see him on the PS3; while the Vita version looks nice, the console version is a significantly better from a visual standpoint. And I do have to disagree with Camus on the rugby comment; Jonah Lomu’s Rugby Challenge on the 360 and PS3 was great fun. Even if I didn’t know what the heck was happening a third of the time.

Pete: I agree with you rich – the ps3 version of The Show is amazing looking, but for whatever reason when I want to play it, even when I’m sitting right in front of my PS3 and 3D monitor I still play it on the Vita. The Vita version is basically the same game other than polygon-count, which is absolutely incredible to me, and I love being able to just turn it on and off at will with standby mode. I wonder why consoles don’t have standby mode…

Mik, you’re bringing up such fantastic memories of NCAA. I loved even more when EA PR explained the following year that their wouldn’t be another NCAA-PSP game because it didn’t sell well. They neglected to mention why it didn’t sell well.

Next topic: favorite game so far on the Vita? Rich, for you im disqualifying sports games, Mik/Camus – for you I’m disqualifying Mutant Blob.

Mik: Despite being slightly flummoxed by the question, “what is your second favorite game?”–seriously, Pete, you are a weird motherfucker–I will answer anyway. With an equally flummoxing answer:

Pete: Listen here chief, disqualifying games comes from YOUR PODCAST. Shall I roll the tape of The Fanboys picking the game of the year that isn’t LittleBigPlanet? Or the game of the year that isn’t Uncharted 2?

Mik: I’d probably call it a tie between Uncharted: Golden Abyss and… my collected PSP backlog.

I find Uncharted to be a near-baffling achievement in a portable game. The fact that most people can only levy the criticism “it’s not as good as Uncharted 2” against it is testament to that. I even like (or at worst, don’t mind) all the gimmicky-new-system features they pumped into it. something about doing the puzzles on the touchscreen makes it seem more like an adventure game to me, for some reason. I enjoy them every time the pop up.

PSP games look and play so incredibly well on the system that I wish they’d hurry up and get ALL of them up on the store and compatible with the Vita. I’m finally playing through Persona 3 Portable, resuming my Tactics Ogre and Half-Minute Hero love, and playing through GTA Chinatown Wars… for the fourth time.

Rich: It’d have to be Uncharted then, which I haven’t finished yet but am thoroughly enjoying. I’m not an uber-fan of the franchise – I did finish the first and second games but haven’t gotten around to 3 yet – but it’s just so strong in so many ways. Looks great, sounds amazing, and still manages to bring forward all the problems of the first two games with terrible shooting mechanics. It’s really impressive how they managed to capture everything good and bad about the console games on the Vita.

Perhaps that’s not exactly what they were going for, but there you are.

Pete: Well I’m gonna disagree with you about the shooting mechanics in Uncharted 2 – I absolutely love that game and after 100s of hours online it’s pretty much how I think all games should control. But I do see your point and I agree that the shooting mechanics in Uncharted-Vita are terrible. It had me worried for a little while that maybe shooters couldn’t work on the platform but Unit 13 soothed those fears.

I guess I will disqualify myself from sports games also, since anyone who has read my reviews knows that MLB 12: The Show is the only 5 star game on the site… and I run a Hot Shots league. So taking those out of the equation I think my favorite game is probably the aforementioned Unit 13. It has its problems for sure, which is why I could only give it 4 stars, but it’s a formula I can just keep coming back to again and again. I also love the co-op though I need to play more of it, CAMUS!

Camus:  I’m really bad at deciding on this stuff. I’m tempted to choose both Rayman and Hotshots, but I think I’m going to have to go with Unit 13 too.

It has plenty of problems, most of which Pete dealt with in his review, but this is the pace at which I like to play my shooters – there is always time to look at what’s coming up, and decide whether to go stealthy or messy. The combat is very satisfying too – which is a pretty good achievement on such a small system. I also like the fact that it was a new IP – albeit one with a setting so generic that it could be any one of dozens of other games.

What are you guys hoping for out of the Vita going forward, besides the obvious need for more games?

Mike: I think if I were Sony (which is already weird because then I would be a company, so let’s instead suppose I’m a dude named Bob Sony, who’s in charge) I’d be assembling a team of schmoozy salesmen to entice every bootstrap iOS developer whose game was ever described as “wonderful, except for the virtual d-pad.” Help them with some resources, grease the skids a little, and get an instant boost to the downloadable games library.

There are a number of titles that I’d gleefully re-purchase–even at a slightly higher price–in order to play them with the Vita’s controls. I’ve recently been playing Galaxy on Fire 2 on the iPad, and it’s a terrific revival of the space shooter/exploration genre. But you’re faced with playing using either tilt controls or a virtual joystick. It honestly ruins the experience.

Pete:  Personally I will be content if it’s, like mik said last week – the psp2. But I do have hopes beyond that. The beta for PSsuite started this week and I think that’s going to fill a huge portion of the platform. Those games will work across a myriad of android devices but it’s pretty safe to assume they will play best on the vita… and I’m a fan of the smartphone sized game and I think the combo of a great touch screen and some sticks/buttons is gonna mean I spend a ton of money in that store.

Beyond that I hope the PSN level of game continues to exist. I think it’s safe to assume the big games will keep coming and PSsuite will take care of the smaller ones… but I hope the ones in the middle don’t get phased out. In this launch period I think Mutant Blobs, Stardust, Escape Plan and Pinball Arcade are some of the most compelling pieces of software. I would hate to see mutant blobs 2 not do well at $10 because some clearly inferior clone is being bought at $2.

Camus: I’m very much down with Pete on wanting to see lots of games from all three tiers. If necessary, I’d like to see Sony offer PSN devs some incentive to release all their games on both PS3 and Vita. I would have bought games like Closure if I’d been able to play them on my Vita.

What I want most of all is to be allowed to put multiple accounts on my Vita, but I know that ain’t gonna happen.

I can’t really think of anything I want that isn’t directly related to games (apart from a few minor UI tweaks) because I have plenty of other devices for Skype and the like. Even in terms of future hardware iterations all I can really think of is better battery life, and a bit more distance between the right stick and the X button.

Rich:  What I realistically hope and expect is oh so different from what I want.

At this point, my realistic hopes and expectations are for my Vita to be my go-to handheld device in order to play more than I would otherwise. I love everything about it, from the big beautiful screen to the solid controls and wonderful sound – and by carting it with me wherever I go I’ve been a more rounded gamer than I was the day before it launched. But, I’m also a creature of habit, and know that I’ll revert to the mean; lots of sports games, a few big-time titles (Uncharted and Resistance, I’m looking at you), and the occasional “holy mackerel the internet is telling me I simply have to play this game” like Mutant Blobs.

My unrealistic hopes and expectations are for the Vita to blur the line between console and handheld. I don’t want games to be built for one or the other; they should all just ‘be’ on both systems. I’m talking everything, too, even downloads. Make it like my iPad, Mac, and iPhone – anything I get on one is on all of the others.

Gimme gimme gimme.

Bob Sony: Thank you very much for joining us this week Rich.  And thank you very much, readers, for supporting this fine website.  If you would like to contribute to the next |For Your Inbox| please post below with comments or topics.  And please buy the Vita, we’re doing really badly as a company. Please. Do you want me to beg?  I’m not above begging.

2 thoughts on “|For Your Inbox| #2

  1. I bought the original psp for sports titles, but I was let down. Tiger woods golf had horrendous, is this thing broke load times. I currently own HSG, MLB and VT for the vita. Virtua tennis is the sleeper of the bunch, it doesn’t get much press, but runs native res at 60fps, features some great mini games, along with world tour and arcade mode. Great animation, very solid port.

    I’d be interested in knowing how you feel about the upcoming madden 13. Looks like EA is slacking again. No franchise mode, last year’s engine and only 30fps. Ouch. MLB has the current gen physics engine, so EA just doesn’t seem to care. Of course, it’ll probably be a lot better than their inaugural effort with the 3ds which qualifies as the worst version of madden I’ve seen.

    • Virtua Tennis is definitely the sleeper of the launch – sports game or not. On a technical level it’s native res and 60fps – it looks absolutely stunning. On a gameplay level it feels fantastic and there is just so much to do. I really waffled back and forth between 5 stars and 4 stars on that one – deciding in the end to go 4 stars because of a bit of tedium in the long season mode. Though I still question whether i made the right call on that score.

      I hadn’t heard that this year’s madden is gonna be a fifa (30fps, last year’s engine, etc). That’s a serious bummer. But yeah, that will make it atleast 9000x better than Madden on 3ds was. Holy cow i rented that and couldn’t toss it back in the gamefly envelope fast enough.

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