Potentially brilliant: Vita’s wasted 3G dreams

Friday, 3 May 2013 09:12 GMT By Brenna Hillier

The lack of decently implemented 3G functions in a console all about connectivity is just another reason why Brenna’s Vita is getting pretty dusty.

I’ve used all these apps, and more, and really liked them – but I use them at home, connected to my WiFi, because they all require an Internet connection to function.

I really like the Vita, as I’ve mentioned many times. There aren’t enough games, which is a shame, because it’s a lovely little device. I love playing it sprawled out in bed – remote play is a fantastic way to utilise for my poor old, couch-less PlayStation 3 – and its lovely screen makes it a very pleasant portable media player. But with all that in mind, I’m thinking of swapping it out for a 3DS.

There are a couple of games on the 3DS which I’m interested in, but what really attracts me to the 3DS is StreetPass. I know that’s silly; it’s just a social app – but I like the idea of shoving the portable in my bag and coming home to find a bunch of little presents waiting for me. Wherever else it may have dropped the ball, Nintendo’s been very clever with connectivity on the 3DS.

Sony, not so much, and the heartbreaking issue is that it came so close. I have half a dozen apps on my Vita which encourage social interaction in various clever ways, and I greatly enjoy using them. For example, there’s Near, a piece of system software that lets you check out what other people around you are playing and pick up exclusive little treasures; Treasure Park, a puzzle game which uses near to swap new boards with other users; and t@g, which lets you decorate the world around you without copping a vandalism fine.

I’ve used all these apps, and more, and really liked them – but I use them at home, connected to my WiFi, because they all require an Internet connection to function. You can’t just register your location with the GPS and then come home and see what you got; you have to stop, take the Vita out, and check in manually.

This is a right pain because, of course, it’s not like free WiFi spots are that common. And the Vita’s incredibly promising 3G connectivity is – well, it’s not great.

I’ve found the Vita’s 3G simply too slow, too patchy, and too expensive to be worthwhile. Assuming I can get a signal, I have to sit watching wait icons spin, and if I dare to download anything or – gasp – attempt multiplayer, I run out of credit almost immediately. This could just be a problem with local telcos, but it must be said that my Android, by virtue of design as a dedicated 3G device, does a much better job of finding and holding a network, and doesn’t seem to chew through my data plan anywhere near as quickly.

In the end, 3G almost seems like too much trouble. Very few actual games make use of it in interesting ways, and even switching it on is a pain, sending you trawling through menus – unless you want it to sit there constantly active, draining the battery and your credit at an almost identical and quite spanking pace. The whole affair seems so unnecessary, cumbersome and painful that it’s no wonder Sony seem set to axe it all together.

And that’s a damn shame. At announce, the Vita sounded so promising, but all that potential hasn’t been capitalised on. The promise of home console quality games has gone largely undelivered. The touch screens turned out to be a bit of a gimmick which gets in the way of gaming rather than enhancing it. And even the system’s most interesting and endearing functions, like 3G connectivity, are just a little bit too shitty to bother with.

There are some fantastic gems in the Vita’s catalogue and it’s a lovely piece of hardware. Here’s hoping we see something bright in the portable’s future in between all the PS4 hoopla at E3 in June.

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