Don’t let a tech geek review a game console

I have a lot of respect for science and tech magazines and sites out there. I really do, but if they don’t have dedicated video game staff they should just steer away from them completely. In most cases these sources review the consoles as they would see computer hardware. This is the wrong approach, as it’s the games that really matter on any console, not the hardware they’re running on.

PopSci reviewed PSVita, the article that finally convinced me to throw up this post. We see problems arising just in the first sentence of the article.

“Okay, so: The obvious question here, in 2012, is “Is there any reason to buy a dedicated portable gaming system when I already have a smartphone?”

It’s not an obvious questions. It’s a stupid question. Smartphones are not wrestling with handheld game consoles. They’re two different sources of entertainment, and phones have the edge of being a necessity. You don’t buy iPhone to play games. If you do, I’d recommend you to check your priorities. You buy a handheld to play games, which in itself is not a necessity.

The first thing the writer goes in the article is what’s the hardware made of. Naturally these things we have to go through when reviewing a game console. It’s a necessary evil, but writing about them first? Practically no one cares whether or not not PSVita has quadcore processing unit or how much it has RAM. The first thing you do in this kind of review is to tell how it looks, what kind of impressions it gives and hot the controller, or the console in this case, feels in your hands. Is the D-Pad good, how’s the thumbstick and the face buttons and so on. The hardware is secondary. We, the customers, can’t do anything about it. As customers we care how good the controls feel.

“And Sony finally, thankfully makes it easy to download games over the air in addition to purchasing the little physical cards (which are all too easy to lose).”

Sigh, that’s why you have cases. PSVita has good cases, albeit a little bit too big when compared to the overall size of the game card. PSN downloads are relatively safe from screwing the customer over, unless they demand to be connected to the Internet if you want to play the game. You have to be a bumbling idiot to lose a game you paid 60€ for.

After that we get to read very short paragraph how the controls feel. Everything seems to be perfect, whatever that is as reviewer doesn’t elaborate what this good clicking is. Clicking like the original DS, or clicky like a mouse button? Even if the reviewer isn’t what he calls a hardcore gamer he could’ve done far better.

Then we get to hear what every tech freak always says about the DS; it has a shitty touch screen. Resistive touch screen in this regard is better, as with the pen the player has far superior point of accuracy. Capacitive touch screen is based on the finger wipe idea, which is inaccurate and doesn’t work for gaming that well, as you have to get around the idea of having the rest of the players’ hands on the screen. It’s a matter of opinion which one is better, as it’s more about how the touch screen function is utilised. Personally, I don’t play games on my smartphone, and if I do, it’s the last resort when my console’s battery’s dead.

“The buttons, screen size, and gaming-focused hardware make it, flat out, a better “serious” gaming device than I think it’s possible for a smartphone to be right now.”

A dedicated game console having better game related properties. What a surprise. There’s no reason to dwell into this paragraph deeper, as the reviewer doesn’t realize that he is stating something that’s self-evident.

Rest of the What’s Good part basically says “The OS is awesome and I find it intuitive unlike every other reviewer” and “Wow, these games look almost as good as their home console counterparts!”

The What’s Bad begins with “Pretty much everything that’s not literally playing games is disappointing.” Now, stop for a moment and reflect what was said. A dedicated machine for playing video games on the go, while away from home, doesn’t do much outside the video games. And that’s bad.

The rest of the section doesn’t contain any surprises. Short battery life, lacklustre design in the OS and the back touch panel are mentioned, but only the last one elaborated somewhat. And while the screen size has been admired throughout the article, the size overall size is criticized here. Good reviewer, you can’t have small console with a big screen, it’s physically impossible.

However, the reviewer does redeem himself in the Verdict, even if little. He does agree that all the Browser stuff and all that are just an extra, and that the machine a game machine. He does have good points, like how it’s stupid (from consumers’ perspective) that PSV only supports dedicated memory cards.

“The Vita is a games system, and it’s awesome at playing games.”

So, the system plays the games and not the player? To be honest, the battery life is still abysmal, around 4-5h according to the reviewer. It might be a handheld console, but it’s not a portable game console.

What this review lacks is quality in every respect. The reviewer might know a lot about the hardware, but everything else is lacking. He doesn’t even go any deeper into the hardware, a thing that this review could’ve done to make it slightly special. The review reminds me more of a intro to a proper review. It’s a good basis he could’ve start working on, so we could also blame the editor for letting this kind of article out.

I’m no reviewer, but if I can say with full confidence that neither is the author of the article.

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