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Uncharted on Vita

If it wasn’t for the Wii U stealing its thunder, the Vita might well be the toast of this year’s E3. After spending some quality time with Sony’s follow up to the PSP on Day 3 of gaming’s biggest show, we came away impressed with this powerful portable.

Hands On With The Vita 

At first glance, the device itself resembles a more rounded version of the original -- the design still has that sleek, black PSP-ish look to it. The Vita is relatively large, yet somehow feels super lightweight. Its lack of heft is surprising considering everything packed on to it: a 5-inch touch screen, rear touch on the back of the system, two thumbsticks, front and rear cameras, motion controls, and more.

Hands down the most eye-popping game for Vita is “Uncharted: Golden Abyss” -- which may not reach the heights of “Uncharted 3” on the PS3 in terms of graphics, but comes closer than you’d ever imagine. Golden Abyss is also able to do things its big console brother can’t, like the ability to slide the touch screen to make Nathan Drake traverse obstacles, or tapping a fist icon to cajole Drake into performing a melee attack.

Another intriguing title we tried was “Little Deviants,” which contains a novel minigame in which you create hills with the rear touchpad in order to roll around a ball-like character around a map. In “Reality Fighters,” you can scan your face using the camera and create a custom fighter. Then using the so-called “augmented reality” technology, you can superimpose a fight on top of your kitchen table, your bed, or wherever you point the Vita’s camera.

It lacks cutting edge graphics, but “Sound Shapes” looks to be one of the most promising games for the Vita. You move a little blob-creature around to hit white shapes that are actually music notes. Each one you touch adds a note to the game’s soundtrack. It’s essentially a music game that plays like a platform.

The Vita faces tough competition from the Nintendo 3DS, as well as from mobile platforms like smartphones and tablets, but Sony's toy looks up to the task so far.

Saint It Ain’t So

While Rockstar’s makes sandbox-style games with an increasingly amount of heart and soul – THQ’s “Saints Row” series laughs in the face of nuance and moral ambiguity, kicks it in the groin, and shoves it down a gutter.

Here are some of the sights and sounds from the 15-minute demo of “Saints Row 3” we saw on Wednesday:

  • The main character, one of the Saints gang, performs all sorts of wrestling moves – including piledrivers and flying elbows on innocent bystanders. He also uses comically large boxing gloves to punch people into an exploding bloody mess and then pulls out a large purple dildo and begins to beat people to death with it. Oh the humanity!
  • Instead of dealing with an enemy gang through simple on-foot gun battles, the Saint calls down airstrikes to fire missles at them.
  • One vehicle we saw has a cannon attached that was used to fire people hundreds of feet into the air where many of them crashed into buildings with a bloody thud.

Admittedly, “Saints Row 3” looks like plenty of fun to play, but in the meantime, it has enough R-rated mayhem to make Fox News freak out.

Unearthing The New Tomb Raider

The words “fresh” and “Tomb Raider” don’t usually go together. After nine games, two so-so movies, comic books and even theme park rides, Lara Croft felt as musty as some of the mummies she’s unearthed.

But Crystal Dynamics have breathed new life into the franchise with a prequel that features Lara as a young college-aged girl on her first adventure. In the demo for the game, called simply “Tomb Raider” again, Lara wakes up tied up in a sack in a strange cave and must escape from her predicament.

Unlike the self-assured badass she eventually becomes, Lara in this adventure is a quivering, vulnerable girl who must overcome her own fears to save the day. Overall, it feels less like an action/shooter and more of a survival horror title.

It’s safe to say that we haven’t been this excited for a Tomb Raider game since the ‘90’s.
 

Follow Ryan Smith on Twitter: @RyanSmithWriter

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