Hands-On with the PSP

Sony's new portable appears on the E3 show floor.

Officially unveiled at Sony's E3 press conference yesterday, the PSP is the company's upcoming handheld system. You've certainly read about the specs and seen the videos by now, but now we've actually laid our hands on the new device. Read on for more details.

It's worth saying up front that there aren't any actual playable PSP games on display at E3. Most of the kiosks in Sony's roped-off area are running noninteractive demos. The lone exceptions are Metal Gear Acid and Tales of Eternia from Konami and Namco, respectively. But even these demos don't really qualify as gameplay, as MG Acid merely gives you some basic camera control, and Tales of Eternia is limited to walking or running your character through town and talking to villagers.

Interesting to note is that the device does, in fact, have an analog pad on it. The small disc just below the D pad, once thought to be a speaker, is the PSP's analog pad. It slides around fairly smoothly and, unlike the analog pads on the PS2, can't be pushed in for a button press. The D pad and the system's six main buttons--four on the face and two on the shoulders--are digital buttons. There are also a collection of system control buttons just below the screen, giving you volume control. There is also a "home" button here, leading one to believe that the PSP may have some sort of front-end outside of a game's main menu.

The system's screen is very bright and very clear, making it a nice way to show off the demos currently on display. The system is wide, but not very much wider than, say, the original Game Boy Advance. Though no specifics have been decided in regard to system colors, several different PSP units are on display, including a white unit, some units with Ratchet & Clank decals, and so on.

Examples of UMD discs are also on display. The tops of the discs are every bit as colorful as current PlayStation 2 discs, and the casing that houses the discs looks like it will guard the game discs against scratching. Though Sony wasn't able to demo the disc insertion process for us, it sounds like the back of the unit will open up to reveal a disc slot. A slider on the top of the system, marked "open," will open up the disc slot. Examples of disc packaging were also on display, though nothing has been finalized at this time.

Though interactive contact with the PSP is currently limited, the system has a pretty good feel to it. Expect more on PSP software from E3.

Written By

Jeff Gerstmann has been professionally covering the video game industry since 1994.

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