Are Vita owners too accepting of performance issues?

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Borderlands 2 Vita Image
Frozen Synapse Prime

A look at the Metacritic for the Vita version of Borderlands 2 paints a contrasting story from those that are paid to give a professional critique of a videogame and those that buy it. With 21 reviews from the industry listed at the time of writing, the consensus from them is that Borderlands 2 is a good title, but is beset with performance issues and results in a score of “mixed or average”. Many of these issues with the game have started to be addressed in the form of a day 1 fixes – which these reviewers did not have, an upcoming patch or changing the default controls and many gamers seem content to have finally got a new “AAA” title on the Vita.

There can be no disputing that getting a massive, expansive shooter like Borderlands 2 onto the Vita has clearly been some achievement. Handicapped initially by not only reduced input options and hardware performance, but also the fact that the storage medium is considerably smaller than the console counterparts, it was inevitable that there were going to have to be some cut backs. For all of the perceived negativity from the reviews – who, to be fair do praise the game too – the overwhelming response from gamers paints a very different picture of the game. Herein lies the question though; is it the gaming media here at fault for being far too brutal with the truth? Or is it, in fact, us as Vita gamers that are so grateful to have the game that we are prepared to overlook and issues with the game?

This is not the first Vita title to have had some sort of compromise, and you can bet that it wouldn’t be the last, but is this something that we as Vita gamers have come to expect, or even accept? Is the desire to have these big name titles on the platform worth sacrificing quality for? Are we blinded by devotion to the system, which may not have the real power to deliver what so many crave? The power aspect has been discussed by many studios before, most recently by Rob Clarke from Curve Studios, with regarding to getting The Swapper running.

One of the most annoying things for me with gaming in the 21st century is the lack of QA with games. Games are so frequently launched often with serious issues – with Starlight Inception being an obvious recent case. This is not really fair on consumers, but is all to commonplace. The gaming media have a responsibility to report this, and of course, the best way to stand up against this kind of thing is to vote with your wallet – but doing so in the Borderlands 2 instance means that the title could flop, and potentially jeopardise future AAA titles finding their way to the handheld. On the other side of this, studios do invariably patch and fix these issues, yet the review scores stay the same. To the unaware potential Vita owner, their perception of the quality of a game is based on something which is now inaccurate, and only serves to deter buyers from the system.

What is your view on this? Are you prepared to put up with audio/visual compromises (and sometimes game-breaking issues) with AAA titles if it means that we get to play it on the Vita? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

  • Steve Morton

    Been playing video games since the first home systems. I’m used to games not being perfect, but still fun to play. As long as it’s _fun_, I’ll continue to play it and recommend it to others.
    One problem I do have with Vita games is text and controls icons which are very small, making it difficult to read. Borderlands 2 has lots of onscreen text for weapon specs and such, which look fine on a 32″ HD TV, but are only a few pixels high on the Vita screen.

  • Nazar

    I really don’t understand gamers today. Especially PC gamers. They are saying “Uh PC gaming has more FPS in games and better graphics” etc. Really? Is this what defines gaming today? How were you playing games back then with 16-bit graphics and low FPS?
    I don’t care about the graphics or performance in the games. If it’s playable I will play it. Sure it would’ve been nice if the graphics were good and all that, but it

    • nonscpo

      Agreed, this is why I prefer handhelds over consoles. With Handhelds the developers prioritize gameplay over graphics, which is how it should be. If a game is unplayable then what difference does it make how nice it looks? If anything I blame the VITA owners who actually expect AAA games in the current unstable games industry. Handhelds have always been about unique bite-size experiences, which the Vita excels in. Im cool with the current western-Indie and localized middle-tier games were getting, and maybe if were lucky down the road we can get back some third-party too.

  • Nazar

    wont stop me from enjoying games with bad graphics.

  • Justin Magee

    my stance has always been to not let the media influence my decision. a game review is nothing more than elitist dick being paid to tell you his “opinion” on the title, and ive learned to take them with a grain of salt. if you watch game reviews to decide which title to purchase, youre gonna miss amazing titles because of the opinion of one overpaid douche.

  • vongruetz .

    I sometimes think that Vita games get criticized extra hard because people are looking for performance issues. So when any are found, you get confirmation bias.
    Take God of War for example. The game is great. It does have some slow downs once in a while, but overall it’s a great game. Yet it’s getting blown to pieces by people who say it’s just a crappy port and runs like shit.
    And on the other hand you have The Walk Dead, which runs like crap on every single system that it’s available on, and it gets praised to high heaven and racks up Game of the Year awards.

    • Johnathan Pompey

      I believe it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen games get a 5/10 for technical flaws yet I’ve seen games get an 8/10 that have the EXACT same technical flaws, and in some cases are worse. However, people over looked them because they enjoyed the game or franchise. That’s not consistent. I even saw in one of your reviews that someone was upset because you were looking at it objectively and actively pointing out the flaws of the game instead of giving it a pass from the eyes of a fan that was familiar with the the franchise. There definitely is a bias here, and it deeply disturbs me how detrimental it has been to the Vita and games a like. Objectivity is very hard to come by nowadays, especially in the gaming industry. What worries me is that it may only get worse.

  • Mike_Callavaro

    The truth lies somewhere in the middle. On one hand Vita owners are very passionate about the device. Prob mostly to do with the fact its a slick looking piece of tech thats lets you play fairly advanced games on the go. That gives it a sort of “magic” feel, for lack of better words.

    So a massive console game like BL2 being ported automatically would have been a instant buy for many Vita gamers regardless of the state it would have been in.

    However if the BL2 console version would have been sent out in the state it arrived in for the Vita, you prob would see very similar low scores. The performance issues are way too glaring too overlook. The small screen simply makes the frame drops less noticeable but they are there and it does effect gameplay.

    But all these technical problems do not detract from the fact that its still a massive first person rpg game unlike anything else on the system, and there is a reasonable chance it will be the only one in its kind the system will ever get. (Apart from the BL pre sequel which might hit the system in a year or so if BL2 does well).

    So in short I understand the Vita gamers as well as the reviewers view point.

  • Anthony Brinklow

    Borderlands 2 runs fine and is awesome fun. Only reviewers would expect a handheld game to run at the level of a PC game. Look at Digital Foundrys pathetic article. Reviewers trash the Vita every chance they get as to them, games aren’t about fun, just technical showpieces.

  • bf313

    Bought the Borderlands 2 Vita Slim bundle when it came out and sold the code for the game. I just can’t understand the excitement over a 2 year old port being released on a system that it doesn’t run well on. It’s a great game but I had my fun playing co-op with friends on the 360, and it just doesn’t have 2 years of lasting appeal especially when no one else you know owns a Vita.

  • gamezalv

    Performance issues… A lot of games have performance issues. Like vongruetz mentioned below, a game like walking dead “gets praised to high heaven and ranks up game of the year awards” even having performance issues and I’ll admit that’s true. When I first played the walking dead on my iPad 2 I have seen framerate issues and lag and experienced those similar issues on the vita version and yet, the vita version was criticized heavily for it but the iOS version gets away with it.

    Now the topic here is, are vita owners too accepting of performance issues? Well my opinion, being a vita owner myself, is no. Now this topic has risen due to borderlands 2 on vita, in many critics opinion, performs poorly, whereas many user review are positive. Why is this so?

    Well this is because, its not that many vita owners are accepting of performance issues but many critics being stingy towards the vita. Like in the walking dead example, the iOS version wasn’t criticized heavily on performance issues but the vita version was.

    Now back to the topic. I’ll admit the vita version of borderlands 2 does have performance issues like framerate drops, freezes and crashes (It froze on me thrice in my 16 hours of play however it hasn’t crashed on me even once). But is it horrible? Unpayable? No. I am enjoying my time with it and I even heard a few pc players enjoying it along with others. The problem is that some people can’t distinguish between the vita and a console. The vita was advertised as console experience on the go not emulate our replicate it exactly. It’s pretty obvious that the vita even though is powerful can’t compete to a console. Yet many “professional” reviewers who review vita games can’t seem to understand something as simple as that. Iron galaxy studios mentioned that the vita version of borderlands 2 cannot be a exact replica of the console versions. Sacrifices had to be made but still many critics criticized it for not being the exact same version of the console counterparts. Take kotaku’s kirk for example, he criticized this version because it didn’t have the “bouncy” physics of the console counterparts. I mean what did you expect? Also many reviewers criticized it for not looking as beautiful as the console versions, performance issues calling it unplayable and controls calling them unresponsive. It’s as if they expect the vita version to be the exact of the console versions. I know I am repeating myself but this is just said. People can’t credit the vita for what it can a achieve but is quick to bash it for a few missteps in its path….

  • Sebastian Yurjevic

    Reviewing a game and playing a game for fun are two very different experiences. I think that reviewers are right to report the issues surrounding a game provided that their final review expresses the overall experience rather than just the technical problems the game may have. My experience with BL2 is overwhelmingly positive. I repeatedly read that the graphics were “ok”, I don’t know about you, but the game looks awesome to me, downright beautiful at times. The gunfights are fast paced and a ton of fun, the dialogue often hilarious. Yes my gun jerks unexpectedly sometimes during a fight, or there are frame drops in busy sections (Sanctuary for example), and I’m not a fan of the vehicle system, but the game delivers an outstanding experience nonetheless. I don’t own a PS 3 and I don’t game on my PC very often, my Vita and 3DS are my main gaming platforms and BL2 delivers a memorable, engrossing experience that keeps me coming back for more. What more do you want in a game, frankly. The issues do not come to the forefront when I think about the game, I would easily give it a 8 – 8.5 score on a 1 – 10 scale. For those of you that have played it elsewhere and know what I’m referring to, while taking the midget to get incinerated at the Tanker’s dragon head in the firehawk cult mission for instance, as I climbed the shanty town towards the hulking form overhead, killing enemies left and right, I felt mesmerized by the complexity of the geometry and the richness of the topography and environment. The tanker at a distance looks gorgeous, an intricate, beautiful sight. When finally burning the midget, as he screamed in ecstasy, I was transported, honestly. I laughed out loud in the train in pure gaming joy and satisfaction. Any game, or handheld for that matter, that makes me feel that cannot be “average”, sorry. For what a good review should sound like, check out Kimgtarheel’s reviews on youtube. He gets the balance between technical issues and gaming experience just right. He sets right the negative vibe behind games like resistance burning skies and CoD, both of which are very unfairly torn down and deliver a better experience than the reviews would lead you to expect.

  • Dan Smith

    It depends on the game. Borderlands 2 is a huge game that has screen tearing and framerate problems on PS3. If Flappy Bird came to Vita with these issues then i would understand the criticisms. I play games for fun not framerate. And Borderlands 2 is very fun.

  • Lester Paredes

    I don’t mind hitches in games, as long as they’re fun. All games have some sort of glitch. As long as it doesn’t break the game, it’s not a big deal. Played Amazing Spider-Man on Vita, and despite the constant frame rate issues, it was still fun. Sure, it got annoying after a while, but I platinumed it. People seem to have this expectation that the games on Vita can’t have issues, and they seem to go out of their way to bitch about touch controls and how they’re so terrible. When they find an issue, they harp on it hard and blow it all out of proportion. I just roll my eyes and move on. I’ve gotten to the point where I just read the reviews on vita specific sites, such as my favorite: The Vita Lounge.

  • Rodolfo Ferreira

    Paul, my answer to your question: Vita gamers do feel like they need to put up with issues in-game when it comes to a AAA Vita game. Simply because Vita’s library is filled up with ports and indies so they don’t feel like skipping AAA games since there aren’t that many to begin with. As long as it’s not a port, anything goes. If it’s a port with a lot of frame drops and it takes too long to load, so IGN feels they have the right to call it ‘mediocre’. Don’t get me wrong, the PlayStation Vita’s hardware IS that powerful to deliver ‘the console experience with (PS2) console graphics’ on the go. It just doesn’t have enough MEMORY and CPU power to handle too many things while keeping up with FPS.
    I had learned it before buying it and I ended up loving mine anyway.
    Now bare in mind this only means the Vita can handle almost everything you throw at it, it just can’t handle way too many things at the same time. killzone has lags, try getting closer to a smoke grenade while gunfighting against 2 or 3 AI bots. Dead Nation suffers as well, we’ve discussed this here: http://thevitalounge.net/dead-nation/
    So in conclusion, Vita can barely handle a great-looking and DEMANDING game or port, but that does not keep me from playing a AAA game on my handheld. Vita’s hardware IS limited, deal with it.

    • Thulsa

      I think IGN were totally wrong in their review, they didn’t review it as a game but as a port and that is not what they should have done. Hell even as a port they rated it way too low. Imagine if the Vita was the first and only console to get BL2, would they have rated it so low then? Hell no because even with a few technical issues it’s a great game that deserves 85-90%, I bought the Vita version after playing the PC verison and reading the low review scores and I was totally expecting a steaming pile of shit of a game/port but that is not what I got, I got a very playable port of a great game.

      I’m a collecter of all retail Vita games, the first and only console I’ve done that with from the start of my gaming over 35 years ago and because I am now buying games that have scored lower than 80% I have come to the conclusion that most reviewer don’t know what the fuck they are talking about or are just ‘jumping on the bandwagon’ of whatever the big sites give certain games. Some of my favourite Vta games have gotten less than 60% on metacritic and it’s almost painful to think that many gamers will never play these games because of that.

      • http://khyreemisterree.tumblr.com/ khyree

        I’m thinking of getting some games for my Vita but I’m wary of online reviews like you’ve mentioned. Do you mind sharing some of the games you like that got a low score? Thanks! :)

  • Thulsa

    Borderlands 2 on the Vita has a better overall framerate than the PS3 version, digital foundry tested the PS3 version at between 24 and 30 fps and the Vita on adverage does better (28-30). What many reviewers seem to forget is that BL2 was developed for the PS3/360 as the lowest console and the fact they managed to get it running on the Vita at all is quite an achievement. Should they have ported BL2 to the Vita? maybe not (at least not as a direct port), but they did and I’m personnaly very impressed with what they managed to do. I’m playing through BL2 on the Vita now and the only other version I’ve played was on my high end gaming PC and the experience is pretty much the same unless you are a total graphics whore.

    I don’t think Vita owners are too accepting of performance issues, I think we are just aware of the limitations of the hardware and except that it’s not a portable PS3/PS4/PC and that games will never quite run as well as they would on other more powerful formats.

    Out of all of the formats I own I play on my Vita the most and I own over 80 physical games and about 30 digital which is by far more than I own for the PS3 and PS4, I own more on my PC (476) because of steam sales/humble bundles.

  • JoeCool

    You may call me a conformist, but I always tend to look past the technicalities.
    If I find a game to be fun and entertaining overall, the graphics comes last.
    I rather be happy with a game I enjoy, instead of worrying and criticizing the devs who took their time to give us something we want.

    Take the PSP for example, if you compare those games (GFX wise) with the Vita, it sure has come a long way.

    Just appreciate what you have now. Have fun. And one day you’ll get what you really “seek”