E3 09: Hands on with the PSP Go

I was wrong about the PSP Go. In our last Destructoid Discusses we expressed our feelings on the leaked photos and video of the system, and I now have to admit that we were a bit hasty with our judgments. I was probably the worst offender. I found myself calling out the design, button and controller placement, and just about everything else you could try to pick apart. And while my cohorts were happy to go along with me in this, now that I’ve had a chance to spend some quality time with the system, I have to say that I was wrong.

Instead, I’ve come away with the biggest case of technolust. The device is gorgeous. The design is sound. And the feel and controls? They’re great. I’m not too proud to say that I was wrong, but in this case, Sony had to pull me away from a showing that ran far too long. They were doing the obvious watch check thing. They ran me off. I think they thought I was going to steal a PSP Go.

We spoke with Sony’s Brian Keltner about the PSP Go’s reception here at E3, which you can watch in the video below. I also broke down our impressions on the control, design, as well as our thoughts of the Go in action. Long story short? I’m impressed.

The design:

Something about the leaked photos rubbed us the wrong way. The scale seemed off, the device looked plasticy and cheap, and it was our opinion that this system would be unwieldy. Worst off, the slide screen design seemed like it would be gimmicky, and nothing like the fan concept images that we’ve been daydreaming about for so long.

I’m glad to say that the design of the PSP Go is lovely. It’s much more compact and sensible in the hands than we first thought it would be. The top and back of the unit is metal (or at least metal reinforced), and the top is sleek and simple, sporting only a hole for a strap and a few ports.

The screen was stunning, and did not seem to have the video issues the PSP-3000 has been accused of. Fast action games like Motorstorm showed no problems at all. Images just seem to fly off the screen in vivid color. We watched video clips and played several games in our hands on time, and I feel comfortable in saying that the PSP Go has the best screen ever put into a portable console.

We first got our hands on the standard black unit, which was lovely enough. It is your standard glossy black affair, just like the the currently available PSP. But later, as you’ll see in the video, Sony was kind enough to share with us a white, sparkly PSP. Don’t get me wrong: I’ll take either, but I really want this white one. And yes, we asked: Sony will launch in October with the black one.

The controls:

As far as our reaction to the leaked images and video goes, we were most concerned about the placement of the controls on the PSP Go. It seems that Sony saw our Destructoid Discusses video where we were quick to bash the layout and the inset controls. Sony’s Jeff Rubenstein asked me to give it a chance, telling me that the d-pad and button placement is much like that of the DualShock controller.

He was right. The hand feel of the unit is very close to that of the DualShock setup that Sony has used from the beginning. The d-pad and left analog nub placement sits right where your left thumb would fall, just like it does with the DualShock. And while you don’t have the right analog stick, a round combo of the start and select buttons fit there.

The face buttons are smaller and clickier, and kind of remind me of the feel of the Nintendo DSi ones. They’re flatter and less raised than you’d expect, but still perform fine, and give even more tactile response than the current PSP ones do. The analog nub is also smaller than the current PSP nub, but it seems to have the same travel distance, and now sits in a recessed area to let the screen slide down over it. I really like the new L and R buttons, which are new shiny metal, and have a bit more travel when pressed.

As for the non-game controls, the volume rocker sits atop the unit, as does the screen brightness and music button. The left side of the slide-up screen’s face sports the PS button, just like the one on the SIXAXIS controller.

In action:

We played several games on the PSP Go, including several new titles like Little Big Planet, Soul Calibur, Gran Turismo PSP and several more. I’m pleased to say that the control feel was absolutely natural, to the point that I didn’t really think much about it. The back rounded corners and overall width makes it feel like you’re holding a console controller, and the placement of the buttons compliments that nicely. In fact, the only thing that feels different is the L and R buttons, which I feel are a vast improvement from those of the PSP. Overall, your hands are closer together, much like they would be on a console controller, making the game play experience totally natural and transparent. It’s clear that Sony put a lot of work into the design here.


I went from being highly critical to being totally sold on the PSP Go. It only took some quality time with the unit to change my mind. This is the first time in a long time that I’ve been impressed by a portable’s design, and it’s hard to deny the appeal of the screen and the pocket-able form factor. My original concern with the control placement no longer exists. It’s fine.

Ultimately, it will be up to you to decide if a smaller, UMD-less PSP is worth your $249. It may not be, especially as Sony assures us that the downloadable game services will also be available to current PSP users. For me, I’m sold. I will be picking up a PSP Go on October 1st.

Dale North