Playstation Plus Update: Online Save Backup

PlayStation Plus logo
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This was something I was hoping would happen for quite some time. I lost all of my saves when our PS3 broke just as I was transferring out data across to our new one, as we knew the original was on its last legs. A service like this would have been great for me back then.

Even now I would this. The problem is that I’m not a plus member, my brother is. He probably wouldn’t benefit as much as me from this service. He doesn’t play a lot of single player games. Most of the games he plays are online and save data remotely anyway.

All of the Plus content except anything transferred to PSP can be played on other accounts on the same PS3 as a plus member. Therefore, it hardly seems worth it for me to pay a £40 subscription just to be able to play minis and PSOne classics on my PSP (when I can play them on PS3 already if I wanted to), back up my saves and have a gold plus next to my PSN name.

Not only this, but the save backup service is very low tech. In a perfect product, you would expect it to automatically upload the updated save to the cloud after every play session ends, and always keep the most recent version synced between the cloud and the system itself. Maybe it could even keep a backup of previous versions so that you could revert to them if your current save gets corrupted. It doesn’t do any of these things, and just allows you to manually upload each save individually, similar to how I used to transfer my assignment documents between home and college using either email or a USB stick.

Those things wouldn’t be easy to add in to an existing product like the PS3 so there’s no real argument to be made. I don’t understand however why there isn’t an option to select multiple saves and upload them in batches as opposed to one at a time. It seems too time consuming and not streamlined enough.

All things considered, this is a nice addition to Playstation Plus. It doesn’t cost any extra and the service was already a fairly good deal before this update, especially if you never downloaded a lot of PSN games before. I’m not sure what they could do to make me want to pay for the service. I would assume quite a lot considering that I can already play the content my brother is paying for, but I’m sure there’s something cool they could do to tempt me. I just can’t think of what it would entail.


F1 2010 Game Review

F1 2010 is an F1 game which will blow you away if you’re a fan of the sport and a fan of racing games. It’s been a long time coming as there hasn’t been an F1 game in HD since Championship Edition for PS3 back in 2006, but it’s been worth the wait.

When I first played it, I was a bit sceptical at the handling being a bit too sensitive as I was spinning out quite a lot and was having to use the flashback feature often. I’m happy to say that it was a combination of diving in too quickly, as well as the first track being the Bahrain GP, which this year updated its layout. I’ve never played this layout before of course so it didn’t help. As a quick aside, I absolutely hate this new layout and am so glad they’re going back to the original next year.

Once I got the hang of the controls and got to racing on tracks I had learnt on the Wii game last year I started to have an absolute blast. I love the sense of speed and the intense feeling of being on the edge of your seat when you know that it is possible to make a mistake and spin the car. The Wii version never had that. There are many other things that F1 2009 didn’t have. One of which was HD graphics. I played last years game and thought it looked pretty decent, but playing this game for the first time really reminded me how far behind the Wii’s graphics are by comparison. This game is incredible to behold. When you play each track and each car for the first time, and often after many times, you can’t help but admire it.

The career mode in F1 2010 takes up the entire menu, as the paddock, complete with your motor-home of the team you’re currently driving for is the menu. It’s done in a similar style to Dirt 2, another Codemasters game that I love. You can choose to partake in either 3, 5 or 7 seasons, and the teams that are open to you at the beginning change according to that preference. For example, if you choose 3 years, you’ll be able to pick from teams such as Williams and Force India as well as the 3 new teams, but if you choose 7 years, then you’ll be stuck with either Virgin, Lotus, or Hispania. I chose the full 7 years and started with Virgin Racing.

Bear in mind that if you do start as one of these new teams, unless you play on easy or to some extent medium difficulty, you’re not going to be able to do a lot of winning. It really depends on how realistic you want to take the experience. If you’re happy to be struggling at the back of the grid being lapped for your first season, then you can certainly do that.

During the career you get interviewed after sessions and those interviews can cause tensions within the team if you say something out of line. However, while at first it looks really cool and dynamic, after less than a season you’ll find yourself being asked the same questions, with the same options for answers. Next year they need to take this to the next level and make it truly dynamic. This is a good starting point though.

While the presentation of the season mode sometimes lets the game down a bit, people play these games for the racing, and the racing is brilliant in F1 2010. Overtaking is very rewarding as you are forced to be careful depending on how many flashbacks you have remaining, where in the race you are and so on. You can’t just barge your way through like on past games and this feels challenging but also very fun.

The weather effects are spectacular. The game has dynamic settings where the track can dry after raining, or it can start raining in the middle or towards the end of a race, which can potentially cause chaos with tyre choices. I haven’t experienced that quite yet but I have driven in the rain, and it’s exhilarating and frightening by equal measure.

In general I love the game, but there are some downsides to mention. While I love the sound of an F1 car changing through the gears and the engines screaming during high speed straights, I think the engine noises are a bit too loud. I had to turn my TV down quite a bit to compensate for it, but it didn’t make that much difference. I ended up having to cut the sound of the engines down by around half in the game options because it was that piercing to the ears.

Online play was another feature that the Wii didn’t offer last year. It’s not something I ever really missed but this year Codemasters have added a robust online component. This however leads to my biggest complaint with the game. They haven’t done a good enough job in keeping the racing fair and fun. Almost every time I’ve played an online 3 lap srpint (the default game type) there has been a pile up in the first corner and I’ve generally been taken out either then or later on in the 3 lap race by someone who is so desperate to pass me that they don’t bother using their brakes.

Every chicane or heavy braking zone that comes up is another potential place to be taken out from behind when you’re just minding your own business. They have a system where sometimes, players in dangerous positions go invisible for a short period of time to avoid any further contact. That’s find but it doesn’t work well enough. There should have been a system to make people fade out if they go into a corner at a speed the game decides is above a certain limit. That way you could avoid all of these braking zone accidents and give the power to the players who take fair racing seriously. Until that happens, if it ever does, all you’ll ever get in those short races is a destruction derby.

With all that said, there is a chance that the other modes, such as endurance (20% distance) and Grand Prix (qualifying session followed by 7 laps) can solve this problem because it will be about consistent pace rather than barging people out of the way for 3 laps. If this is the case, I’ll write a follow up about it.

The other main complaint I have is with the damage in the game. In the Wii game last year, the damage setting was independent of the main difficulty level, in a similar way to the traction control, manual gears and other assists. This year, everything remains difficulty independent except damage, which really disappoints me. In the last game, rather than play on hard all the time, I liked to play on medium but put most of the assists off and increase the damage to full.

Now I can only play with full damage if I play on either hard or expert, but with that also comes harder AI, tyre wear and fewer to no flashbacks, making the game far harder than I wanted considering how easy it is to damage the car.

The other issue regarding damage is that despite the fact that it’s far more comprehensive than last year’s Wii game where you could only bend one wheel at the most, it doesn’t feel realistic enough. Even on Expert, you have to take a considerably greater impact to lose a wheel than you would in real life. At the beginning of every race, it’s common to see someone lose a small piece of their front wing and sometimes more. That won’t happen here and it’s disappointing, because it would have been fun to truly test myself.

Not only this, but no matter how fast you plough into a barrier or another car, you can’t wreck them to the extent that you sometimes see in actual Formula 1 racing. Some incidents in real life are truly spectacular, and all that remains after them is the drivers safety cell and maybe 1 wheel. I wish that was possible in the game, and what makes it more frustrating is that I know it was a design decision to make it more accessible, and they could have easily done it.

Despite these small faults, F1 2010 is still an almost faultless racing game. It plays great, looks amazing and is the best take on F1 racing yet released. I think the involvement of professional racing driver Anthony Davidson has helped the game tremendously and given an extra depth of realism never before seen. I highly recommend it, and as I predicted, I highly doubt anything other than GT5 can match it for my Game of the Year, especially now that LBP2 has been delayed to January.


Playstation Plus Thoughts

The newly announced and launched Playstation Plus service is an interesting idea. While similar in price to Xbox Live, it doesn’t actually compare in terms of features. While Xbox Live Gold allows you to play online and allows you access to some entertainment features on top of that, it doesn’t give you free content.

Playstation Plus is a kind of Playstation loyalty scheme in which players pay up-front for a subscription for either 3 months or a year for £40 or similar to that in other currencies. I wasn’t really sure at first if it would be worth-it for me to join because of the fact that I already own quite a few PSN games, and I have been very critical of the minis program in the past and still am.

What ended up happening though was that my brother bought a subscription for a year to plus. One of the main reasons for this was because of the special offer for people who join in the first month, which is a downloadable copy of LittleBigPlanet. LBP is one of my favourite games on PS3 and of course I already own a copy. We should now be able to trade in our disc version for credit at the store and make back some of the £40 joining fee. Hopefully the rest of that fee will be made back over the next 12 months.

I’m not sure if the LBP downloadable version is tied to the same expiration date as other Plus content, but when I went into the information page on the game it said that there was no time limit, while other games I downloaded did say they would expire in a year with the subscription if it wasn’t renewed. Even if LBP does expire in a year, I think because LBP2 is coming out a long way before then, and it is fully compatible with all old downloadable levels and DLC, unless you want to play the story levels again, there’s not much need to hang on to LBP.

For people who don’t already own LBP or WipEout HD, the £40 fee is worth paying just for the first month’s content. If you’re like me and you do already have both games, it should be worth the cost to you quite comfortably over the year. It just depends how much you are willing to take a chance that the content will be what you want to play.

If they go forward and add further features such as cross-game voice chat and possibly things like online game save backup then it will be worth the price for even more people and will probably go on to be very successful for Sony. So far it looks like it has a good starting position and can only get better from here.


Modnation Racers Review

Modnation Racers is simply put, a mashup of Mario Kart and LittleBigPlanet with HD graphics done in a nice art style. The creation aspect of the game will astonish and amaze you in the incredible amount of creative power they give players. What separates this game from LBP in creation is that it does a great job of also making it very easy for anyone to create tracks, cars and mods while not sacrificing power that the serious creators require.

LBP provided such incredible tools for creation, and while LBP did allow you to make more than just one type of level like MNR does with race tracks, it was hard work trying to figure out how to make it all work well. Yes, they were all 2D platformers generally, but the level design could play in many different ways. Modnation is always a track with a beginning and an end and some corners. Of course, LBP2 will take it to a whole new level with full game creation and other views than just 2.5D but that’s for later and possibly MNR2 to compete with feature wise.

But while MNR doesn’t quite offer equally powerful level customisation as LBP does, where it excels is in its mod creation tools which allows you to make characters which actually look like who they’re supposed to. In LBP, any costumes either made or bought were Sackboys dressed up as the intended character. While that suited that game, I love how you can find realistic looking mods for almost any character you can think of.

To be clear then, the customisation aspect of this game is absolutely incredible. What you can make and find online will astound you. With that said, this is a kart racing game, and without good driving mechanics, tracks, weapons and online play, the customisation isn’t really enough to save it.

While I don’t think the controls are perfect, and while I’m not a huge fan of all of the weapons and the shielding system, I think the gameplay is solid and while not up to mario kart level, it’s still very good especially for a system with very few other titles of note, if any at all in this genre.

I haven’t yet played all of the tracks but from the half or so I have played, I think they’re pretty fun and well designed. It was always going to be tough to compete with Mario Kart in track design but they’ve done well regardless.

Online play is great. There are multiple modes which include XP races which limit you to the default tracks and standard rules and custom races which let you host a race with your own track or another track you’ve downloaded. You can also join in split-screen mode but unfortunately, like mario kart wii, you can’t get XP from these modes or import your character from another PS3 profile into the game as a guest character like you can in LBP. This is disappointing but overall not a huge problem.

The biggest issue I have with the game is the absolutely punishing difficulty of the offline career mode. I thought this about inFamous too. Even on easy mode in that game it was annoyingly difficult. The career mode in this game will make you feel awful at times and even when you drive an almost perfect race with great drifting and slipstreaming skills, and using the weapons in the best way you can, it’s still a struggle to get into the top 3 and especially to win races. Yes, mario kart Wii was infuriating at 150cc and mirror mode levels at times, but even so, I got it done eventually. In this, I honestly don’t feel that I could be doing a lot better in my racing style and ability. There are some areas where I could improve but I don’t think it would be enough to make me able to win comfortably.

Overall I do recommend the game to kart racing fans. I consider myself good at these type of games generally. I’ve been able to dominate on Mario Kart Wii online in the past but this feels much more hardcore. Winning online here will take a lot of practise to give yourself a chance to really do well. This game will attract a more hardcore audience despite its family appeal and colourful art style simply because of the console it’s on. You won’t get the same number of casual players to beat for easy points like you would on the Wii.

Go and get this game, marvel at the creation aspect, and if you’re like me, hope that they patch the difficulty along with the long load times soon.