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Sony Playstation Suite

Playstation suite was announced at the same event as the NGP but I didn’t get around to mention it in my original post. This is a new product that will be available to Android smartphones and tablets. It will allow downloading and playing of official playstation games, old and new on non-Sony devices for the first time.

It’s clear that this is the company’s first real attempt at the cheap downloadable mobile games market, as minis have in many peoples eyes been a colossal failure. Despite it being highly unlikely that they’ll give Apple any real competition, I think it’s the right tactic for Sony and their ambitions in mobile gaming to be using.

It’s a but strange that they chose to announce the service at this event, but they held back the announcement of the much talked about Xperia Play (rumoured name) until most likely the world mobile event in Barcelona in February.

The announcement of PS Suite all but guarantees the device is definitely coming and soon, but I suppose they just didn’t want to confuse everyone by showing two new pieces of hardware on the same day.

Hopefully we’ll get more info on the service including how and when it will be made available, the games and hardware soon.

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Miscellaneous

Sony Playstation Meeting 2011 (PSP2 / NGP) Thoughts

The PSP2 (codenamed NGP for next generation portable) is the result of what happens when Sony are keen to make up for previous mistakes, mostly the PSP go and listen to the players’ requests. As far as features go, it has everything you could want. Yes, I would probably have preferred a slider form factor, or even a flip, but it’s still got everything else almost any gamer could ask for. Here’s what it has:

  • Two analogue sticks, and from what I’ve seen so far, they appear to be actual sticks and not nubs as before, making them hopefully much more usable.
  • It’s not download only. This is a big deal. The go was a disaster, not because downloading isn’t the future, it was just implemented terribly and was also before its time. Adapted memory cards will feel familiar to Nintendo players and is the right thing for Sony to be doing now as it keeps them a big firmly placed in retail stores.
  • It has a huge 5 inch touch OLED screen, but when you look at it next to the 3000, it doesn’t actually look that big. While it’s not as portable as before in terms of pocketing it, most people would likely put their PSP in their bag anyway so I don’t see it as a problem whatsoever.
  • The touch panel on the back I was worried would be too big a part of the product, but I feel that it’s most likely going to be a gimmick like the sixaxis and hardly used. It will be good but will only give additional options to developers, just as the current gimmick started by Apple and now adopted by Nintendo and Sony of sensors and gyroscopes won’t feature in most games.
  • It’s casual friendly. The interface looks very Apple inspired. The bubbles on each “home screen” change the formula around from the grid style Apple pioneered, but you can see where they got their inspiration from, especially when you look at the dots at the bottom which indicate what home screen you’re on. The array of sensors and that big touch screen really make this a device that can eventually have mass appeal. Like the 3DS is positioned predominantly to target hardcore gamers at first, Sony are doing the same here, but admittedly with far less chance of broadening the appeal later on. They won’t be too worried about that though as they know their market well.
  • They have crammed in everything but the kitchen sink. The device has almost everything you could want. 3G, GPS, quad-core processing and PS3 like graphics as well the obvious things like wi-fi and bluetooth. This makes Nintendo’s SpotPass and StreetPass look very basic by comparison.
  • Playstation Network is fully integrated, meaning we’ll probably get to see our online friends, message them, invite them to games, maybe even voice chat. This would all be in addition to trophy support. Even though I don’t chase trophies like I used to, it’s still nice to get them when I’m not trying and it’s a feature that a lot of people want so I’m happy about that too.

That is about all I can think to mention about the system. Normally, after events like these from Sony and other companies, in recent times I’ve often felt disappointed and always left pondering where they could have improved. This time it’s hard to find fault with the NGP.

While it’s essentially the same strategy as the PSP was launched with, of pure power and the promise of console style gaming on a handheld. This time Sony are in a much better position to truly fulfil that premise and give Nintendo a better run for their money.

The only remaining question everyone has is how much it will cost. Of course, all of the great news today could be undone if they announce it at £300 or more, and you could easily see them doing so considering the specs the machine boasts. You just have to hope that they’ve either found a way to produce it fairly cheaply, or are willing to take a hit on the system to make it back on game sales. Perhaps a combination of these is likely.

Another point to bear in mind is that Sony are desperate to put the failure of the PSP go and the PS3 launch price behind them, and therefore they may be considering being aggressive on price straight away to try to avoid damaging their reputation again. They will want to keep things going steadily as they have been with PS3 for the last two to three years.

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Gran Turismo 5 Review

Gran Turismo 5

GT5 was highly anticipated for many years until its eventual release a few months ago. It’s not a game for everyone as a lot of gamers tend to either not enjoy or understand realistic racing simulations. Burnout this is most definitely not. I’m a huge Burnout fan too but this is a very different game, but we all know that.

This game, like the previous ones in the series demands absolute precision and rewards skill and practice. The 200 or so premium cars are things to behold. Stunningly detailed, with interior views that really make you feel like you’re driving the car. They even simulate the G-Forces and car shaking in this view. Sometimes it can be too intense to look at, especially on the oval tracks. It brings home to you the kind of punishment these professional drivers put themselves through.

Because I’m not a big fan of the other camera views the 800 standard cars, all without the cockpit view and in lower resolutions are almost worthless to me. They look awful most of the time and aren’t as fun to drive. It’s a real shame, especially as there are some great cars that are only available in standard versions, such as the Bugatti Veyron. 1000 cars is a great thing to be able to say in advertising, but in practise it’s a let down.

With this said, 200 cars is still more than almost any other video-game. I believe Forza 3 has approximately 500 in the special edition of that game. I wish Polyphony had cut the number of cars in half to that same number if they could have made them all premium quality.

Cars are nothing without tracks, and there is a great diverse collection of tracks in the game. From randomly generated Rally Stages to American Ovals, Le Mans and Suzuka, there’s something for every type of racing fan. There are even a selection of imaginary city tracks based on what could be possible if street races were held in those venues. As usual in Gran Turismo games, there are also some imaginary tracks designed to test driving skill to the maximum. These tracks are okay but they aren’t the best looking and sometimes the layouts aren’t entirely to my liking, but it’s a personal taste issue.

As far as gameplay, the cars handle brilliantly. They all handle slightly differently and you can feel this different when you race. Set-up changes, including tyre choice can make huge differences as well. Using the wrong tyre compound can cost you dearly, especially in b-spec races where the drivers can’t handle the cars and spin out.

Reviewers have been critical of GT5 as an actual game rather than a pure simulator, by saying that it’s essentially a 10 out of 10 simulator, wrapped up in a  5/10 game. It is true that some elements of the game are not entirely imaginative, and they could have made the interface a bit better, but it’s by no means broken and in my opinion I think those reviewers are being too picky. If you’re a fan of simulation racing, you will know exactly what you’re getting yourself into with GT5, and despite it’s few shortcomings, this is a very fine game that you’ll undoubtedly love.

I’ve spent a lot of time with it since it came out and I still don’t feel finished. I’ve got almost all the cars in the game I could wish for. I’ve driven every track many times and got about as far as I can with the special events as well as the regular A-Spec and B-Spec modes.

Why then would I want to continue further? Well, in a recent update, Polyphony added a new mode called Seasonal Events. This mode is updated every week with 5 new special event races for particular cars, as well as time trial and drift trial challenges with online leaderboards. It adds a lot of replay value to the game by making you interested in buying, tuning and racing cars you may have otherwise have overlooked. The rewards for these races far outweigh the cost of buying and tuning the cars. They also offer great XP to allow players to level up to the max of 40 a bit more easily by reducing the amount of grinding you’ll have to do. I assume that they’ll be doing these special events with almost all, if not all of the premium cars over time, so the game could continue to provide new reasons to play for many months to come.

Not only this, but Polyphony have stated that they plan to upgrade some standard cars to premium ones in future updates, as well as enable their online remote-racing service which you can use in a web-browser to play B-Spec races remotely. Your PS3 does have to be running and playing the game, but it’s still a nice and unique concept.

Just to mention some other small issues with the game, I feel that the online racing is below par and it’s disappointingly clunky to use. So much so that I don’t really want to bother with it until they patch it to make it much more streamlined and faster loading. Then again, most people, myself included will never race online and still play the game for months consistently and have a great time, so it won’t be a big deal for many people.

I can’t wait to see what else Kazinori and Polyphony have up their sleeves for us in future updates. In the meantime, if you don’t own this game, or even don’t own a PS3, you should pick this this game up if you think it’s your type of thing. I would also suggest buying an HD TV as well, since this game really gets the most out of it.

In general, it’s a brilliant driving game that just about met incredibly lofty expectations and you shouldn’t miss it.

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Miscellaneous

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.