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I spent about 6 hours or so with Playstation Now, Sony’s new game streaming service. The idea is pretty amazing. Being able to see a game I want to play and then within a minute be playing it, no downloads or installs, that is a very “future” sounding idea. Sadly, Playstation Now might be something cool in that “future,” that exciting future of instant games. But at the moment the service is filled with too many issues and not enough worthwhile games.
The first issue I noticed about Playstation Now was how lacking the library of games is. There aren’t a ton of new games and oddly enough there are some games that are available on the PS4 already like Contrast and Pixeljunk Shooter. Sure if you are using PS Now on a Playstation TV or some other device that Sony has said the service is coming to, it makes more sense to have access to these games. But seeing games that are on PS4 on the PS Now store seems like a waste. Who is going to pay for a lesser quality version of a game that they are only renting when they can just buy a better version for not much more? I would assume very few are interested in that idea.
The next thing I did was test my connection. I am quite lucky as I have a 1gb Google Fiber internet connection, so I easily passed the test. After that I started looking through the games and noticed the prices. They are pretty high. And I also noticed the different rental options.
Guacamelee is $15 to play for 90 days, which is how much the game costs on PS4 if you want to just buy it outright. Actually it is the better and expanded Super Turbo Championship Edition on PS4. Some games like Saints Row: The Third only offer two ways to rent, 4 hours and 90 days. If you want to rent Saints Row: The Third for 90 days it will cost you $30. A quick Google search shows me I can buy a copy of that game for less than $15. Or you could just buy it on your PS3 for the same price it costs to rent and stream it. Which for most is the better and smarter option.
The fact is that the pricing and rental options on PS Now are terrible and feel like ripoffs. Perhaps the ability to easily and instantly play games, with no downloads, is worth a bit of premium price. Or maybe Sony will offer some sort of subscription service in the future. But unfortunately the pricing and rental options are not the only problems Playstation Now has.
After looking through the list of games, I found little that interested me. Finally I rented four games: MX vs. ATV Reflex, Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard, Dead Island Riptide and Saints Row 2. Before I could buy I had to do another test of my connection. A smiling face assured me I was good and so I gave Sony $3 for the pleasure of playing Saints Row 2 again… for four hours.
After about a minute of loading the game started up. I was impressed at how fast it started up. Within less than two minutes I was in Saints Row 2. But I wasn’t happy with what I saw. Saints Row 2 is not a pretty game, but PS Now made it look even worse. The whole screen had an out of focus feel to it. There was tons of pixelation and if I got into a large action section I found the screen began to tear and it the framerate dipped. All of my inputs felt laggy. Moving around menus, shooting, driving, walking and flying all felt….off. It wasn’t so bad that I couldn’t play. But it was noticeable and made me feel disconnected from the game. Shooting a bunch of enemies didn’t feel satisfying. It felt like I was watching something that was on a small, but noticeable delay. After about two hours I finally gave up and tried the other games.
They were all fairly similar experiences. I found MX vs. ATV Reflex to be hard to play because I had to execute timed button presses and PS Now has just enough input lag that it caused me to crash a lot. Dead Island looked really rough, with a weird grainy feel to the screen and the analog controls felt mushy and delayed. Eat Lead felt like Saints Row 2 and the aiming felt nearly broken at times. (Then again Eat Lead isn’t a super great game so I won’t put all the blame on Playstation Now.)
I would love to show you some gameplay or screenshots, but once you enter into a game you can’t take screenshots, livestream or record video. It makes the share button completely useless. Which is annoying. Also if you weren’t a fan of the PS3’s XMB menu well it is back, emulated by PS Now, and its laggy and looks awful. It’s also sort of awkward to get to menus while using PS Now. You hit the PS button and you’re given some choices, like go to XMB or PS4 Menu. But the game, for some reason, doesn’t pause. So make sure you pause before you access this menu. PS Now feels filled with poor design choices like this.
About halfway through Saints Row 2 I wanted to see how much time was left. I click the PS button on the controller and searched around there. No indication. I went to the PS4’s dashboard and clicked on the Saints Row 2 icon. No information about time was there either. The only way I could find out about time was by going into the PS Now store, clicking my games and finding Saints Row 2. Even then I was only given a rough estimate of “2 hours”. It wasn’t until I hit less than 90 minutes remaining that I was finally able to see an actual number of minutes left.
If you leave the game inactive for more than 5-10 minutes it brings up a warning message saying the game will be closed. Another message I saw while loading up the games told me that this was done to help save room on the servers. That’s nice, but it could cause issues for those who get a random knock at the door or phone call.
Oddly enough when the time ran out on one of my games I wasn’t immediately kicked out. In fact I was able to play for almost ten minutes after the rental period. Eventually I got a message, but it worded weirdly. “This game will close in five minutes because you reached the time limit for continuous play.” Which I found an odd way to phase that. Its little things like this that made me feel like I was using an unpolished service. To be fair this is in beta, and Sony has said they are listening to feedback. But I feel anything asking for money should be open to criticism, like anything else I pay for. So even though it’s in beta, I feel PS Now is just not worth your time or money….yet.
There is a good idea here. A future where you want to play something,you just hit play and you are instantly playing a game. No fuss, no downloads, no installs. But PS Now at the moment feels incomplete and poorly thought out. There needs to be better streaming quality, better pricing models and better games. I also find it crazy that Sony doesn’t let you play any game for free for 10 minutes or so, like a try before you buy service. (I guess in this case it would be rent..)
So for now I would say give PS Now a pass. Maybe sometime in the future when there are more games and more devices it will be a fantastic service. In the meantime, I would avoid Playstation Now for the time being.