Tuesday, November 22, 2011

playstation home report

Did the shit just get awesome? A massive overhaul to Playstation Home leaves past visitors wondering if the recent teaser video of PS Home is too good to be true. Could PS Home become all it could be, with free games, things to do and, most importantly, the return of poker? The teaser promises a new main spawning point (replacing Central Plaza), new spaces and dozens of free-to-play games. We dive into PS Home for a look for ourselves.

In addition to the cosmetic changes, navigation is better than ever. Using your in game PDA to navigate to spaces, the ability to chose your own spawning point, even managing your inventory is simpler and more organized than it once was.

Let's break down the newest spaces we've visited:

The Hub.
This space is more confined than I expected. The first thing I noticed was a posted list of rules, front and center. The actual rules of conduct themselves are not new but are definitely much more in your face. The dance floor returns, now designed as a glass floor over water. There is a screaming roller coaster of sorts flying overhead. Some Uncharted 3 and PS Store promotions and a transporter. Seems like each new space has access to the store, arcade machines and fetch quests standard now. Fetch quests are little errands or assignments that help you explore the new spaces. You are rewarded for completing the quests with new virtual gear for your avatar. The Hub also features a new game called Cogs, a three dimensional, steam-punk, puzzle game. Line up the spoked-wheels in the correct fashion and you will pass to the next level of difficulty. The Cogs game featured in The Hub has the first level after which you are asked to go to the Cogs space. Although I really like the new Hub, I do kinda miss the outdoor feeling of the Central Plaza.

The Theater.
The Theater space has a new multilevel design and very Asian decor. The theaters have much cooler looking new (but probably uncomfortable), colorful seats. The screens seem larger than in the past. This redesign really makes the old theater space look like a grind house. There is an easy-to-read directory of what's playing in each of the theaters. PS Pulse is still playing in a theater (which is a fun place I'll watch it) as well as game trailers and PSN videos. One of the halls between theaters is where I first encountered the arcade game: Scribble Shooter. Very impressive fun little game; imagine your grade school doodles coming to life as a space shooter. Sadly, it is just a game demo prompting you for a full game purchase after the first level ($6.99).

Playstation Home Hold'em.
Nothing hurt PS Home's popularity more than the disappearance of EA Poker. Enter the new Speakeasy-esque PS Home Hold'em. A classy looking, deceptively small poker room. It can take a while to load initially, so be patient, I assume some of the lag is due to popularity. Right away, I noticed you can join a game while it is in progress. This feature sure beats waiting for an open table like we did in the old EA Poker space. The new game has a rethought interface with easy to follow game hub graphics. The camera pans around table to show the avatars at the table while you keep your cards in sight. After a couple of good hands it really starts to feel like HOME again.

Sports Walk.
Here is where we get to see a little of the "outdoors", walking along a boardwalk in a perfect cove. The sunset might be a bit much but it is a pleasant setting. Along this boardwalk are different alcoves and the first alcove is a mock sports bar. Inside you'll find AP Sports footage playing. This is actual content, I'm impressed, and it's something that needed to be addressed. Mostly, the looped videos are behind-the-scenes stuff, not actual sports games, but still. There are a few poker tables in the bar. One wall has another "activity board" with more fetch quests. Further along the boardwalk, another alcove features a sports trivia game.

RC Rally.
What a huge improvement over past Home racing games; this one is actually playable. Expect this "Radio Controlled" racing to feel like a lot like a RC car. A bit daunting if you're used to Need For Speed type racing games. The shocks, jumping and steering all have that unique "toy car" feeling to them. The first track is a dirt course with light obstacles like jumps and banks. A long list of objectives to complete will unlock another track. Looks to be a total of three tracks. Tracks themselves are interesting and increasingly more challenging. Objectives are simple like, "knock over the red cups in under 2 minutes." Good track times equal bonuses that help you customize your RC car. Step into the next room and you'll find multiplayer RC racing (and a huge crowd to go with it.)

Action District.
This space looks like a level you would find in an gritty sci-fi adventure. A launch point for "action" oriented games: Bootleggers, Sodium and a Kill Zone space; all free-to-play. Somewhere here there is a Dead Island game as well but I haven't played it yet cause I jumped straight over to...

Uncharted Fortune Hunter.
Welcome to an Uncharted level, seemingly straight out of the game, with lots of nooks and crannies to run and jump around in. The space is void of much to do until you start the game, which is when things get interesting. Once started the static space becomes much more dramatic with music and prompts propelling you forward. Movement is done with some very toned down controls. Your triangle, square, circle and X buttons all correspond to moving in different directions for cover. Very different than the controls in the actual Uncharted. Once in a secure position you are free to aim and start shooting the baddies, though, inverted aiming controls will throw some off. Complete the different rounds to unlock multiplayer gear in the disk based game.

Playstation Home is more interesting than ever. There are even more spaces to hit and I hope to recap those in future posts. Is PS Home perfect? No, but, I like to imagine PS Home like a painting and hopefully they won't ever consider it finished.

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