After being available in america since late last year, Sony’s game streaming service, PlayStation Now, finally began its closed beta in the UK last month. Currently available for closed beta testing on PS4 at the moment, the European version of PS Now is expected expand to PS3, PS Vita and other platforms, to give gamers instant access to a library of PS3 games, similar to the service’s current availability in america.
The current list of games available to stream in the UK beta spans multiple genres and publishers, giving a varied selection of games to try out. Ranging from big 1st party releases like Beyond: Two Souls & The Last of Us, to smaller games like PixelJunk Shooter, it looks like PS Now is aiming to cover all kinds of games released on the PS3 and not just the larger games. In the current iteration of the closed beta, games are playable on a ‘rental’ basis, where you can chose to rent a title for 48 hours or 30 days (both of which have had their prices set to free for this beta test). Over the past few weeks, I’ve been trying out the service to see how it holds up and if it lives up to Sony’s claims.
For an optimum connection to PS Now, a wired connection to your router/modem is recommended, but I seemed to have decent results with my PS4 connecting to the internet via Wi-Fi. One of the useful features of the PS Now app is that it includes a connection test to check if you have a suitable connection for streaming games. The minimum suggested connection is 5mb but with the UK average being around 14mb, this shouldn’t be much of a barrier for most users.
Once you’ve been given the green light, you can begun streaming games, with the rental period for each game starting only after you’ve been able to successfully connect to the service launch the game. On our connection (”up to 152mb”, 80-120mb avg), the experience of streaming games worked surprisingly well over a range of game types.
When playing at peak times , like before 10pm on weekday evenings, I did notice that occasional hiccups with the streaming quality or momentary connection errors would occur more frequently but still nothing that would render the entire game session unplayable. That could have been a problem to do with my ISP (Virgin Media) rather than PS Now, but even during these peak usage times I was able to get around 65mb up and 8mb down at a minimum via other devices. Similar to how video streaming services will lower the video quality when a connection is unstable , you can notice when your connection is having problems on PS Now with similar video artifacts occurring. Instead of gradually lowering the quality, some connection problems caused the game to stop for a few frames and then speed up briefly to catch up with the current time (which you can notice when the audio sounds slightly sped up).
When the connection was stable, I found playing the games via streaming to be reasonably close as if I was playing the game locally, save for a slight amount of lag that might be noticeable on games reliant on twitch movements or requiring precision timing for button presses. When I was playing Everybody’s Golf, this quickly became apparent since you need to press a button within a short timing window when setting up your swing. This made it a bit harder to press the button at the correct time, so i had to practice with adjusting my button press timing to compensate for the delay. After trying several different genres (racing, puzzle, sports, etc) I thought the streaming quality preformed well in most cases and I was able to play games like Motorstorm Apocalypse comfortably with no major issues. Motorstorm was another game where I could notice the input lag when needing to make quick turns, but again, that didn’t cause a large effect to the experience of playing the game but did make it slightly harder to react at some points.
However, for fast paced online multiplayer games, or fighting games, the fact that even a fast connection will have a slight amount of input lag may not make for a good experience. I attempted to try out BlazBlue to test this but I couldn’t really tell if I was preforming badly in game as a result of the lag or the fact that I’m not particularly good at fighting games in the first place. Although, one game that seemed to be surprisingly responsive was a wing suit-based racing game called Skydive: Proximity Flight (which I had no idea even existed til stumbling upon it in the PS Now game library). This game in particular relies solely on Sixasxis controls for movement, which worked better than I would have thought, especially for something using motion controls.
A nice feature of the PS Now service is the integration with trophies and PS Plus cloud saves, so you can actually earn trophies on the games and use save files on your cloud storage as you would with a regular physical or downloaded version. This would probably be of the most use to players who have played games on their PS3 console in the past, and wanted to pick up from where they left off within PlayStation Now due to packing away or selling their console/games for example.
At the moment, PlayStation Now more or less does what it says on the tin, giving you immediate access to PS3 games without having to worry about having a physical or downloaded copy of a game and a PS3 to play it on. For those without a PS3 of their own, this could be a good way to catch up on some of the PS3 games you may have missed out on in the past, providing you have a suitable connection. As long as you aren’t set on playing highly competitive online multiplayer or twitched based games, I think PS Now could be a promising service, especially if Sony continue to improve and develop upon it’s performance and reliability. After Onlive’s launch a few years ago, and it’s gradual decline into obscurity, it would be good if Sony can provide enough support to keep PS Now active and relevant for players to avoid a similar fate.
Although, the ‘rental’ aspect currently advertised makes the whole prospect a little less appealing since you’d have to pay for each individual title and you only have access to it for a limited period of time. The American version of the service currently offers a Netflix style subscription as an alternative to the rental system for $20 (~£12.70) a month or $15 (~£9.60) if you get a 3 month package, so perhaps a similar subscription model will make its way over to the UK launch of PlayStation Now. If they are able to bring the subscription version over and get the pricing right (by not simply substituting the $ with a £ sign), being able to play more than a hundred* PS3 games for under £10 a month could would be a cost-effective way to experience some of these older games with the added convience of being able to play whenever you want.
More Gameplay capture from PlayStation Now
Everybody’s Golf: World Tour