Playstation Now Impressions (So Far)
Sony released Playstation Now on PC earlier this week so I figured with a three-day weekend I’d give the seven-day free trial a shot and see how it goes. With a 50MB/S download speed and 20MB/S Upload, I thought it would go pretty well but there were a lot of potholes along a relatively smooth highway.
Full disclosure, I am wirelessly connected to my router so any connection problems or lag could be contributed to that.
God of War 3
I figured the first game I’d choose out of the hundreds of games provided would be God of War 3, which is not the most fondly remembered game though I really enjoyed it, but I chose it more specifically for its graphical fidelity and fast-paced action, which would require quick responses on the controller. If there was ever a game before Uncharted 2 that showcased the power of the PS3, it was God of War 3.
All of the background animations taking place while I, as Kratos, am slinging around my Blades of Chaos in the foreground are something to behold. Watching Gaia fight off Poseidon as I’m climbing around on vines is still absolutely stunning six years later, albeit a little choppy in the framerate due to it being streamed. When the game slows down, it looks great, frames and all, but as soon as the action ramps up, the frames take a nose-dive. However, like Netflix, Now tries to compensate for those frames by lowering the graphical output so instead of the game moving slow as Christmas, it instead stays relatively close to the same amount of frames as before, but the resolution dips and everything becomes just a little pixelated. It’s not offensively bad, but it’s noticeable. A particular visual error I’ve come across is the occasional white noise like you’d see on a VHS tape. While it only lasts less than a second, the white noise disrupts what is otherwise an immersive experience.
Audio is affected in a lot of the same ways as video. Once the connection takes a hit, the audio fluctuates and the beautiful orchestral score suddenly sounds completely out of tune. I never noticed anything that affected the voice acting but the music was obvious enough.
Control-wise, the game is nowhere near as responsive as the full release. When I could easily dodge and counter-attack enemies in a millisecond, I have to play the Dark Souls-game and immediately press the right stick to dodge or L1 to counter-attack as soon an enemy lifts its hand otherwise it won’t work at all. I died several times during Poseidon’s boss battle which is the easiest boss in the game, and it became rather frustrating when none of my input was being acknowledged.
While not the best experience, it’s still incredible that the game works as well as it does over a streaming service and still maintains some of the same fidelity of its original release.
Speaking of graphical powerhouses, I decided to try out Killzone 2 right after God of War considering it was that game’s original cutscene that promised to push the boundaries of console gaming upon its reveal at E3 2005. While it didn’t live up to that original trailer, I thought the game looked relatively as good when it was released but the story and character control were awful.
Unfortunately, for how great the game originally looked, it does not look good at all on Playstation Now. It could easily have been an issue with my internet not being fast enough but the game just looks muddy and the motion blur that was there before in the original game is turned up to eleven because of the stream. And some of the same audio issues were still present from my earlier playthrough of God of War 3 such as the fluctuation in sound.
I bought Killzone 2 upon release but I forgot how strange the control scheme was because of how bad the Dualshock 3 controller was for shooters. R3 is used for aim down sights, R1 is used to fire your guns, L2 is used to take cover and even peek over cover. Your character in-game still feels heavy as hell so when you move, you move like a tank. Not really an issue with Playstation Now, but I thought I’d reflect on those strange times of Sony trying to push their “Halo killer.”
I could only play for about twenty minutes before moving on.
Remember when I said God of War 3 didn’t handle as well as it should? Well, Twisted Metal takes the cake for the worst handling out of the games so far. I couldn’t play it for more than five minutes since the car combat requires you to have the utmost attention and twitch hand-eye coordination in order to drift, do a one-hundred-and-eighty degree turn, then immediately aim and shoot a rocket at your opponent. All of that is rendered moot if every button press takes a year for the game to register. It doesn’t help that the first level in the story mission has three or four enemies shooting all at once at you on top of that.
On the upside, the visuals looked great. The FMVs looked pretty good and the in-engine gameplay didn’t look as bad as the earlier games I played but that may be due to how low in graphics Twisted Metal looks to begin with. It looks more like a cartoon with buildings exploding in ways Michael Bay would be proud of; instead of building sections exploding, the entire building explodes when hit.
This is the one game out of the bunch that I never played when it was released but out of all the games on the list, it was the one I spent the most amount of time with. From the opening cinematic to the battle in Sicily to the first few minutes running around New York City, the game ran surprisingly well. I never noticed any issues with audio or visuals besides a little drop in framerate and New York looked pretty, though a little dead as there are barely any NPCs on the streets.
The last game I played and the one game I enjoy the most outside of the games chosen is the first Darksiders. Darksiders plays like a Zelda game mixed with elements of God of War but doesn’t require those quick reflexes from the latter.
Darksiders looks exaggerated in nature due to its concept artist being comics legend Joe Madureira, which may be why the game ran so well. While God of War and Killzone strive to push the PS3, Darksiders was built on a smaller budget and looks like a better PS2 game. While certainly not an insult, the game looks great, and its character design and art direction are exceptional, on top of already great Zelda-like gameplay.
The audio sounded great. I didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary that I found from the earlier games. Framerate dipped occasionally with little hiccups here and there but some of those issues were already present in the original game.
Surprisingly, the controls felt nearly as good as they do in the full release. There was just the slightest bit of input lag but otherwise unnoticeable.
Because of how low in graphic fidelity Darksiders is, Playstation Now may be more beneficial to games of that nature rather than the heavy hitters like God of War, Uncharted, and Killzone.
Some things that I do really like about this service is that the games still have their trophy information from their PS3 counterparts so if a trophy is earned in Playstation Now, it will carry over to your current trophy collection and will continue to be there even after you cancel the service.
While Now is a streaming service, these games are the direct ports from the Playstation 3 so when games are saved, the same interface from the PS3 pops up like it would if you were actually playing the PS3 version and any issues present from the PS3 version such as framerate drops and texture pop-ins, are still present in the Now port.
Playstation Now is truly a unique experience, especially the fact that I'm playing Playstation games on the PC. While my internet may not be up to par with some of other players', the games are certainly playable; however, if you're looking for precision and optimization, you may as well just stick to the full release of the games. Since its release in 2014 has gotten better and better, and I'm sure that within a year or two, I'm sure it will be an even better experience.
You can also check out the 7-Day Free Trial here on Playstation's website.