PlayStation Now Review

2014-10-25-153347

App Title: PlayStation Now
App Type: PlayStation Vita
File Size: 97 MB
NA Availability: Digital Download
EU Availability: Digital Download
PSTV Support: Yes

Applications are very few and far between on the PS Vita.  If you recall, it’s been several months since we have posted a review on an application for the Vita.  There used to be a situation where applications were coming out very often, particularly on the PlayStation Mobile platform.  However, there have been some new applications coming to the PS Vita, lately, and it’s time we made a new App Review!

Game Rentals and Game Streaming have been a mixed bag since the very concept of it was made.  Do you want to rent a game to play it and not really own it?  It’s a difficult question.  Apart from that, how much would you be willing to pay for this service?  What would be your definition of being too expensive for renting a game for a certain amount of time?  However, it is happening.  While it hasn’t gone full-force yet, there is now an Open Beta for the service called PlayStation Now for both the PS Vita and the PlayStation TV.

PlayStation Now is a service that allows gamers to stream PlayStation 3 games onto their other devices.  You can pay a fee per game and for how long you want, and you can stream the game onto your device over the Internet to be able to play it.  Thinking on this, there are so many questions that need to be answered.  Now that it has been available on both the Vita and the PSTV for a few weeks, here is our official review of the PlayStation Now app!

Functionality

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There are a lot of things you could say that PlayStation Now is.  At its base, it’s a Rental Service.  It allows you to access a PlayStation Store (much like the PS3’s Store) to access and rent various PlayStation 3 games.  Accessing the store is as simple as loading the application on your PS Vita or PlayStation TV system.  It loads up the store right away, similar to how the PlayStation Store app does and lets you access your content.

When the store does load, there are a few different options you can do.  You can go into the Welcome Screen, All Games, My PS Now Games, Connection Test, and Search.  Each one of these has various things.  The Welcome Screen, for example, welcomes you to PlayStation Now and gives you a run down on how things work, from renting games to streaming.  This will give newcomers a little bit of an easy way to learn just what the service is, in case they had not researched this beforehand.

All Games is what you do to display every game that is available for rental.  New games are added each week, but as of now, there are almost 200 PS3 titles to choose from.  From Final Fantasy XIII to Resident Evil 5 Gold Edition to Saints Row 4, there is a big variety of games in the service already.  When you choose the game you wish to rent, you go in, choose how long you want the rental to last, and you can start streaming.  The My PS Now Games is where you can find your active rentals and the Connection Test allows you to test your connection for whether it can do streaming or not.

Once you begin a stream, the game boots just like it does on the PS3.  You are taken straight to the title screen of the game and can begin playing.  It’s just as if you were controlling a PS3 on your PS Vita or PlayStation TV.  Controls may be a little different, since the PS Vita handles the trigger buttons on the touch screens, but it will play and look just like it does on a PS3, but on a much smaller screen.

The added touch here is that PlayStation Now is essentially PS3 Emulation.  If you press the PlayStation Button during a stream, you can go to an emulated PS3 XMB Menu, where you can check your save data, Trophies, or even look and respond to PSN Messages.  It doesn’t have everything a PS3 does, but it has enough to be worth looking at.  All in all, PS Now could be called a limited PS3 Emulator.  Because of this, you also have to close your game before you can actually exit the app and go back to the Vita’s Live Area screen and close it to do something else.

Interface

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The interface PS Now uses is very much like a PS3, from the store to playing games to the XMB menu.  In the Store, everything is set up like the PS3’s PlayStation Store.  When you cycle through the various options, you have the menu on the left hand side, search at the top, and all of the games are arranged in large squares down the page.  You can also access a top menu when displaying games to show filtered options, like certain genres to not have to cycle through everything to find what you want.

When you load a page for a game you’re interested in, you will be able to see an overview of the game as well as trailers, screenshots, and Rental rates.  Rates for rentals will vary depending on the game, running in 4 hour, 1 week, 1 month, and 3 month options.  Always look at this carefully as many games have different rates than other games.  One game could be $4 for a week and another could be twice that for a week.

Once you rent, you can launch the stream from the menu on the left-side of the screen.  This takes you into the PS3 Emulation.  Once here, you can hold down the PlayStation button to edit the controls.  On the PSTV, there’s no need because it uses a PS3 controller.  On the PS Vita, though, you can arrange where on the touch screens you want the R2/L2 and R3/L3 buttons to go.  You can have them all on the front touch screen, all on the back, a little bit of both.  Whatever is more comfortable.

Other than this, the interface is just like a PS3.  If you go to the XMB Menu from the stream, you navigate it and everything from syncing trophies to checking PSN to Trophies appearing on your screen runs just like it does on a PS3.  To get back to the app menu where you can close out, you have to close the game you’re playing.

Performance

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Performance is a big question for everyone who wants to start streaming games.  Streaming a PS3 game like Final Fantasy XIII or House of the Dead III may take a lot of bandwidth.  Fortunately, Sony has installed a Connection Test that will pop up before you make your first rental to make sure you don’t waste money if your connection is too slow to run the games.

The good thing about the performance with streaming is that it works well on slower high-speed connections.  We tested this out on a connection that normally gets about 8-10 mbps.  On that connection, we experienced no lag in the animations or smoothness of gameplay in several games, including Final Fantasy XIII and Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles.  We also saw that this performance remained the same whether we were on the PS Vita with a Wi-Fi connection or on the PSTV with an Ethernet/LAN connection.

However, there are two main performance issues to be noted for this service.  The first thing to note is the PlayStation Now Store.  When you first load the store, you will be experiencing a fair amount of lag.  Before all of the pictures and whatnot load for the library, the app lags.  Sometimes it was to the point where we had to wait 2 seconds or longer to cycle through the menu.  This got to be very annoying very quickly, and this may increase as more games get added to the service.

The other issue is Input Lag.  When we were in the middle of a stream, we experienced input lag almost everywhere.  This may not be as bad on faster connections, but anyone on a 10mbps connection should note that for every button press we did in any game we tried, there was input lag for about half a second.  It’s not terrible lag, but it’s very noticeable.  If you’re playing RPGs like Final Fantasy XIII, it shouldn’t matter that much, but we noticed it a lot when moving the cross-hairs in Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles.

Aside from this, the app performs well.  Once you start a stream, games look very colorful and arguably better on the tiny PS Vita screen than they do on an HDTV with the PS3.  When we first booted Final Fantasy XIII, we were nearly astounded with how good it looked on that little screen, as well as how smooth and perfect the games run, aside from the Input Lag.

Summary

All in all, PlayStation Now is like a PS3 Emulator for the PS Vita and PlayStation TV.  On the downside, there is lag in the store and slight input lag while streaming games as well as random varied pricing for specific games that could confuse gamers.  However, past that is a rich, growing library of fun games that run well on both systems and can provide handheld gamers with experiences they may have otherwise missed out on.

7/10

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