I’ve been getting to grips with Sony’s answer to backwards compatibility for a short while now and suffice to say, I’m pretty sick of it. It may sound a little harsh, but it’s best to get the hard parts out early.
The idea is that players will be able to stream their older PS3 (and eventually PS2 and PS1) games to any enabled device without the need for the original console or the original game disc. Ten years ago I’d have slapped you in the face for suggesting such fiction, but these days it’s a very real possibility – but it’s just not ready yet.
Sony claims that if you’ve got a good enough internet connection then you’ll be able to stream games with no problem. At the moment I’ve got the best possible internet my money with buy in my region. Download speeds of over 100Mbps and upload speeds of around 6Mpbs should be more than enough to ensure a smooth experience. Unfortunately it’s not the case.
I plonked down the £8 to rent Uncharted 3 for 30 days. It should be noted, I already own the Uncharted games for the PS3 but out of mere curiosity I wanted to see how it performed using the PS Now service. To be fair, it started out quite nicely. Once I’d ponied up the cash it was only a matter of seconds before my account was credited with 30 days worth of Uncharted 3. After a quick connection test, PS Now informed me that my internet connection was good enough to play, so off I went and started my journey.
Immediately I noticed a loss in image quality. I remember the first time I played Naughty Dog’s third Uncharted game and I was blown away from the go. This time around I noticed a lot, and I mean a LOT of blur, something that wasn’t present when I first booted it up all those years ago.
This comes from the image being compressed as it floats over the internet and into my house. I won’t go into all the techno waffle as it’ll a) bore you to death b) make me look a fool – I’m not the most technologically gifted person to embrace the internet. I can barely cook toast…
That said, even I know when something is amiss. The drop in image quality wasn’t that bad all the time. During some periods of play it was barely noticeable, but at seemingly random moments the screen would look like it had been smeared with KY Jell – erm, Vaseline…
While the image quality does drop, it’s not a deal breaker and if it means I’m able to sit at work and play some games on the Vita, I’ll take the hit, but what about lag? More specifically – input lag. Input lag is the time it takes for you to press a button and the action to take place on the screen. Normally this is done pretty well within a local environment, but with PS Now you’re pressing ‘X’ and that command is going miles and miles to a Sony server which then processes the button press, relays the information back to your end and then shows up the command on the screen. See the problem? Middle men are never a good thing, and it’s true in gaming, too. With the extra time it takes for the game to recognise that you want to shoot a man in the head, you’ll more often than not find yourself just firing blindly in a general direction.
To be fair it wasn’t always terrible. In fact, it was sometimes quite enjoyable to sit back on my couch, put my feet up, turn on the PS4 and within seconds be back in one of my favourite adventures. There’s no getting up to switch discs and best of all, there’s no need to install anything. You simply pay and then play. It’s what we’ve been wanting for years and it’s finally starting to come to fruition. Starting. There’s still some way to go yet, but I’m confident that within the next couple of years we’ll be streaming our games as nonchalantly as we stream movies from Netflix.
As it stands, though, I’m impressed with the technology behind the service, but if Sony is to really present this as a real alternative to proper backwards compatibility, the firm needs to step up its game. For starters, we need some more thought going into the pricing. For UK users there’s no all-you-can-eat package, instead we’re left to pay more than it’d cost to go on Amazon and buy the game on the cheap.
Secondly, the technology needs a bump up. Again, I’m not going to pretend to be an expert, but there’s got to be a way to improve the input lag and image quality. With both suffering random drops it’s hardly the optimal user experience.
In conclusion: Yeah, it’s alright, but it’s also a bit crap. There’s room for improvement (read: a football field sized room) and I’m personally quite excited for what the future holds for the PS Now service.
Have you tried out PS Now? What do you make of it? Is it the answer to backwards compatibility, or is it just not good enough? Let us know down in the comments section below.