PSP2, sweet jesus! Sometime last week, Sony unveiled the successor to the hugely popular PSP, okay, well in Japan at least, where they are as common as the mobile telephone. Hop on a bus or tram and gaze in wonderment as your average commuter is locked in a hypnotic trance with a crab-like grip, bashing away on Rathalos or Rathian with 3 other nearby Monster Hunters. There is no doubting the phenomena over East, so why has the uptake in the rest of the world been so modest in comparison, and what will the PSP2, or NGP (Next Generation Portable) as its officially called, do to change that?
I bought a PSP, one of the first generation models. I was an early adopter. I got some use out of it, mainly when flying back and forth to the UK, but ultimately, it was left to rot. I couldn't even tell you where it is right now. My imported Nintendo DS has also been subjected to a similar treatment. Handheld negligence at its worst. I shouldn't be allowed to buy handheld consoles. Of course this has nothing to do with why the PSP hasn't been the worldwide success Sony wanted it to be, but I had to get it off my chest, I'm a bad owner.
I talked about the iPhone and DS and what they mean to gaming in my last blog, but they're presence is relevant here. What do all 3 platforms have in common? They are designed to be used on the go. 2 of these prevail with flying colours, whereas 1 falls criminally short. When the PSP was released in 2005, it seemed like the promised land of portable gaming had arrived. A Playstation 2 I can play on the bus? How awesome is that? That in itself, was its biggest issue. I owned a PS2 and the games I enjoyed on that platform, were also being released on the PSP. I remember owning Pro Evolution 4, I think it was, on both platforms. Stating the obvious, but they were pretty much identical. It got a fair amount of use whenever I was on the plane, but otherwise, I would sit on the couch and pick up my PS2 pad and play it on a big TV.
It seems as if Sony has never quite understood the handheld market and with the announcement of the NGP, they look to be headed in a similar direction to its predecessor. You'd think they'd have learnt from past mistakes. Sure, its features are simply mouthwatering, but its shortcomings are more prominent. I can't imagine sitting on the bus, firing up Uncharted, for a quick climb up a viney wall and a tense build up to a key part of the level, only to be interrupted by my stop. I want a short, fun, meaningful blast to get me through the boring 30 minute journey. Not a console standard game, where pacing is slower and where that instant sense of gratification is almost always, never to be found.
|Oh Drake, now I can take you everywhere!|
I own game consoles for a reason; I leave the heavy hitters to the comfort of my couch and 32" HDTV. I think Sony have gotten it all wrong here. Playstation Mini's were an attempt at offering twitch and on-the-go gaming, but fell miserably short. Why? The cost in comparison to the Apple store, is literally hilarious. You can buy a Mini for €3.50, or find something almost identical or better for either free or less than €0.79 on the Apple store.
The touch screen is an obvious attempt at attracting the Apple crowd. It is a smart move, but I don't see how it will add much to games like Uncharted or Killzone, where you have to swipe the screen to move Drake over a collapsed tree, or tap a Helgast in melee range in order to punch his lights out. The demo of both, looked rather awkward in that you have to take your left or right hand off a thumbpad and hold that heavy looking beast with the other. It seems counter-intuitive and more of a gimmick that a gameplay enhancement. It also doesn't look or feel natural; moving a human male over a log or up a ledge by swiping the screen in the right direction. We have motion controls with the iPod, Kinect, Wii and Playstation Move. Motion control is supposed to serve as a natural extention and fit within the context of the game. Silent Hill: Shattered Memories on the Wii is a fine example. The Wii remote serves as a torch for your ingame character. It feels as if you are actually holding and moving his torch and it complements and adds immersion to the overall experience.
|Free food.. Sweet!|
It's early days yet of course and most software on show are either tech demos or early builds, but I just hope the developers don't get lazy in the face of PS3 quality graphics, in favour of innovation and genuine gameplay enhancements. Also, it's supposed battery life is 3-5 hours, by my estimation, would become a right pain in the arse.
Enough about the PSP2 then, only time will tell whether or not aiming for the hardcore market is a smart move on Sonys part. Development budgets are set to be close to that of AAA console titles, so it will be interesting to see what software support will be like. Either way, its a fantastic piece of kit that will no doubt please at least one market.
OK! What else have we got. Dead Space 2! I hope we've all picked up a copy by now? Survival horrors are few and far between. Good ones are even more rare. Exquisitely polished, oozing with Hollywood style production values, it feels great to be back in Isaac's boots. The atmosphere, attention to detail and sound are all top notch. It's hard to imagine that EA was the same studio I loathed not so many years ago. I was so sick of seeing the same old crap, churned out year after year. The publishers recent shift to focus on quality rather than quantity, is blatantly apparent here.
|Hey! Pick on someone your own size!|
If you enjoyed the first Dead Space, or missed it entirely, you can jump right into this with its thoughtful 'Previously on Dead Space.." introduction. It does lull a bit in the middle, a little too much of 'Get from point A to B', but it has really picked up again since chapter 10. (15 in total) Man, the amount of times I have literally jumped out of my chair or screamed like a little girl. I was more than happy to part with my limited funds to support Visceral Games and their hard work. Hopefully it will do the biz in the charts and enough to warrant a third entry in the series.
I also picked up a copy of LittleBigPlanet 2. As previously stated, I didn't entirely enjoy the first, but my god how the second has improved. The campaign has been an absolute blast to play. Find someone to play with if you can, it adds to the experience tenfold. The variety on offer is breathtaking. Each world has its own visual theme and they are packed full of goodies and bonus levels (Basketball, Rat Racing, Air Hockey to name a few..) and had my brother and myself in absolute stitches all day yesterday.
I've mucked about with the tools and they do seem more accessible than LBP1 but I have yet to get properly stuck in. I did make a sort of blade-runner'esque shop though, complete with a Neon sign that had alternating lights and even one part that was fizzling as if the element was about to burn out. Looked pretty cool, I must say.
In other news, I recently received an email to confirm my interview for a place on a 1-year degree course that I hope to attend commencing September. It takes place on March 14th and I have to prepare a short presentation on a Media subject that I would be doing my dissertation on. I also have to start preparing for a short presentation I will be doing on Craggy Island, on the 19th of Feb. It's all go!
See you next Monday. Have a good week.