PlayStation 3 Hands-On: Store And Network
If there's one aspect Sony desperately needed to improve upon with the PS3, it was their online functionality. So we really needed to get a close look at the Store - up and running on launch day - and the Network. After all, we picked up the premier online game for the system in Resistance: Fall of Man, so what better way to test out the PS3's I-net gaming?
But first off, we wanted to do a bit more with the Store. It seems they've added a few more trailers and maybe one or two more demos since the last time we logged on (launch day), so we took advantage and started dl'ing a few trailers. We decided to take a look at Warhawk (which is one of the new demos), Lair, and the Store-unique title, Calling All Cars!, which looked like crazy fun.
Warhawk didn't impress us much at all, but even though we couldn't see any real gameplay in the Lair trailer, that intrigued us plenty. As for Dave Jaffe's (God of War creator) Calling All Cars!, it looked superbly nutty, and reminded us of something Tim Schafer might produce. Once we saw the trailer, we actually wished we had bought that instead of Blast Factor... Ah, well. Next time.
Each download for the trailers ranged from only 30 to 80MB, so it took about 4-6 minutes per download; the full game download of Blast Factor was obviously much larger, but once we got to playing, we had a lot of fun.
Any video you download is simply placed in the Videos tab on the menu for easy selection and viewing, which means that the time elapsed between completion of download and actually watching the thing is only a few short seconds.
Then we couldn't wait any longer and decided to get things going with some online Resistance fun. The game is hyped as supporting up to 40 players at once in any given match, but we couldn't really find enough players online to reach that number. This wasn't exactly surprising, though, considering the PS3 shortage and the fact it's only been out for a few days.
We got in on some Deathmatches, though, with as many as 22 players in each. This already exceeds the Halo 2 limit of 16, and after playing for about an hour with virtually no lag and very fast response time, we were completely satisfied. Initially, it took about three minutes for the system to locate a "server match," and in the five seconds before the first match ended, we did experience some major slowdown. But that was the last time we'd see it.
We then proceeded to move into a Capture the Flag session, but with only 3 on 3 (out of a possible 16 total players), it felt a little lackluster. Still, the entire experience was mostly pleasing, as we had very little trouble finding games to play, despite the relatively low number of gamers online. We found many of the team-based games almost instantly, and it doesn't take long at all to quit and find another map/match to play.
Your options are many when playing online, and the ranking system lets you target groups of gamers that match your skill level. There is also the opportunity to play as the Chimera rather than humans, although the differences between the two aren't all that drastic. Once more people get online to play, we'll get the chance to go nuts with 40 players, but until then, we're plenty happy with the experience.
As for the Store, we almost wish the playable demos didn't take so long to download (up to 45 minutes), but there probably isn't any way around that. We weren't too enthralled with Blast Factor, but we'll be very interested to see what upcoming arcade games like flOw look like in the future. Doesn't it look pretty?
Much like the rest of the system, both the Store and the Network harbor a ton of potential, and if the Network can keep this up, it's now a worthy Live opponent.
11/20/2006 Ben Dutka