"In the Year 5555 your arms hang limp by your side."
Technology is an interesting thing these days, what would seem like a world changing event a year ago now seems trivial or an obvious evolution of existing standards. This, like all things is both true and false. On one hand there is an incredible technological feat happening everytime my computer turns on ,but also that stuff pretty well understood by this point (by that I mean someone understands it, right?Tony Stark?). Now move to today (There are two puns already in this sentence) Sony's Playstation 4's Playstation Now has been floating about in beta for around a week. Just the concept is awesome, playing games running on a server somewhere hundreds of miles away and just needing a system powerful enough to handle a video feed to play it back. So we got some cool new software, let's try it out!
A couple years ago Sony (of Spiderman fame) bought a company called GaiKai for $380 million dollars. This company specialised in cloud based rendering technology, for the purposes of steaming video games to a browser or mobile phones. This idea is actually pretty cool still, soon I may never need to actually need anything else on my computer except chrome. I'm actually impressed on Sony's end on how fast they turned out this feature considering how long most things take to come out in the Tech world.
So what do you get when you use Playstation Now? If you have turned on a PS4 in the past couple weeks you probably couldn't have missed the new option in the store. Playing a game couldn't be simpler, you sort through a list of available games, pay and it boots up. The game selection is a fairly large sample of PS3 games that seem very random. Some big hitters show up such as Metal Gear Solid HD Collection, MGS4, Zone of the Enders HD, but still missing some of the largest games the PS3 had to offer such as Uncharted, and probably other things.
The Price of PS Now is a big todo in the internets, Games range from 4 hours, to 3 months and and prices are a bit extreme considering you never own the game fully, at most its 3 months. Paying 4 dollars for a 4 hour rental is a bit much when you think that no game could really be finished in that amount of time. If you have accepted that you are going to pay for enough time to finish the game the 3 month period seems to be the more price conscious option. MGS4 was $15 for 3 months but some games are unreasonable at $30+ for that amount of time. Well lets just judge the tech regardless of the price, that's how things work right?
Now you kind of have to know going in that there is only a losing battle to be fought in this idea of streaming games, at best it mirrors the original experience, but that is the peak and obviously the infinite number of factors that contribute will not allow that to happen all the time. So I am pleased to say that on my standard cable wireless connection I have found it to be fine, and mainly the only drawbacks come from me trying to nitpick things until I find a problem. Picking MGS4 as my testbed may not have been the best option considering it was never a 60fps twitch game in the first place, so I have to constantly think is the game just like this or is there lag or precision loss on the streaming end.
I can't be sure if I have had it at it's highest potential quality but the games looks good with some noticeable compression, it's almost like playing a HD youtube recording of a game and it's only side by side with the original that you would be distracted by the loss in quality. What may be a bit of a bigger deal is there is a slight but noticeable lag in the controller input to the action on screen. Slight enough that you can totally get used to it but big enough that it is distracting for the first few minutes. So all in all the biggest compliment I can give is that after about 30min of playing I forgot about the streaming and just focused on the game, and I think that's what most people will do, have a bit of a transition period then just forget about it.
Moving on from PS Now, if you listened to our podcast last week you would know I said that Metal Gear Solid 4 was one of the best games of the previous generation, and what a better excuse than this to go back? It was combo of getting used to PS Now, and having just played a more modern stealth game The Last of Us, but my first couple hours of MGS4 was kinda rough. Having clearly defined rules and abilities that the player can handle is the hallmark of stealth games and MGS4 does a poor job of conveying how and what you can do. Just the simple act of sneaking up behind someone and knowing you will take them out is a bit difficult. Even in crouch mode a guard can hear you coming up behind him, and even though there is literally a percentage of hidden level on screen you are rarely sure when a guard will be able to see you. But like the last of us I think MGS4 wants you to sneak but if you're caught just fight your way out even though the context does not imply that.
Despite my initial babyness MGS4's cutscenes are still very impressive, the character models are definitely of a previous generation but just the detail in the acting, camera angles and editing is still stellar. So we have a bit of the old and a bit of new, very cool stuff and I am excited for one day the netflix of games, this definitely secures the fact that this is the last generation of consoles and the future is just streaming with continual updating hardware in the Cloud.