The Mancunion

Britain's biggest student newspaper

The Playstation Network comes of age

Dylan Wiggan looks at the improvements Sony have made with the Playstation Network

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2012 has undoubtedly been a banner year for the PSN, the colloquial name for the online services of all Sony’s PlayStation platforms. With a slew of impressive games recently released and upcoming for next year, not to mention a revamped store, pre-download pre-order system and the increasingly cost-effective PlayStation Plus, Sony seems to finally have developed a platform to compete with Microsoft’s rival service Xbox Live Arcade/Marketplace.

In the aftermath of the infamous ‘Network Outage’ of 2011, in which all PSN features were suspended for a 24 day period after a hack compromised an estimated 77 million users accounts and personal data, Sony had a mountain to climb to just convince people to use its online store once again

Acting like a company out to prove itself, after this dark period Sony essentially put its head down and focused on what its best at making great games. The standard of the PSN titles and, in particular, its exclusives, has increased dramatically over the past few years. The most notable success being Journey released in March earlier this year, and developed by thatgamecompany under the stewardship of Sony’s in-house developer ‘incubator’ Sony Santa Monica. Journey was a critical and commercial hit with PSN sales records and 92% rating on metacritic. More importantly, for Sony, was that it brought positive attention to their online store for the first time in years.

In June this goodwill was further extended with the announcement that its paid subscription service PlayStation Plus was getting revamped with a new feature called your ‘Instant Games Collection’. Whilst the previous free content offered was mainly small and obscure games or ‘minis’, the ‘Instant Games Collection’  gives free full retail games such as: Little Big Planet, Infamous, Red Dead Redemption, Borderlands etc. This service, already a bargain for gamers, was now a no-brainer for hardcore PS3 owners. Add to this the fact that PlayStation Plus was also at this point announced to be coming to the PS Vita and Sony’s perceived generosity was doing wonders to improve the image of its online services.

Whilst Journey was a great success, it would take more than one game to really add credibility to Sony’s PSN platform, and fortunately the rest of 2012 built on Journey’s success and suggested the future would continue to. Interesting and truly alternate experiences such as Tokyo Jungle and The Unfinished Swan typified Sony’s online output. And titles buzzed about title to be released next year such as Rain and Until Dawn hint at a strong future line-up of games.

And finally, truly showing Sony’s online advancement is its revamped store. With a better user interface and improved design the store is much less cumbersome to use. But perhaps more effective is new features such as Paypal integration, the Steamesque pre-download system.  This means gamers and already have a game downloaded onto their system before it’s officially released, then at midnight of its launch day begin playing immediately. This shows Sony is ready for the inevitable all digital future, with major releases such as Resident Evil 6 already using this system.

Overall it is clear that this year Sony’s PSN services have come along leaps and bounds. After years chasing the heels of Xbox’s rival services, Sony have finally found their digital footing and with the next generation looming its timing is perfect.

Top 5 PSN Games:

Limbo

Limbo is a gloriously dark puzzle game that follows the tale of a boy trying to find his sister. Genuinely scary and enriched with a black and white design that creates a persistent truly sinister atmosphere; Limbo is the best PSN game of the generation.

The Walking Dead

This point-and-click adventure game adaption of the popular zombie franchise is an emotional rollercoaster. With Heavy Rain-style branching narratives and conversation choices, your decisions decide your character’s personality and some plot points. Great characterisation and storytelling mean these decisions stay with long after you play.

Journey

Following on the success of fl0w and Flower, the beautiful Journey shows thatgamecompany full of confidence and clearly given free rein to let their imaginations run wild. Journey is a truly unique game that surely settles the interminable debate on whether ‘games could be art’.

PAC-MAN Championship Edition DX

PAC-MAN Championship Edition DX manages to keep fresh this legendary franchise with great new gameplay innovations keeping classic formula fresh. Online leader boards, plus a funky soundtrack and design make this title is a must buy.

Tokyo Jungle

In Tokyo Jungle you play as a variety of animal’s aiming to survive as long as can in a post-apocalyptic Japan where all humans are dead. Whether hunting, scavenging, marking territory or even mating- Tokyo Jungle is bizarrely addictive.