After years of having two different services serving different purposes, Sony has finally merged PlayStation Now and PlayStation Plus into one service with three tiers. While subscription plans are always evolving and growing, this move is clearly a ploy to compete with Xbox’s wildly successful Game Pass. PlayStation Plus Premium, the highest of the three tiers, is off to a good start, especially for PlayStation-only players, but being decent is a bit harder to sell when Xbox’s alternative has taken so long to achieve its legendary status.
PlayStation Plus Extra, the middle tier, is most similar to Game Pass and it’s easiest to compare the two. It has a selection of downloadable PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 games that range from absolute first-party bangers like Return† The last guard† god of warand Spider-Man: Miles Morales to a handful of excellent third-party games, such as Guardians of the Universe† Mortal Kombat 11† celesteand Red Dead Redemption 2 to, well, much of the leftover rotting shovelware that clogged the bottom of the PlayStation Now catalog.
For those who missed out on some of Sony’s first-party lineup, it’s undeniably stunning to have such easy access to some of the best games from generations past. It even has Sony’s underrated gems like the patapon remasters and the Gravity Rush games that are good titles in their own right, but also show how the company’s focus has shifted from these more niche experiences. It’s not a bad balance, although the sheer amount of crap is sometimes overwhelming and an unfortunate remnant of the foundation it’s built on. While that PlayStation Now filth can be ignored, the middle ground is more important and where the most value is and is a major place where that streaming service stumbled.
The gap between genre-defining experiences and OpenCritic’s Hall of Shame is wide and where most games fall. Many people have played god of war, especially those who sign up in the first month of this revamped PlayStation Plus service, and almost everyone will be ignoring the worst games. While people like to praise Xbox for releasing the biggest games on the service, many are probably getting more use out of Game Pass because of the newer games they’ve heard good things about, the titles they want to try first, or those who play one, but not at full price. That’s why it’s great that many Annapurna titles have appeared on the service, as the publisher usually puts out interesting releases that may not be immediately worth buying.
RELATED: The Artful Escape Review: A Heartfelt Space Stranger That’s Light on Gameplay
PlayStation Plus Extra has a decent selection of games that fall into this camp, such as The artful escape† Telling lies† Last stop† man eater, and more and those that fall exclusively within the PlayStation ecosystem are likely to find a large number of games to play to justify their subscription. The new PlayStation Plus has stepped it up with this lineup of games and that’s where Sony must continue to focus its efforts. Game Pass has the upper hand here, as Xbox often grabs these types of titles preemptively and has them at launch. The same luxuries can’t currently apply to PlayStation Plus as this is its first month, so hopefully Sony realizes that in the future and plans ahead.
The back catalog of these types of games is a nice gesture in that direction, but Sony has yet to announce many of these types of games that will be released in the future. So far, Sony has only revealed that: strayed launches the service in July. One game, cute as it may seem, is hard to compare to the utterly ridiculous amount of upcoming titles Xbox has announced will be coming to Game Pass over the next 12 months. Having a back catalog of good older games is valuable, but having a range of indie titles and mid-tier games to look forward to is the best result and, again, shows that Xbox was able to set the bar high after years experience.
PlayStation Plus doesn’t need to fully emulate Game Pass to be a good service or over-prioritize looking ahead as Sony can succeed and also differentiate itself by looking back. There are simply more PlayStation systems to draw from and Sony has tried to tap into these with a selection of PS1, PS2, PSP and PS3 games available on the Premium tier.
However, one of its most unique selling points has launched in an inconsistent state. Nothing points to this inconsistency more than the original PlayStation games. The addition of save states, the ability to rewind a surprising amount, and a whole host of filters and aspect ratios (even a silly option displaying them in their small, native resolution) are thoughtful and necessary when re-releasing games so old. to be. They work intuitively and make it easier to return to some of these archaic games. Trophies are also an excellent modern touch that provides new incentives to check out these old titles for nostalgic veterans and newcomers alike.
However, not every retro release has trophies for one reason or another. In fact, many of them don’t. None of the third-party games do that and not even Sony’s Jumping Flash has these unlockable rewards. This lack of standardization is puzzling and makes those without trophies a little harder to sell. It doesn’t bode well for Sony not to impose trophies as the scattershot approach will likely result in them being eclipsed and likely in only a small fraction of the games. Trophies can be the small motivation to let users play games they might otherwise have missed, or they can make all the difference in choosing this service over emulation.
The PlayStation 2 games are weirder because none of them are new. All PS2 games on the services are just the PS2 on PS4 games that have been on the PlayStation Store for years. They’re technically PS4 games, so it’s odd for Sony to say they’re PS2 games, and it looks like the company is using modern ports to cover up its string of weak offerings that were already available. It’s still great to include them, but they don’t have any new features because they’re PS2 games in a PS4 package. This means they have trophies and run well, which is a great standard for all future releases, but there are no rewind or save states like the PS1 games. Building out this library and expanding what was already there is crucial, given the number of spectacular PS2 games out there and how many never made it to the PS4.
The PlayStation 3 games are the sticking point as they are available exclusively through streaming. On a fast connection, they look surprisingly good and are relatively responsive, showing how far the technology has come. It even has some of the better PS3 exclusives like the Notorious and Resistance 3†
However, it’s just not the best alternative, especially given the number of Xbox 360 games that run on Xbox Series X|S. Playing these old games on old hardware that is prone to hardware lag independent of internet connection when games of the same generation on the competing console run locally and better than ever is not a great position to be in. Sony has started preserving games team and is reportedly looking to get PS3 emulation on PS5, which are great ventures if it’s looking to expand its PS5 library and PlayStation Plus offerings. What’s here is functional, but lacking, not ideal and limiting because there aren’t that many great PS3 games out there. Streaming is fine as an option, but not if it’s the only option, especially if it’s limited and doesn’t support DualSense on PC or the Share button on any system.
Sony’s approach to its handhelds in this first month could easily be skipped, but the fact that it’s not worth mentioning is worth noting. It currently only has one PSP game, Echochrome, and it’s bizarre because it’s a PSP port of a PS3 game (which also happens to be on the service). The PSP had a great library of its own original titles that weren’t ports, so it’s an odd mistake not to have some worth mentioning at launch (although one is rumored to be coming soon). Implementing a more robust PSP catalog and one day implementing Vita games would be the best way to capitalize on Sony’s long-dead venture in the handheld space. And while that could still happen, this first month doesn’t give the best indication that Sony will be heading that way with PlayStation Plus.
The new PlayStation Plus launched in a solid state, but it is currently lacking in some areas compared to Game Pass, which has had many years to find itself and achieve its greatness. The time difference makes it an unfavorable yet unavoidable comparison, but it’s not a death knell for Sony’s new service. PlayStation Plus originally launched in a raw state in 2010. It only offered discounts, exclusive demos, a sporadic offer of games, and a strange digital magazine called Qore. Sony killed Qore, but expanded each of those pillars, adding more features over the years, such as cloud saving and Share Play. This history means it’s possible for Sony to do the same with this iteration of PlayStation Plus and it’s starting in a much better place this time around.