PlayStation Now’s beta has ended and the service is finally available to all PS4 owners. At $20 for a month of service or $45 for a three month bundle, it’s the priciest game-streaming plan out there. OnLive only cost $10 a month when it was active, and that same price will give you a few dozen games with Playcast on the OUYA. Sony is banking on its dramatically-superior library of over 100 PS3 games to justify the extra cost. But how do the original PS3 games stack up to their PS Now streaming counterparts? We’ve looked at a handful of games on both platforms spanning a variety of genres, using the exact same direct-feed HDMI connection for each console to ensure the most accurate comparison possible.
This underrated entry in the Lumines series seems like a logical fit for PS Now since it doesn’t rely on hair-trigger reflexes. It looks the same streaming as it does on the original console, and there’s no input lag. I did encounter a millisecond of stuttering, but it was brief and didn’t negatively affect the experience. Lumines is a great choice for the service.
Final Fantasy XIII
Next up is a turn-based/action hybrid RPG. This is another genre that relies on accurate button commands, but isn’t so fast-paced that a bit of latency would cause any issue. Regardless, input lag doesn’t seem to be an issue, and the game looks pristine to boot. Often-times these streaming services spit out low-res footage riddled with artifacts, but as we’re seeing that’s not an issue for PS Now.
The InFamous games are known for their fast pace, especially the first one, which surrounds you with enemies fairly frequently. While this is the weakest entry in the series, it holds up shockingly well as a streaming game. The controls are responsive and the graphics look fantastic. The comic book-style artwork for cinematics is retained without any loss in clarity. This is proof positive that sandbox games can work on a streaming platform. It seems odd that InFamous 2 isn’t available on the service, since it would make a good followup once users are finished with its predecessor.
Sega’s arcade and Dreamcast classic came to digital storefronts with a huge caveat – the inability to play its licensed music natively. Fans could workaround this by storing songs of their choice on their system hard drive. Unfortunately, we can’t exactly upload custom music to Sony’s streaming servers. Outside the lack of custom soundtracks, Crazy Taxi streams perfectly and doesn’t suffer from any graphical issues or input lag. The controls actually feel quite a bit better here, since the Dual Shock 4 is so much more comfortable for racing games than the Dual Shock 3.
Pac-Man Championship Edition DX+
This is a perfect game to try out for PS Now since I’ve also tried it on Playcast. On Playcast, Pac-Man DX is largely free of input lag, but lacks the vibrant colors and graphical clarity of the home console version. PS Now retains everything that makes the game great on the PS3, though there does appear to be a bit of input lag at times and I’ve noticed my scores suffering as a result.
Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown
Fighting games are always going to be a huge test for any internet connection. Now that online multiplayer is a fixture of the genre, their net code can make or break them. Virtua Fighter is known as one of the most intricate fighters out there, and it makes the transition to PS Now shockingly well. Jumping between PS3 and PS Now I can use Wolf to decimate opponents without needing to make any adjustments to my timing. The only downside is that the colors seem a bit muted on the PS4 compared to their richness of the PS3. Wolf’s skin tone is downright pale on the stream, while he has a noticeable tan in the standard game. The oily surface of his skin is also far more distinctive on the PS3 than it is via PS Now.
The Dual Shock 4 is more comfortable than the Dual Shock 3 and has far better triggers too. While this is a PS4 app, you are unable to take screenshots or use other Share button functions, even though Start and Select are mapped to the right and left sides of the touchpad respectively. Half of this makes sense given the way the service works – twitch streaming would almost certainly cause lag – but we ought to be able to capture offline videos and screenshots.
Oddly, PS Now games won’t recognize PS+ cloud-based saves, so you’ll have to play through every game on the service again if you already own them on the PS3. If you don’t have a PS3, then this won’t be a problem, but the service’s designers clearly weren’t thinking about convenience. With a 100+ game library, the service could desperately use a search function. While browsing in alphabetical order works, finding specific games would be a lot easier with a simple search bar. The ethernet requirement also hurts if you want access to the games anywhere in your house, as you need to be hard-wired or have top-tier wifi for the service to work. Even taking all that into consideration, this is the best game streaming service I’ve ever used.
PlayStation Now may not be the best dollar-for-dollar value in gaming – it’s not even on par with PlayStation Plus in that regard – but it does have some benefits for the industry as a whole. Even during launch week with what will likely be the highest amount of traffic possible thanks to the free trial, every game functions almost flawlessly. With such a huge library available, PS Now allows people who missed out on the PS3 a chance to try its best titles out. This also gives lower-performing games from third parties a chance to make some of their money back – assuming there’s a per-subscriber cut for each publisher that participates. Games like Okami HD have a chance to find the sort of success that many underrated shows and movies have found through Netflix.
If you’re wondering whether or not PlayStation Now is worth it, try out the week-long free trial. In a somewhat sleazy move you are required to sign up for a month to gain access, but the first week is free. At the end of your trial you’ll need to manually cancel the service, and I recommend doing that immediately after signing up so that you don’t forget – you’ll still be able to use the service over your free week. Even in its current form, it’s impressive to see how well PS Now works, but if you already own a PS3, I only see it being useful as a way to try out games you’re thinking of buying.