Tag Archives: PSN

PSN Slow? Switch to Ethernet

It’s a frequent argument that I see between the “PSN is free!” and “But Xbox Live is better!” crowds, and I’ve been firmly in the latter camp. The rubbish download speeds, sub-Xbox (that’s the original Xbox) feature set, poor or complete lack of integration in games, optional features that should be mandatory, bloated download sizes (over 150MB for a Super Stardust HD patch), unreliable connection, etc. Most of the complaints still stand and I’d rather pay for a good service than get an adequate one, but I’ve at least I’ve found the cause of the first and last ones.

I’ve seen a few complaints about the quality of the PS3’s built-in wi-fi, and indeed mine can only manage a 40% signal strength through a single wall that leaves my laptop with almost 80%. Downloading a firmware update through PSN takes over an hour compared with 20 minutes or so to download through my computer and a USB drive. The final straw came when I tried four times to download the patch for Gran Turismo 5 Prologue, which took well over an hour to download a third of the way, only to fail completely.

With the aforementioned issues in mind, I splashed out £13.99 for an ethernet switch, the Netgear FS605. (Any should work; I just went with Netgear because I like its stuff.) The ethernet cable that went directly into my 360 now goes into that, and it supplies Internet goodness to both systems, with two free ports for anything else that might turn up in future.

The improvement was immediate. The GT5 patch downloaded first time within about 15 minutes, and I was able to download the 720p Resident Evil 5 trailer fast enough to stream a good chunk of it. Much more satisfactory, and closer to the speeds that I’ve always been getting from Live.

Completely unscientific and anecdotal without any evidence or statistical basis it may be, but I’ve proven (to myself, at least) that the PS3’s wireless is rubbish and furthered my pro-wired networking agenda. A stable, secure 100Mbps network is just better than a wireless 54Mbps (theoretical) one with signal strength and passwords to worry about. Mine’s now quite happy to stream 1080p video from my computer, which just wasn’t happening with both on wireless connections.

So This is What Beta Means…

I trust that everyone’s enjoying their first taste of Metal Gear Solid 4, with the online beta available for download now. Stunning menus…

…and not much else, because it’s still not working. Having been released for download over a week ago and taking an inordinate amount of time to download (I was at 17% of a 741MB file after three hours), it required the immediate download of the 1.01 patch, which would either time out on the HTTP download or, on the BitTorrent option, max out at about 16kbps while uploading at over 40. And now there’s a second patch, which you have to download after 1.01, because they’re incremental. And I’m having the same download problems after eight days.

Not to mention that when it does work, you need a Konami ID (lower-case alphanumeric), a password for that, a game ID (lower-case alphanumeric; must be different to the Konami ID), and a second password (this time only numerical). Given the fact that every online PS3 user will already have a unique ID… why!?

Epic fail, in other words.

Xbox Live gets a lot of stick for costing £40 a year, but I’d be more than happy to pay that for PSN if the damn thing worked half the time. I’ve never spent more than 30 seconds downloading a Live patch (unlike Super Stardust HD, a twin-stick shooter that inexplicably gets a 153MB patch) or dashboard update, and because it’s a closed system I know that my one account will work on all games. On Live I’ve participated in three betas – Halo 3, Call of Duty 4, and currently Battlefield: Bad Company – and all worked just as transparently as any demo or downloadable game.

That’s worth £40 to me. I’d rather pay for a nice steak than get a free grease burger and I’d rather have something that works to something that doesn’t. I’m not even demanding feature parity with Live on the original Xbox (universal friends list, cross-game invites, etc), though that would be nice; just a system that works. Yes, it’s free, but so is Steam, and that’s arguably better than Live at the moment.

GOTY Honourable Mentions

Naturally, this year had more great games than anyone could possibly whittle down to just ten. So, as I did last year, here are a few that I liked but didn’t quite make the list. All are worth a try.

  • Jeanne d’Arc (PSP) – Level-5’s strategy RPG arrived with almost no hype and, therefore unsurprisingly, didn’t exactly set the world alight. What was the last PSP game that did? Nonetheless, it’s as gorgeous as Dragon Quest VIII with even better production values – check out the fully animated and voiced anime scenes – and is portable, which for me makes an RPG infinitely more playable. It’s also not as hardcore as many SRPGs tend to be, so virgins to the genre shouldn’t be afraid of trying it out.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass (DS) – As the game in this list that came closest to making the top ten, I shouldn’t need to tell you what’s good about Phantom Hourglass. It’s Zelda. You’ve played it. This one just gets extra credit for mapping workable touch screen controls to a traditional game style. As with Twilight Princess, I found myself enjoying the unique controls rather than simply tolerating them.
  • Mass Effect (360) – Despite suffering from many of the issues of Knights of the Old Republic minus such an immediately appealing world (though this one is certainly far better than most sci-fi RPGs), Mass Effect is an enthralling game that will become a huge time sink if you let it. Both technically stunning (the facial animation) and disappointing (the frame rate), it’s still a lesson in how to do a sci-fi adventure. Let’s hope that it doesn’t mark Bioware’s descent into the same hole that swallowed Westwood and Bullfrog.
  • Ninja Gaiden Sigma (PS3) – I’m cheating somewhat here, given that I’ve played Sigma for little more than a couple of hours. This is really a chance to honour Ninja Gaiden in general, a game that I played to a meaningful extent for the first time this year and thought was absolutely fantastic. Sigma looks better and has more content, and is therefore just as easy to recommend. Play any version (the original and Black both work perfectly on a 360) in time for the sequel later in 2008.
  • Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords (360/DS/PSP) – If Viva Piñata was 2006’s best game that nobody played, surely Puzzle Quest is 2007’s. Yes, at its heart it’s yet another Bejeweled clone, and yes, the AI can be frustratingly prescient, chaining massive combos using off-screen gems that no-one could know about without cheating. But even so, Bejeweled is an addictive and fun game without a well-developed RPG component. Since its appearance on XBLA there can be few people without access to this gem. Sorry, couldn’t resist.
  • Resistance: Fall of Man (PS3) – While it’s consistently overrated in certain camps, Resistance was a solid shooter with an excellent suite of multiplayer modes, and deserves mention for the extensive support post-release. Insomniac’s feature-laden patches have brought everything from balance tweaks to a screenshot function and Dual Shock 3 support, even while they’ve brought another game to market and have undoubtedly started work on the sequel. Other developers could learn from the example.
  • Super Stardust HD (PS3) – In the flood of twin-stick shooters that have followed Geometry Wars, this is arguably the best. While I felt it slightly overcomplicated, it gave the genre a modern sheen that Geometry Wars had lacked, coupling mightily impressive graphics with a superb soundtrack. With more content to come and the recent patch bringing more features to the table, this is an overlooked gem.


These are unusual times. I’ve found a PS3 game to play and we’ve got a proper game that’s being digitally distributed. ‘Proper’ meaning not a touched up classic and not a £5 twin-stick shooter. It’s something new to console gaming and I really like it – Sony’s taken what could easily have been the next Shadowrun and done it right, making what’s probably my favourite PS3 game yet.

The Warhawk concept has been reinvented as a multiplayer-only Battlefield clone which, to be fair, is the game you want to copy if you’re making a multiplayer war game. And like Battlefield, it suffers from fairly average infantry and ground combat mechanics that are entirely forgiveable in light of some superlative aerial combat. While limiting yourself to the dogfight servers means missing out on certain dimensions of the gameplay, it’s the best way to guarantee a good game without the risk of being left behind without even a wheeled vehicle to carry you into the fray.

I inevitably gravitated towards flying the titular aircraft with sticks (I make no secret of my dislike of the ‘waggle’ fad), a setup which gives one stick to traditional flight and the other to the necessary aerobatics that make dodging and weaving between rock formations quick and intuitive. It never fails to be exciting when you have 16 wingmen flying with you towards the inevitable chaos of missiles and flak that await in the middle.

Warhawk isn’t particularly fully-featured and seems to have constant issues with connections and stats which should really be ironed out by now, but Sony has gone about it in the right way by making it £20 (or £40 on disc with a Bluetooth headset). To make the Shadowrun comparison again, that was also light on content but sold at retail for £50, and look how that turned out.

If this is a way to sidestep crippling development costs while still giving us proper next-gen games, I’m all for it. Of course I still want my big budget BioShocks and blockbusting Halos, but we can’t afford to spend £50 on every game that comes along.

I Don’t Get Home

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Another ambivalent post about a Sony product.

Home (or ‘Second Home’ as it perhaps should be called) is an interesting concept and, as a game in its own right, would probably end up being similar to Animal Crossing. What I don’t get is all the comment going on about how it’s a killer app, combining the best of Xbox Live and the Wii/Mii service.

What I understand is that it’s something akin to Second Life, in which you create your likeness and have your little home, which you can decorate and play around in as you see fit. You get trophies from games that you can place in your trophy cabinet and you can invite people into your apartment to look at your stuff. Other than that, I don’t think I’d be over-simplifying things to say that it’s a GUI for the existing online service.

That’s my problem. For all the flash it’s still an online system that’s missing the fundamental features of Xbox Live. No unified friends list, no cross-title messaging or invites, etc. It unifies the system in that you can meet up with friends in Home and head over to the Motorstorm track or whatever, but that sounds like a pain in the arse next to just starting up a game and inviting your friends from a menu. When I want to start up Word, there’s a reason why I simply click it in the dock rather than come out of my virtual house and run to the Office (see what I did there?) down the virtual street.

In that sense it seems like a smokescreen for the holes in the online infrastructure. It pisses all over the Wii’s system – such as it is – and pretty much already does what we expect the eventual Animal Crossing Wii to do (minus fucking friend codes) and more, but we have a higher benchmark than that. This seems like more of an anti-Nintendo measure for Sony than anything to do with Microsoft, which I suppose might make more sense at the moment given relative sales.

LittleBigPlanet, on the other hand, looks beautiful. That was a decent announcement.