In this three part series, Bazaboy hangs up his traveling boots and returns to PlayStation HOME. Has much changed since his last visit?
Playstation 3â€™s Home has both itâ€™s fans as well as itâ€™s haters and when it initially went live I must admit that upon trying it there were very few things that I enjoyed but the full package was to me a bit of a failure, but on hearing about improvements such as faster loading times, streamlined logins, new navigation tools and a lot of new spaces being added to Sonyâ€™s three dimensional world I thought I would take some time to revisit Home and see the changes myself as well as looking to see if those changes would have any effect on my initial feelings towards the game/application.
Upon reinstalling home I was reminded of the first time I did so with the initial download being only 49Mb, I can remember back then thinking wow Sony have done an amazing job fitting all they are promising into such a small download before getting into the game and realizing that every location you want to visit must be downloaded before your visit it for the first time and this leads me to one of my first problems with Home and it is a problem that has not really been improved upon and that is hard drive memory space, this really would not be a big problem for many PS3 userâ€™s out there as most will have a HDD with plenty of storage space where as I own a 40Gb model which usually suits my needs with most of my memory being used for game installs, updates and DLC for games that I regularly play, I like to keep between 10Gb-13Gb of free memory and with Home automatically reserving over 3Gb of room using up so much of my machines memory to download areaâ€™s for Home, something I would rarely play if at all, was a problem for me and unfortunately on revisiting the game I found this is something that has not been changed or improved upon.
The first start up of the game is a lengthy log process as the game checks for inventory items from previous installs and other small things thankfully logging in after this is a much quicker process and does seem to have improved since the last time I logged into the game, the next step is creating your avatar and I decided against creating a gorgeous hunk of a man to represent myself in game and decided to try and keep him as much like myself as the games customization options allowed me to, tall, tubby, pale and geeky it is then, once created you are free to explore so long as again you donâ€™t mind the waiting for the downloads the good thing is you can download in the background leaving you free to explore the area you are currently in.
The navigation around the game world had changed from stacked tiles which you could shuffle through to select your destination to a system that resembles the PS3â€™s XMB I was unsure if I preferred this to begin with but after a few hours it became second nature and a lot more streamlined than the old system, and so my first stop on my visit back to Home was the Home Square which remains much the same as it was on my first visit to Home and acts much like a sort of central hub leading off to the three other original main parts of home, The Shopping Centre, Theatre and Bowling Alley, but before getting onto those areas lets head back to Home Square nothing much has changed here other than the addition of a fun little Remote Controlled Helicopter game in which you have to use your rotor blades to cut the ropes on mini hot air balloons along with the chequers and chess boards, although the helicopter game is fun and entertaining it does suffer from the same problem I remember from playing Home the first time around in that there is only one game area which can only be played by four people at a time and although at the time of my playing I got a game without a problem I could imagine if it were busy there may be lines forming for a go along with the other problem of people playing over and over again and not giving waiting people a turn, the chess and chequers are pretty self explanatory and are as much fun as the player him or herself finds those games.
My next stop during my visit was to the Shopping Centre which at launch was a pretty empty location but unsurprisingly has been the location of most of the games content although Home is free to play the choice of customization of both your avatar and actual private home space is rather sparse without spending some money to do it or yourself up a little bit, there are now numerous designer stores within the shopping Centre area selling clothing, furniture and items, clothing there are even some big name retailers in there with clothing label Diesel being the most prominent with their store, the fun part though is the stores holding items, costumes and furniture based around things from numerous PS3 games such as Uncharted 2, Aliens Vs Predator, Little Big Planet or Ghostbusters amongst many others meaning you can dress your character as Drake a Predator or like I did, bearing in mind I was not planning on buying anything during my visit as I did not know if I was going to be hanging about after the writing of this article but on finding a Lucasarts costume section, I found myself thinking if I am going to be here reviewing stuff I should do it dressed as something I enjoy and so the Star wars Geek in me escaped and i found myself purchasing and Force Unleashed Stromtrooper costume and was pleasantly surprised at the authenticity of the costume going so far as to having a weathered effect to it and the sun and light effects reflecting off it at times, but in the back of my mind I was just giving Sony a little more money, the purchasing of goods is pretty easily done using the same wallet that you use for the PSN store and the but stores along with the theatre which would be my next stop both of which remain on the whole unchanged from my first visit coming across as nothing other than advertising gimmicks.
The Theatre as you may expect is designed like a movie theatre and also as you would expect is full of movie posters both current cinema and blu-ray releases which at the time of writing this included films such as 2012, Saw VI and Jenniferâ€™s Body along the same lines the theatre has movie screens showing trailers for current and forthcoming movie releases, Kick Ass, Iron Man 2 and Clash Of The Titans amongst many others were available for viewing at the time of my visit walking into one of the theatres screening rooms prompts yet another location download for that single room, why wasnâ€™t it included in the theatre download to begin with, once in the screen room you can take a seat and zoom in on the screen before you wait for your chosen trailer to download and play.
What I chose to watch was new, however. a new monthly show called Playstation Home TV which plays out as a in game news round up show reporting on events that have been held in Home announcing winners of said events or letting the player know about any upcoming events, this show is actually quite well put together and the voice acting is well done and humorous but the show is aimed at people who spend a lot of time in the game and the casual user wouldnâ€™t find much of interest in this show, truth be told though when it comes to watching Move trailers I do and still would just hit them up on You Tube not only is it a lot quicker but the quality is generally better too.
Up until now my return to Home has not given me anything new really other than a cool Stormtrooper costume, which I had to pay for itâ€™s all been pretty much sales and advertising and so in search of some entertainment I head for the bowling alley and first on the agenda was a game of pool, at first I thought nothing had changed and that I would still have to wait as all the tables looked to be occupied and then I noticed one table with a single chap playing on his own and decided to join him for a game, and it was not long into that first game that I found out why he was playing on his own and reason was probably because he had beaten everyone else that had joined him for a game as he then proceeded to destroy me over three games during which I got to take a total of 5 shots leaving me feeling suitably humiliated especially with him congratulating me on a good game after each of the three matches, the pool is a pretty basic version of the game fun enough to keep you occupied for a while but real fans would probably look for something a little more in depth and after my three utter defeats I thought it best to make my hasty retreat to the bowling lanes and this is where things had not changed all the lanes were full and I could also see five or six people milling around like myself waiting for a game but upon close inspection I discovered something that was new approaching any of the lanes offered up the option of joining a queue for bowling which would automatically put you into a game when a spot opened up and you were at the head of the queue and within five minutes I was in a full game so yes you may still need to wait for a game but at least there is the option to get in line for a game an option that Sony should consider adding to Home for each and every game included.
The bowling itself is the best thing in the bowling alley along with being one of the better pastimes in Home as a whole, the controls being a simple left and right to set where you start your ball rolling and then a series of taps on the X button to set direction, power and spin and at the end of my game I was quite proud of my second place overall out of four players the downside being that unfortunately I was unable to get a picture of myself bowling dressed as a Stormtrooper as I was informed by otherâ€™s I was playing with that it was quite amusing to see. The final part to the bowling alley is a video arcade with a huge choice of two games which of course you need to download before playing, the one I chose to give a go was Ice Breaker which is essentially ball and bat wall breaking game which every gamer is familiar with in one form or another, a pretty simple game to play and even better offers up free clothing as you progress through levels of the game, hat, shirt and even trousers and as we all know free stuff is always good, even crappy looking free clothes for your in game avatar.
In the next installment of this series, Bazaboy takes a look at the new features that have been added.