Hacksville: Population 70m+

Unless you’ve been under a rock for the last three weeks you’ll have noticed that the PS3 has been without it’s online component, the PSN.

Someone hacked into the network and stole users personal data so Sony shut down the entire online aspect of it’s service to investigate.

It took a week or so for them to fill gamers in because they were waiting for the investigation to be completed by a third party. Once they had the confirmation they let us know the following day.

Online is a big part of the gaming experience for a lot of people.

This is apparently standard procedure (see here for more details) but it was the announcement that the hackers could also have got hold of users credit card details that ruffled feathers.

It usually takes something controversial for gaming to appear in the mainstream news, let alone make the headlines, so the theft of over 70m users credit card details was just what the media ordered.

The truth of the matter is that, at present, Sony has nothing to prove that credit card details were taken and no-one has reported any unauthorised activity on their cards.

Killzone 3 was a recent flagship online game for Sony, will people return to it or play fresher titles?

From a personal perspective I immediately cancelled my card and ordered a new one. Any concerns from my end were then finished.

Sony vowed to increase security and apologised for the breach. They have also offered some compensation in the form of some free games and a month of Playstation Plus for free.

As time rolled on and a few days turned into a week, which turned into two weeks… gamers seemed to be getting overly irate.

What impact will the outage have on the sales of a game heavily based around multiplayer, like Brink?

Now I accept that Sony has to shoulder some blame for this but someone breached the security they had in place and attacked them. I’m presuming this was a data theft issue because any group, such as anonymous, that attempted this to inconvenience Sony will have lost any support from PS3 gamers.

In terms of getting back online I would much rather the PSN was down an extra week or two now with better security than have it back up and running now, only to see it taken down again a few weeks later with problems.

Sony’s initial response was by the book according to people in the know, so waiting until the investigation was complete before commenting was ok with me. But the handling of it over the last few weeks has been ridiculous. The phrase ‘a few more days’ has been wheeled out at every opportunity, when realistically they must have known they were looking at weeks rather than days.

Were some gamers really desperate enough to play Call Of Duty that they would trade in their PS3?

There have been plenty of claims of people trading in their PS3 for an XBox 360 so they can play online, which I find hard to believe. Buying a 360 as well? Can see that as an option for people with the cash to do so. But trading in your PS3? What about the exclusives coming up such as Infamous 2, Resistance 3, Uncharted 3 or the just announced Starhawk?

The time the PSN has been down has been a blessing in disguise for me as I’ve knocked out a huge chunk of my single player backlog before the arrival of L.A Noire.

Over the last three weeks I’ve made my way through Bulletstorm, SOCOM 4, the first episode of Back To The Future: The Game, Stacking, Crysis 2, Portal 2 and X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Not to mention throwing countless hours into Mass Effect 2.

The outage meant I cleared a big chunk of my game backlog.

I rediscovered my love of single player gaming. With the PSN showing signs of life this week it might be time to rediscover my love of online gaming.

What did you guys so in the downtime? Play much? Turn to other pursuits? What did you think of Sony’s handling of the situation – from the actual security itself to the response and release of information?

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Try Before You Buy

One of the great things about the PSN (PlayStation Network) that I feel a lot of people are overlooking is the sheer amount of demos you can get for free.

With every Thursday (or at least 99% of them) bringing new demos to the store I always find it a bit strange that people haven’t been on to download anything.

As well as giving you a chance to try out titles you’re looking forward to (say hi to Alien Vs Predator, Heavy Rain and Battlefield Bad Company 2 last Thursday 😎 ) it’s also an opportunity to try out games in a different style that you wouldn’t normally play/buy.

Sure you might not enjoy those demos but at least then you’ll know to avoid that game. You might even surprise yourself and like something you never though you would.

These demos are completely free and you can keep them on your PS3 hard drive indefinitely (in most cases).

Many of them are up to 15/20 minutes of gameplay and take less than that to download.

The demos stay up on the PSN indefinitely as far as I’m aware and there are plenty of old gems on there.

So anyone reading this that doesn’t currently use the PSN Store for demos get yourself on there and check out some games you’ve heard are great but haven’t played.

EDIT: Since I wrote this piece it’s turned out that we’ve also seen the downside of the demo issue with Alien Vs Predator still unplayable on the PS3. Another demo for Sonic Racing has also apparently thrown up frame rate issues for that title. These sorts of things should’ve been ironed out at Beta stage in my opinion but on the plus side the Battlefield demo is great 🙂

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Feeling Sad? Upset? How About A Little DLC?

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It took a long time but a couple of months ago I took the plunge and set up a wallet on the PSN (Playstation Network) Store.

Effectively I’d only been using the store to download free demos as I’d had no interest in DLC (Downloadable Content) but that was all about to change.

For a start my wife had played Flower and really enjoyed it – possibly more so because it didn’t require 20+ hours to get through it. So I decided to add some funds to the online wallet in case any more PSN games caught her eye.

And secondly, Killzone 2.

Two multi-player map packs have been released with last week’s ‘Flash and Thunder’ pack following on from the ‘Steel and Titanium’ maps in April.

These map packs cost £4.79 each and you get two new levels in each.

I’ve found the levels to be really enjoyable with a few new ideas implemented in each.

Wasteland Bullet in the first pack introduced external hazards that could kill the player on the moving train, like making sure you time your jumps between trains so scenery rushing by doesn’t kill you 😆

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This has been taken to the next level on Southern Hills in the latest pack which feature a nuclear blast 😮 It’s cool though if you’re inside it won’t kill you 🙂

The games missions remain the same it’s just within a new setting.

My issue here isn’t with the quality of the product – no complaints on that front but are these packs really worth £4.79 when the game itself cost around £40 (and probably less now)?

Possibly but I still think a more attractive price point could’ve been found – maybe £2.99 each? Or maybe if you bought the first pack get the second one half price?

To put this into context EA (I know, I know they are made of money :lol:) have continued to put out DLC to support Burnout Paradise, including a pack that added bikes to the game as well as cars… FOR FREE!

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Although it must’ve cost EA a lot of money to offer that for free it garnered a lot of respect from gamers and proved they are interested in looking after their consumers.

Take for example Home – Sony’s online social space. Now it was fun to set up my avatar, have a look around and see it in action but am I really gonna pay to have a certain t-shirt or piece of furniture in my virtual apartment?

Not at £1.79 for a virtual t-shirt. 😮

Now I might not be the market for this type of thing but seriously where is the value in that? I could pretty much buy two tracks on iTunes for that!

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Home has amazing potential but to even tempt people like me to buy stuff it needs to be priced at or around the iTunes model – that is what people are used to paying. £0.99 is what we’re thinking when we consider buying small DLC and £1.79 in comparison looks much higher.

Obviously I’m not suggesting all DLC should be £0.99 but surely it’s better to have a ton more people downloading these little bits at a lower price than less people at a higher rate?

As an aside Home is becoming an interesting prospect – the idea of game launching (meet up with friends in Home first then it puts you all in the same game room for whatever you want to play) is a great one and the social aspect is interesting. Chatting to other gamers could be fun if you’re in the mood.

For me the one thing they need to sort (other than pricing) is the loading times. I know it’s still in beta and I’m sure they are working on it but it’s pretty annoying. Couldn’t it automatically download a few of the main spaces in the background so they are ready when you want to move on?

LittleBigPlanet is another game that revolves around DLC but while I commend their dedication to user created levels being downloadable for others to play I feel the main DLC (costumes for the Sackboy characters) is again slightly overpriced and needs a rethink.

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On the other hand something like the Metal Gear Solid pack was pretty good value in LittleBigPlanet as it offered not only new levels but new tools to help you make better levels yourself.

DLC IS the future of gaming.

We will get our content via digital streams – the introduction of the PSP Go! and Sony’s continued support of the PSN Store show they are serious about digital content going forward.

Whether it’s user generated ala LittleBigPlanet or add on packs for existing games – I just hope Sony and the developers can work together to bring the prices down on this type of content.

Red Faction: Guerrilla Demo Impressions (PS3)

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Fun.

I could really just leave it at that and move on but I suppose I better go into a bit more detail 🙂

From the trailer style opening it appears that your character Alec Mason is part of a rebel group (Red Faction I’m guessing :lol:) that wants to wrestle control of Mars back from a totalitarian governement that is calling the shots – and kidnapping loads of innocent civilians to ship to work camps for their own means.

I’ll be honest I found it a bit muddled and quite frankly after about 20/30 seconds I skipped the demo trailer as I was worried it would spoil the game itself for me.

After inverting the controls (GregHorrorShow Gaming Tip #1) I got stuck in. And I mean that literally. Handed some sort of Thor type hammer I smashed a few solar panels up. Nice, everything broke realistically.

I had to make my way over to an exclaimation mark on my map to steal a ‘walker’ (think the robot thing Ripley uses at the end of Aliens) to give to the rebels.

Cool I think, goddamn facist pigs – wait till I… *swings hammer*

Suddenly realizing I’m about to clump a woman rather than a man I pull back and miss her. I feel a little swell of pride that even in a game on Mars my morals are still upstanding. Only briefly though as I spot a man instead and smack him with the hammer.

BOOM! Awesome, he goes down hard. Wait a minute, what? I’ll lose the rebels trust if I kill them? These guys are the rebels? Oh. *clears throat* sorry about that.

As I come round the corner I start getting shot at by some dudes with odd helmets on – Ok so THESE are the bad guys.

A couple of swings with my trusty hammer take them down and I’m alerted to a nearby vehicle which I jump into and haphazardly, while being shot at I hasten to add, screech my way over to the exclaimation mark on the map.

I get out the truck and use the hammer to smash the warehouse door – cool.

Then I get in the Walker and trudge out, destroying buildings and helmet guys with the sweeping arms of the mechanoid. I’m launching cars in the air and generally causing mayhem. It’s great.

The Walker seems indestructable which I guess could be a problem in so far as you could feel too safe when in one.

For the purposes of the demo though it was great and I successfully got it to a nearby truck and loaded it onto the back.

Someone else took the wheel while I operated some form of cannon blaster at the back of the vehicle. The following on-rails driving section saw explosions aplenty, the cannon was so powerful every shot sent the chasing armoured cars flying through the air like the opening sequence of The A-Team 😀

I also demolished some of the governments surrounding buildings/processing plants – take that corporate scum 😮

We made it past over a bridge just in time as the rebels blew it up to stop the guys chasing us.

This was far exceeding my expectations and I was genuinely interested to see what else I could try out… except that was it.

Oh.

In a world where we are constantly showered with free demos that are pretty much a whole level I didn’t see that coming.

On the plus side the demo did it’s job perfectly – I have to admit I thought Red Faction looked average, that I probably would try the demo and end up not bothering to pick the full game up.

But after blasting through the demo my interest is certainly raised. In fact I’m thinking of giving it another run through and seeing what else I can do within the confines of the demo.

Red Faction seems similar to Mercenaries 2, which I liked as a fun play despite it’s poor review scores.

Sometimes it’s nice to go back to the old school and not worry about stealth and cover – just hold down fire and everything will be alright 😎