Saturday, November 7, 2009

Playstation Home has been updated!

I suppose it may be a bit trivial to talk about Playstation Home, seeing as how most people I've talked to has said that it blows. The fact that it's still in beta makes it a bit trivial to talk about any sort of updates, but also makes people's complaints with the "game" a lot less grounded. So with that, I feel like we should take a look at some of the new stuff they've added to this Version 1.3 update.

The original idea for Home was to be a big open world to meet new people, and eventually get into various games, and with this latest update we get new worlds and features, and that idea is increasingly becoming closer to being realized.

First, let's talk about some of the new features. There are now Leaderboards for all of the little games that appear as holographic images in front of whatever game you're playing, you can zoom into them, much like the advertisements laid out in the shopping mall. This makes those games seem somewhat better, as there's more competition, and I'm not sure if this was there before but they've added multiplayer to a few of them. they've also added in a bunch of new clothes that you can buy in the mall, and while I haven't bought any of them, I have looked through the list and have seen a lot of people running around with various gear on. The movie theater has now been expanded and includes a lobby, complete with ticket purchasing machines, that currently just have free Dethklok t-shirts and in-game PSP gos to give away. The different theater doors vary from streaming music videos, to advertisements, to streaming full episodes of Naruto Shippuden. This seems like a better set-up then last time, but you still find a lot of people just standing around in front of any given theater.

Probably the most significant update is the ability to start up a party, in order to launch a game. Pretty much, you're able to set up a party for a specific game, and then choose anywhere between 2-32 slots for players to join in. You're then able to target somebody and send them an invite to your party. They'll join, and you'll launch the game, straight from Home, provided you have the disc in your system. The launching aspect is slightly wonky, in that you can set up a party of 32 players for any game, even ones that don't support that many, you can even set up a party for single-player-only games, even including demos. I could essentially set up a 32 player party to play the infamous demo, but once we got there, we'd just play the single player. After launching a game, there will be an option on the Xross Media Bar to "Return to Home" which will send you back to the same place you left off in Home. While there's still some kinks to be worked out, I think this makes Home work much better as an extended game lobby than it has before.

There's a bunch of new areas in the game as well, and while I didn't check them all out, the ones I did were pretty cool. There's a new area for Uncharted 2, which has a cool new turn-based strategy game, that I actually had quite a bit of fun with, especially since it let you create and join rooms instead of waiting in line. There was the Gamer's Lounge, which was just a club with nothing to do except lounge around and talk, which was kind of lame. There's a Ratchet & Clank area that's kind of weird, since the art style clashes with the realistic human avatars, besides that, there's a kind of cool turret command mini-game. There's a Siren: Blood Curse area with a survival horror minigame that let's you do 4-player co-op, however, it's about as hard to get into a match as a game of Pool at the bowling alley. I'm not sure if it was there before, but there's also a Socom area that lets you get a team together and set up some strategy. This is really cool, cause I can picture a clan meeting up here and discussing some strategy before launching a game, and now with the built-in game launcher, they make this easier to do than ever!

One of the worst things about this new update is that they've completely removed public voice chat. The only way you can chat with somebody in Home is if you add them as a friend and call them up using the in-game menu. This is restrictive, and cumbersome, and I feel like it's just the result of a lot of whiners complaining about standard online gaming voice chat. It's a part of any online community, and people should just learn to deal with it or realize that there's a mute feature for a reason.

Besides that last part, I feel like Home has come a long way since it's inception, and while there's still a few kinks to work out, and maybe a few things they could streamline, I feel like it's on it's way to becoming a viable option of something to do when you boot up your PS3. Here's hoping they keep improving it, and patch the voice chat back in.

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