Image: inFamous
Sony/Sucker Punch
Subscribe to the new PlayStation Plus service and you'll have access to a free hour-long trial of the game "inFamous." It's a fantastic game well worth trying, but does it make paying for Sony's new service worth it?
By InGame reporter
NBC News
updated 7/1/2010 8:54:36 PM ET 2010-07-02T00:54:36

Sony's new premium service for the PlayStation 3 offers discounted and free games and other game-related treats, but is PlayStation Plus actually worth forking over $50 per year?

I've checked it out and the short answer I've arrived at is: Not yet.

PS3 owners can now purchase PlayStation Plus through the online PlayStation Store as either a one-year subscription for $49.99 or a three-month subscription for $17.99. (For a limited time, Sony is offering an extra three months free to those who pony up for the one-year subscription).

Right now, Plus mostly operates as a big coupon. That is, membership gets subscribers some pretty sweet discounts on various gaming items in the PlayStation Store. But the problem is, like most coupons, you may not really want or need the items that are discounted.

Each month, subscribers are given a selection of PlayStation Network, PS One Classic and PSP Mini games to download from the PSN Store for free. You will be able to download these games only during the month they are available. A new month means new selections replace them.

Additionally, each month subscribers will be able to download a selection of game add-ons, themes and avatars either for free or at a discount. Members will have access to various hour-long free game trials as well.

What does that mean here in Month One of PlayStation Plus? It means you get PSN game "Wipeout HD" for free (which costs everyone else $19.99), you get the PS One game "Rally Cross" for free (others pay $5.99) and you get the PSP Mini game "Age of Zombies" for free ($4.99 for everyone else).

Meanwhile, subscribers will pay $3.99 rather than $4.99 for the "Fat Princess: Fat Roles" add-on and you can download games like "Cuboid" and "Hamster Ball" for $7.99 rather than $9.99. Most interestingly, perhaps, subscribers get an hour-long free trial of the full game "inFamous." (Check out the complete list of this month's Plus benefits here.)

If you happen to want these items, then by all means, PlayStation Plus is something you should purchase right now. If "Wipeout HD," for example, has been on your list of games to buy, then the $20 savings on this game alone pays for a three-month subscription to Plus. And let me say that I am a fan of "inFamous" and think that if you haven't tried this game, you definitely should.

But here's the thing ... "Wipeout HD" has been around since 2008. And "inFamous" launched more than a year ago. Meanwhile, "Age of Zombies" is so dreadful I can't even recommend playing it for free. What I'm saying is: I'm surprised that Sony didn't launch PlayStation Plus with a killer app of some sort — that is, offer up a top-notch new PSN game for free for example, or provide a free trial to a game that just arrived in stores (i.e. a game players are dying to check out right now).

I will say that what's nice about the full-game trials available through Plus is that if you decide to buy the full game after trying it, all of your progress and trophies will be saved and you can pick up right where you left off.

Image: Wipeout HD
Subscribe to PlayStation Plus and you'll get "Wipeout HD" for free while everyone else pays $19.99.

But be careful, because once you start your one-hour trial, you really do only have one hour. There's no pausing your game for dinner, for example. It seems an odd choice on Sony's part since nearly the entire casual gaming industry has had great success offering would-be buyers one free hour of true game-play. Apparently they realize that people need to take food breaks, phone breaks and pee breaks when they're gaming.

The other big catch with the Plus service is this: You can only access the games you've downloaded for free (games like "Rally Cross" and "Wipeout HD") as long as you remain a Plus subscriber. End your subscription and, poof, your games are no longer playable. Though if you do re-up your subscription, you'll get your access to those games back.

The other bit of bad news: PlayStation Plus does not give online players the cross-game chat they've been asking for.

"Cross-game voice chat is a feature we know our passionate user base has asked for and we'll continue to look at as a viable offering for the PlayStation Network," Susan Panico, Senior Director of the PlayStation Network, wrote on the PlayStation blog.

Meanwhile, many PlayStation 3 owners have expressed concerns that the arrival of Plus will be the end of free access to the PlayStation Network and its services (something Sony has long touted as a boon of its online service over Microsoft's Xbox Live service).

"The current PSN features will remain free," Panico assured everyone. "We are still very committed to PSN as a free comprehensive entertainment service and are certainly not planning on reducing this service following the launch of PlayStation Plus."

For right now, PlayStation Plus is basically a coupon booklet that's only worth purchasing if you happen to be jonesing for the items currently offered within. I suspect, however, the service will soon become far more tempting. Sony has promised to give Plus members exclusive access to beta game tests and to let them buy some games before everyone else. Access to a hot game beta could be very compelling indeed and it will be interesting to see what other services Sony provides exclusively its Plus members.

After all, "PlayStation Plus is a continually evolving service," Panicio promises.

Speaking of evolving ... one thing that might convince PS3 owners to pony up for PlayStation Plus is the forthcoming Hulu Plus service — which will be available on PS3s and Xbox 360s in the coming months. Though Sony has not confirmed or denied this, it now seems likelythat PS3 owners will need a PlayStation Plus membership to access Hulu's TV-on-demand service (which will itself cost $9.99 a month).

If the competition's any indication, it's worth noting Microsoft has said it will require Xbox 360 owners to have an Xbox Live Gold membership if they want to access Hulu Plus when it launches on the console in early 2011. Xbox Live Gold runs $49.99 a year as well.

( is a joint venture of Microsoft and NBC Universal, a co-owner of Hulu.)

For the price of totally free, you can download Winda Benedetti Plus here on Twitter.

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Video: Gears of Harry Potter

Explainer: The best video games to come

  • Image: Gears of War 3
    Epic Games/Microsoft

    Motion controls, 3-D gameplay, shiny new gadgets — yeah, plenty of exciting new gaming technologies made the headlines at this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo.

    But ultimately, it's the games that truly matter.

    At E3 — the game industry's biggest trade show — developers and publishers unveiled and showed off throngs of games for every system and for every kind of player out there. Alas, these games are still in the works, which means we might not see them for months or perhaps even years.

    After spending time perusing the offerings at this year's expo, here's a look at the most promising games of E3 2010 — the games we just can't wait to play.

    Also, be sure to check out our list of the best original games of E3.

    —Winda Benedetti & Todd Kenreck

    Tell us:Which game from E3 are you most looking forward to?

  • Crysis 2 - PC, PS3, Xbox 360

    Image: Crysis 2

    Crytek is showing off its game engine muscle with this beefy, beautiful shooter which will play in 3-D  (for those with the gaming set-ups to display such things), not to mention good-ol’ fashioned 2-D.

    “Crysis 2” takes place in New York city during an alien invasion. After trying out this first-person shooter in 3-D, we can say that the added dimension certainly made the gameplay feel more instinctual and the environment more immersive. “Crysis 2” is due to arrive on store shelves this holiday season.

  • Portal 2 - PC, PS3, Xbox 360

    Image: Portal 2

    No, we didn’t get to see much of “Portal 2” when it was unveiled in a teaser trailer for the first time at Sony’s press conference Tuesday. But that’s all right. We loved the first “Portal” game and couldn’t be happier to hear that the space-bending, puzzle-solving, brain-tingling hit from Valve is going to make a return in 2011. Of course the question is: Will we get cake when it finally arrives?

  • Medal of Honor - PC, Xbox 360, PS3

    Image: Medal of Honor

    This WWII first-person shooter franchise has been on hiatus since 2007. But it gets a reboot this fall, not to mention a new war-torn location and time period. That is, the game is set in modern-day Afghanistan and is based on the stories of real soldiers who’ve experienced combat in that troubled region.

    “We’re putting you into their boots and telling their stories of what they see and do and how they try to survive and come back home,” says Frank Gibeau, president of the EA Games Label.

    He says real soldiers have been extensively consulted throughout the process of creating the game to ensure that it is tastefully done. “Medal of Honor” will launch Oct. 12.

  • Deus Ex: Human Revolution - PC, PS3, Xbox 360

    Image: 4. Deus Ex: Human Revolution
    Eidos Montreal/Square Enix

    This third game in the “Deus Ex” franchise arrives as a prequel to the acclaimed original game which made a splash way back in 2000 with its genre blending first-person shooter/RPG gameplay.

    “Human Revolution” takes place 25 years before the original game’s story and will offer new and improved shooting/RPG action in a gritty “Bladerunner-esque” world of cybernetic augmentation, corporate corruption and intrigue. It’s scheduled to launch in 2011.

  • Star Wars: The Old Republic - PC

    Image: Star Wars: The Old Republic

    If any massively multiplayer online role-playing game could hope to reach the excessive success of “World of Warcraft,” it’s “Star Wars: The Old Republic.” Two words: Star. Wars.

    This game, due to launch in 2011, lets players explore the “Star Wars” universe on a grand scale and like never before. At E3 this week, the developers announced a player vs. player battleground set on Alderaan and also revealed that each player will get their own starship to call home sweet home.

  • LittleBigPlanet 2 - PS3

    Image: LittleBigPlanet 2
    Media Molecule/Sony

    The first “LittleBigPlanet” was not only utterly adorable it was also mindblowingly creative. Players got to have not only a blast exploring eye-popping handmade worlds but, more importantly, the game gave players the tools to create their very own eye-popping handmade game levels themselves.

    Sony promises us “LBP 2” will be even more robust — so much so that it will let players create not just game levels, but entire games of their own as well as compose their own music and even direct their own cinematic pieces. “LittleBigPlanet 2” will also make use of Sony’s new motion-control system called Move. It’s scheduled to launch in November.

  • Killzone 3 - PS3

    Image: Killzone 3
    Guerrilla Games/Sony

    Sony is certainly putting a lot of tech into this first-person shooter. “Killzone 3” — which picks up the story where the much-lauded “Killzone 2” left off —will feature 3-D graphics and will also take advantage of Sony’s Move motion controls.

    “When you pair 3-D with PlayStation Move the experience is unlike anything you’ve seen before,” Sony Computer Entertainment CEO Kaz Hirai said during his company’s E3 press conference Tuesday. “It’s really the closest thing you will ever experience to being in the game itself.”

    Sony reps say “Killzone 3” will include a new melee system and will feature massive new levels that are 10 times the size of those in “Killzone 2.”

  • Twisted Metal - PS3

    Image: Twisted Metal
    Eat Sleep Play/Sony

    In a surprise announcement, Sony revealed at their press conference Tuesday that the famed and freakish “Twisted Metal” car combat game would arrive exclusively on the PS3 in 2011.  The game will have a robust online system, highly destructible environments and, of course, a wicked sense of humor. And we mean wicked.

  • Halo: Reach - Xbox 360

    Image: Halo: Reach
    Copyright, Bungie Studios, 2006.  /  Bungie/Microsoft

    Bungie creative director Marcus Lehto told the crowd gathered at Microsoft's press conference Monday that the newest “Halo” game is the “most ambitious game Bungie has ever created.”

    Storywise, “Reach” acts as a prequel to the previous games with gamers playing through the campaign as a member of Noble Team. The team is a squad of Spartan soldiers who are the last line of defense against the Covenant and the destruction of Earth. On Monday, Bungie revealed that “Reach” will be the first “Halo” game to feature space combat.  Meanwhile, the multiplayer experience has been dramatically expanded.

    We won’t have to wait long for our latest “Halo” fix — the game arrives Sept. 14.

  • Gears of War III - Xbox 360

    Image: Gears of War 3
    Epic Games/Microsoft

    The “Gears of War 3” campaign demonstration on Monday certainly left us wanting more. The folks from Epic showed off the game’s four-player co-op mode. The battle was intense, with epic mutating enemies giving the crowd a good show.

    They also revealed the new Beast mode, which turns the tables and lets gamers play the role of the Locust army and battle against the humans.

    All in all, we can’t wait to see how they bring the “Gears” trilogy to a close. The game arrives in stores April 5, 2011.

  • Child of Eden - Xbox 360, PS3

    Image: Child of Eden
    Q Games/Ubisoft

    Many of us were absolutely hypnotized by the stylish, musical and artistic gameplay that “Rez” delivered when it appeared on the PlayStation 2 back in 2002. Now, “Child of Eden” – a game that is being touted as the spiritual successor to “Rez” – is in the works and helmed by renowned game creator Tetsuya Mizuguchi (the man behind “Rez.”)

    Much like “Rez,” “Child of Eden” appears to blend music and colorful visuals into one unique, gorgeous, kaleidoscopic shooter that we can’t wait to get our hands on.  In fact, for the Xbox 360 version, we will be very much getting our hands on it. That is, players will be able to interact with the game using Microsoft’s forthcoming Kinect motion controllers.

    During an E3 demonstration, we were shown how a player could move their hands in the air to play the game. It was cool, trippy stuff. Hands down, “Child of Eden” is the most exciting Kinect game we’ve seen so far.

  • Dance Central - Xbox 360

    Image: Dance Central
    Harmonix/MTV Games

    It may have looked a bit goofy during the Microsoft press demonstration, but we suspect this Kinect-controlled dance game is going to be the kind of game that everyone wants to bust out at the party.

    Kinect’s full body motion controls just make good sense for a dance game. Plus, thankfully, “Dance Central” offers tutorials for those of us with two left feet.

  • Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword - Wii

    Image: Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

    The “Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword” demonstration at Nintendo’s press conference Tuesday may have hit a snag or two, but we’re still looking forward to Link’s latest adventure (arriving in 2011). Players will get to use the Wii Remote and Nunchuk controllers to move Link’s sword and shield. And we’re especially happy that this game makes use of Nintendo’s MotionPlus gadget, which should make the Wii’s controls far more accurate and responsive.

  • Epic Mickey - Wii

    Image: Epic Mickey
    Disney Interactive

    Mickey Mouse makes his first appearance on the Wii in a surprisingly promising-looking game that mixes aspects from the platforming and RPG genres. The game pays tribute to Disney’s animation history, finding Mickey in a place known as the Cartoon Wasteland populated with many familiar characters. Interestingly, the game employs a morality system — which means the player’s actions and choices have consequences and affect the game world and Mickey himself. All in all, it looks like a unique new take on a mouse we all thought we knew. "Epic Mickey" is due this holiday season.

  • Kid Icarus: Uprising - Nintendo DS/3DS

    Image: Kid Icarus: Uprising

    The last “Kid Icarus” game appeared way back in 1991. But, he’s finally back. And talk about a modern makeover. This week Nintendo revealed that “Kid Icarus: Uprising” will arrive in 2011 as a launch title for Nintendo’s forthcoming 3-D portable game machine — the 3DS. We don’t know much about the game, but we’re definitely looking forward to seeing the Kid in glasses-free 3-D.

    Tell us:Which game from E3 are you most looking forward to?

    Also see: The best original games of E3


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