Playstation Home

Home is, for now at least, one of the greatest examples of a game killed by hype. Announced years ago, Home looked exciting, fresh and, despite obvious similarities with PC online experience Second Life, innovative. Had this functionality been released shortly after the initial announcements, it's quite likely that it could have been a massive hit, with horders of users and rapidly growing support. Instead, as years passed, more and more features were promised, while PS3 owners began to speculate about just how powerful Home might be when it finally arrived. Obviously, since the game was taking so many years to develop, it seemed natural that all promises of trophy cabinets, game-specific areas, and other exciting ideas would be included in the initial release, but this was not the case when Home went public at the end of 2008.

As it stands, Home currently allows users to install a hefty download (in the region of 5Gb, using considerable space on standard HDDs), which will allow them access to a large social area (imagine some sort of posh hotel atrium), as well as a personal apartment, with a balcony (and view), some furniture and a couple of decorations. Connected to the social area are shops, for purchasing additional extras, a few gaming areas (bowling alleys, for example), and a cinema area for viewing videos such as game or film trailers. To get around, it's simply a case of moving a character (or avatar) into different areas. The trouble is, each area has limits on the number of people able to access them, so you can expect to struggle to get into bowling alleys and other interesting areas, while conversely, shops lie like barren wastelands.

Home

Perhaps the redeeming feature of this relatively uninspiring experience is the fact that it's free, but then, nope, it's not exactly free. Provided you stick to the confines of the initial offering, you don't have to pay a penny, which is fine, but as soon as you want to add a little extra customization (in the form of a new shirt for your avatar, or a new chair for your apartment), you can expect to incur significant costs, with tiny pixel collections costing around a pound each. It's utterly daft. As a result, you're unlikely to see much variety from person to person, in terms of clothing and apartment customization. Thankfully, character modification is pretty flexible, allowing you to create an avatar with striking resemblance to, erm, well an avatar of yourself really. It's not going to make you think you're looking in the mirror, but it makes rival consoles look a bit silly (not necessarily a bad thing, but it does demonstrate what can be done with a little effort).

Besides exploring the few areas available in Home, the obvious point to mention is communication. Home is pitched as an area of Playstation users to socialize, and so communication is obviously key. For other people within range, you'll be able to show text bubbles and communicate via headsets (though a patch seems set to remove this obviously useful feature due to abuse from other players - as if this is something new - while a more sensible fix might be to allow voice communications only with friends or people in the same party perhaps). You'll also be able to choose from a reasonably wide range of expressions and gestures (including daft dance moves) to convey your messages. It's actually a reasonably decent basis for Sony to build on, in this respect, and could be used to great effect, provided there's actually a reason for people to be in Home in the first place.

Home

It's easy to be critical of Home, and a simple summary really is that it's too little too late, but this criticism is a little unfair, given the competition. The truth is that Home fills a capability gap that needed to be addressed, and it does so better than the competition. There is scope for significant improvement and, if all goes well, this will happen. For now, Home is nice to have, and a welcome addition, but it's not one that's really worth spending a lot of time with.

Game details

Game logo

Publisher:

Sony

Developer:

Sony

Players:

1

Online:

1-32

Release:

2008-12-11

Trophies:

0

Review summary

Gameplay:

Nothing inspiring at this stage, but it could grow

Graphics:

It makes the Nintendo and Microsoft versions look silly

Sound:

Reasonable effects, but basic music

Lastability:

Short at present, but much more will be added to Home

3.0

Black Hole

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