PlayStation Network review
Playstation Network


This is not going to be an easy review to write for three reasons. Firsty I'm writing about a service not a game so there'll be nothing about graphics, gameplay, replay value etc etc. Secondly, PSN is updated every few months thanks to the Firmware Updates on the PS3 so any qualms I have with PSN now might be fixed in the near future. Lastly, this is not something somebody buys or goes out to the store to purchase. If you're reading this review you are probably more interested in knowing what it is rather then how it is.
Note: This Review is based on the PSN service of today. Many updates are due for release in the near future such as ingame-XMB but I'm reviewing PSN as it now is.

So let me break it down for those who either don't have a PS3 or those that don't have their PS3 hooked up to Broadband.
PSN (Playstation Network) is a free service provided by Sony to allow gamers to play online games. Let me just elaborate on that a bit more. The word 'free' on the internet is usually associated with a scam or con. Well not with PSN. The service is indeed 100% free, there are no hidden charges whatsoever. Of course you still have to pay for your Broadband Subscription but you can't expect Sony to pay for your Broadband. All you have to do is sign up via the Playstation Network Icon on the XMB and you're good to go.

Signing up takes 5 minutes and it's needed for a few reasons. Firstly when you sign up you allocate yourself a PSN Name. Everyone playing online has their own unique PSN Name for example mine is Devils_Demon. In every game you play online you will be recognisable by that name. You can't change it either so make sure you get it right the first time. The second reason for signing up is to inform Sony of your whereabouts. Each region has it's own PSN Store (more on that in a minute). If you live in Japan you will have different content on the Store then if you live in Europe or America so Sony need to know where you are so they can direct you to the correct Store. The last reason for signing up is of course the Terms & Conditions. You are after all playing online with/against real people so there are some rules to follow and Sony have to cover themselves incase of any wrong doings within the community.
So after giving them a User Name, Address and agreeing to the T&C you are a PSN member and you can avail of Sonys free service.

There is still a lot of confusion for some people about how to get your PS3 online. There are two ways to get your PS3 online. For both methods though you will need a Router and of course you have to have Broadband (dial up is way too slow). First I'll explain the easiest way. Simply connect the PS3 to your Router using the supplied wire. Wired is a lot better and gives you the best quality however because of the short wire supplied and the fact that most people don't have their PC and PS3 right next to eachother wireless is often the only option left. The PS3 has built-in WiFi so it can connect to your router wirelessly. It's an easy process. You simply go to the Network Settings on your PS3 then choose Wireless and then Scan. The PS3 will recognise your connection and you simply select it and you're good to go. If you have WEP security (you should) on your router then you need to input the WEP Key into the PS3 and follow the instructions.
It really is as simple as that to get your PS3 online and avail of the Free PSN Service.

So you've got your PS3 online and you have signed up for PSN. Now what?? PSN is not just about allowing you to play games online. It has other uses too.
Without Broadband the last 3 tabs on the XMB (far right) are useless however with Broadband these 3 tabs suddenly become your most used tabs of all.
You might have noticed an Icon for the Playstation Store in the Network tab on the XMB. This is where you go to download Demos, Videos, Full Games, Add-On Packs for games, Themes etc etc.

Bare in mind that some items here do cost money. Of course Demos, Videos, and Themes are free to download but if you want a full game you will have to spit up some cash. With the lack of packaging and distribution costs these games are usually very little to download. For example the excellent Warhawk is on sale on the High Street for 60 Euros but on the Playstation Store it's only 30 Euros. There will also be many PSN Exclusive games too. These games were specifically created for PSN and most only cost a few euros to download. Most big named games will get Downloadable Content. These come in the form of new maps, new weapons, new tracks etc etc. For example Motorstorm has gotten a lot of new cars and tracks added to it since it's release and Resistance has also had many new Maps added to it. The majority of these will be for sale on the Store although some kind developers hand them out for free.
So how do you pay?
Currently there is only 1 way of paying for stuff on PSN. Using a Visa/Master Card simply give your details at the checkout and your Credit Card will be charged. Soon Sony will be releasing PSN Cards. These are like PrePay Mobile Phone cards. You simply go to your local gaming store and buy a card then use that card to buy whatever you want on the PSN Store.
Keep in mind that you are paying for a game/add-on, it's no different then buying games/addon packs on the High Street. PSN is still free and it's up to you what you are willing to pay for.

So what else does PSN offer?
Communication with friends and family couldn't be easier. The far right tab on the XMB is for messages and your friend list. It's inevitable that during your online gaming you will meet some cool people that you consider to be a friend. You can add this person to your friend list. Whenever this person comes online a little notification pops up in the top right corner telling you that your friend is online. You can then check to see what game he is playing and then you can join him. You can also send him messages using the Controller or a USB Keyboard. Messages on PSN are similar to Emails or Texts on a phone. You have a folder for Received Messages and Sent Messages. With a Bluetooth headset you can invite him to a chat where you can both talk for as long as you want. If you have an Eyetoy or PSEye you can have a Video Conversation with him too.

Anyway I think I've covered all the basics of PSN. The next Firmware Update for the PS3 is going to be the big one. It will apparently add In-Game XMB which means we will be able to listen to our music and message friends while playing a game. It will also add Home to the XMB which in itself requires it's own Review to fully explain.
Sony have also confirmed that by the end of this year we will be able to download full movies and music to our HDD too.
So watch this space. PSN is still growing and things can only get better.

It's very difficult to decide a score for this Service due to it being updated every few months so I'm going to settle with an above average score of 4/5.

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