Before the hate starts rolling in, know that I was for PlayStation Home before I was against it. I was intrigued by the prospect of a virtual world in which you could interact with people, have customizable user spaces, and do “stuff” with your friends. And then I actually used it. Today Sony brought us a new update which added new ‘genre’ zones, new functionality and frankly, other junk. Will this melt the hearts of those with the coldest, most unfavorable opinions of the service? Not even slightly.
If you’ve never messed with Home, here’s the skivvy: it’s a virtual hub to chat with friends, play “games”, and buy virtual items. If you want your avatar to look anything more than the lifeless mannequin that everyone else is, be prepared to shell out real dollars for virtual coats, haircuts, and outfits. Everything in this world is cold and called for, every store is an advertisement for a brand, every poster rotates through several ads, interaction with people is a superficial affair. It’s like an MMO, sans the adventure.
And this isn’t to speak of how janky much of it is. Upon loading Home, it asked me to sign in (something that’s automated on, say, the Xbox). Then it informed me that it had a new update, but I couldn’t update Home until I updated my system. Fine, except that screen just brings you back to the login screen, which prompts you to download the update, which brings you back… I had to actually bring up the XMB to download the system update, which failed on its first run after fifteen minutes, then I was able to come back to log in and download the update, but only after I agreed to a new EULA. Such is the PlayStation experience.
You arrive in a new hub space, again lined with ads and features you don’t have yet, and you can choose to interact with games throughout this and a score of new ‘genre zones’. When the games work (as you’ll see in the video feature, I could not get out of the hub’s “Cogs” game to save my life), they’re usually janky, bland, or janky bland, some barely out of their Flash-compiled roots. Because of the avatar-oriented nature of the game zones, it can also be a pain to actually find out how to play the games that do exist.
Each zone downloads individually, so in deciding to go elsewhere, you need to wait for it to come down very slowly before you access to it. Each area is a chat room/intersection, so you get all of that late 20th century awkward in each area you go to, which isn’t helped any if you’re just using the controller for text input. A specific zone is the ‘movie theater’, in which you can either watch trailers for PlayStation games or, in a slight gleam of something brilliant, can even watch NASA TV.
If you have friends, you can make something more of this, but it’s hard for me to say what as the Home spaces seemed to be littered with hundreds of idle virtual avatars that didn’t interact with each other. Three years later, I don’t know why anyone would use Home – despite the fact that it’s a great spot for advertisers, something that anarchic Second Life could never be – and there’s still little reason to aside from some lame thrills. Stay away.