PlayStation Now review

PlayStation Now is a pricey, premium service for backlogged gamers

PlayStation Now review

I'll start at the beginning: the design and layout of the PlayStation Now app, specifically on PS4.

The interface is incredibly simplistic, maybe overly so. All you'll see, after you get past the paywall are the games – the titles are separated into categories with featured titles, usually grouped by genre, at the top.

Scrolling down, you'll find more discrete categories, like 2D fighting games or JRPGs, for example. There are about a dozen categories to pick from, with some titles appearing in multiple categories.

After you pick a game from the list and play it for the first time, the game will appear on the home screen so that you can easily pick it up again in the future.

PlayStation Now review: Bloodborne download

Game library

Latest PS Now Games:

Prey

Metro 2033 Redux

Bloodborne

Project Cars 2 (US only)

God Eater 2 (US only)

Dirt 4 (Europe only)

At last count, PlayStation Now has more than 650 games available to stream, and many of them – PS4 and PS2 titles – available to download. 

They range in value and prestige from some of the must-play games of the last generation, like Red Dead Redemption or The Last of Us, to small indie darlings, to some completely forgettable, bargain bin fodder.

But the decent titles are worth the price of entry. Games like Saints Row 3, Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, Darksiders and Catherine are all up for grabs, while Sony provides a few platform exclusives, like Ico, Shadow of the Colossus and Ratchet and Clank, that are excellent as well. Not to mention the Batman Arkham trilogy, Until Dawn, Borderlands, Bioshock: Infinite, and Ultra Street Fighter IV.

In addition, PlayStation Now offers PC players the chance to play Bloodborne for the first time – as the title has always been a PlayStation exclusive. 

Sadly, not every game is worthwhile: some of the hundreds of games are clearance pile fodder, and have been for the past few years.

I don't know anyone lining up to play Heavy Fire: Shattered Spear or Jimmie Johnson's Anything with Wheels, and while I'm sure someone out there really enjoys Wheel of Fortune and Frogger HD, it's not me. But the variety offered here should be enough to please a diverse set of tastes.

That offering has certainly improved over time: just like Sony's PlayStation Plus subscription, which offers a handful of free games for download each month, PS Now treads the line between desirable games and those that are just about going out of fashion.

Unlike Xbox Games Pass, it doesn't offer the latest AAA games, but it does offer a convenient way to access a library of old titles that are either hard to get hold of, or just a way to test titles without a market-price barrier.

PlayStation Now review: Read Dead Redemption

Pricing

PlayStation Now could offer the biggest and best games from the company's 20-year foray into game consoles, but if the pricing is wrong, none of it will matter. Knowing full well that prices and dollar signs are what sinks ships, pricing is one area that Sony has given special attention to over the last year of PlayStation Now's existence.

If you choose the subscription plan, pricing is relatively straightforward. One month of the service will run you $19.99/£12.99, or at a slightly discounted $99.99/£84.99 for the year.

In the beginning, there was the option to rent games as needed from the PlayStation Now store, rather than pay a monthly subscription fee. That option has now been ditched, so it's the subscription fee or nothing.

In the images below you can see how it used to work. A table of three games: one PS3 game, one PSN game, and one more recent PS4 game that display not only the difference in price over each time period, but the difference between games from different platforms as well.

PlayStation Now review

PlayStation Now review

PlayStation Now review

Where I can see PlayStation Now finding some traction is with gamers supplementing their PS4 experience with what essentially amount to rentals – or, crazier, users giving up their physical media collection completely.

This depends largely on how quickly publishers get on board with game-streaming as a way to play. But, in a perfect world in which games launch simultaneously on retail and PS Now, you could be playing the week's biggest games without leaving your couch for your subscription fee.

It's a shame we haven't seen a joint membership option for both PS Plus and PS Now, given the accumulated monthly fees are likely to prevent high uptake. If the choice is between a cost-effective way to play online on the one hand – and receive a couple of free old games each month, too – and a streaming service with numerous connection issues that's twice the price on the other, which one would you choose?

Stream quality

Another area that could use some sprucing up is the streaming quality, although it's slowly improving. Not only do games take 30 to 45 seconds to load up, but any hiccup in the connection completely derails gameplay.

While Sony is only recommending connection speeds of 5Mbps, it's not until 10 to 15Mbps that you'll truly reach the promised land of uninterrupted gameplay. And for more demanding AAA games like Bloodborne or Batman: Arkham City, you'll be wanting all the connection speed you can to get the most out of your play session.

PlayStation Now review: Braid

If you leave this review with one piece advice, have it be this: use an Ethernet cable instead of the system's Wi-Fi. A lost connection to your router will boot you from the game whether you've saved 10 seconds ago or 10 minutes ago. I get booted from games multiple times due to a bad connection.

When we first tested the service, we found pretty much everything except low-intensity platforming games like Braid would cause at least infrequent jitters. The busier the screen, the harder it will be, but the work Sony has put into the service over the last year meant any issues streaming Bloodborne – 27.19GB to download, for context – were really quite negligible.

This is an area Sony can still improve on, by continuing to optimize servers and open more server farms closer to major metropolitan areas. But no matter how good you think your internet speed is, we still recommend you take advantage of the seven-day free trial before committing yourself long term to the streaming platform.