After years of asking, we finally have our PlayStation phone, the Sony Ericsson Xperia Play. The Xperia Play comes with a 16GB memory card, which we soon populated with a few games for a quick review and a look at a few of the phone’s features. Our sister site, Mobot, did a more technical review here.
With an aim to improve sales, the price of the device has recently been slashed by almost a half to around £299 for those wishing to purchase the handset on its own. So let’s take a look from a gamer’s perspective at how the device holds up.
FIFA 10: There's a hell of a lot of content here despite it being a mobile version. Management mode, Be a Pro, skill moves, commentary and leagues from all around the world are included. The main issues come from the device itself as the d-pad feels too flat for movement and the analogue pad can only be used for dribbling. Being able to tap a player on-screen to switch to him is a neat touch though. The graphics are of a high standard for portables too.
Asphalt Adrenaline 6 is a great Burnout clone that feels very well suited to the device. You can steer by rotating the phone or with various touch-screen setups, but they all fail when compared with the slide out pad controls. Boosting your nitros is left to one of the shoulder buttons and can make your hands cramp after a while. This street racing game is packed with various races, tournaments and incredibly moreish takedown events, which remind us of how much we miss the Burnout series.
Crash Bandicoot is one of the PS1 Classics available and while it’s great to see the fuzzy fella again there’s no denying the game hasn't aged so well. Over sensitive controls and a lack of moves let him down. Crash 2 was a massively superior game and would have been a much better choice. The PS1 range is severely lacking at the moment, a few RPGs would be very welcome, although we expect the Final Fantasy titles would need a lot of space, as even the PSN version of FFVII needed nearly 2GB.
Assassin's Creed: Now this is how to make a mobile game of a big franchise. The action is akin to a 2D platformer, but you can actually move around on a narrow 3D space, with the focus on going from left to right. The story is skip-worthy awful, but the combat feels just right and the platforming is old school cool. The only issues come from trying to jump onto ropes, as you can't always tell if you’re lined up with it correctly.
Other titles like the freely available Angry Birds prove to as amazing as ever. It’s still touch-screen only, but the epic screen size of the Xperia Play makes for a great experience. Battlefield: Bad Company 2 makes a good effort at an FPS, with the graphics, sound effects and inclusion of the cast from the console games making it feel like a proper Bad Company game. My only gripe would be that the analogue pads feel too flat, as you constantly have to readjust your thumb when trying to move forward.
Just using the device for gaming will get you around five hours play, but once you start chucking the internet and a few calls into the mix, you may find you’ll be getting less time out of it.
The 5.1 Megapixel camera provides some great images, ideal for lightening your pockets on your travels. The flash makes it handy for indoor pics too. While exposure and colour effects can be adjusted, it is disappointing to find there is no zoom function at all. Stretching your arms out will only get you so far. The forward-facing camera is of a much poorer quality, but at least the video camera option is more useful. Pictures are snapped by pressing an on-screen button or the X button. There’s a bit of a delay but you can hold down the button to prepare a shot and release the button for an almost instant capture. If you’re trying to snap a fast moving animal at the zoo, it could be the difference between an empty cage and a superb shot of leaping monkeys. The battery is excellent for the camera function and won’t have any problems with a full day of sightseeing. A word of warning, the top-heavy nature of the device means that you might be better off using it when closed; otherwise, you might find it tumbling out of your hands.
Powered by the fastest growing arena that is the Android Platform (just overtaken iOS in the US), the Marketplace is brimming with lots of free and paid apps. There are some great ones included out of the box too including Gmail, Facebook and the BBC iPlayer. If you’re heading off on your hols you'll be grateful for having Latitude (maps) and Places, a great GPS powered app for finding Restaurants, bars, hotels, supermarkets and more.
Obviously if you’re heading abroad, you'll want to use Wi-Fi as much as possible, as using your mobile network for data can be mega expensive. So turn off your data while roaming and scan around for free Wi-Fi. On my recent travels, I found that the Xperia Play proved to be better at picking up signals than both my laptop and BlackBerry.
So, the Xperia Play: The gaming buttons are a welcome addition in a world obsessed with wiping our greasy fingers all over our screens. Like most mobile platforms, its best game so far is the ridiculously addictive Angry Birds, but top-notch developers like Gameloft are sure to come up with more great titles like Assassin’s Creed. The analogue pads are the only disappointment as they’re just too flat, some pop-up / retractable sticks would have fared much better. Admittedly, I’ve just played the PlayStation Vita last week at Gamescom and now think everything should have dual-sticks. The rest of the phone’s functions, like the apps, marketplace, and surprisingly good camera mean that the device can compete with the big boys. The touch-screen keyboard and email functions can’t compete with a BlackBerry but if you’re after a fun alternative to the iPhone or HTC handsets, with useful buttons, then the Xperia Play deserves a look.