Sony PSP

Review

posted 4/26/2005 by Jennifer Lam
other articles by Jennifer Lam
One Page Platforms: PSP
In an effort to streamline the look of the system, the nub barely extends above the surface of the system and has a different feel to it than most analog sticks. It’s useful in most games, but it takes a little getting used to. At the moment, the d-pad suffices for the majority of the game as it retails the same solid feel as the d-pad on the Dual Shock 2. The buttons and d-pad exhibit a real satisfying sense of tactile feedback that will be familiar to PS2 fans. Without a doubt, this is the best construct ever seen in a portable device. Also, it should be noted that the system lacks vibration functionality; sorry to disappoint all five of you who were hoping this would make it into the system.

Gaming is Sony Computer Entertainment’s forte and the PSP delivers in an amazing way that we never thought was possible. When Sony announced at E3 2003 that it would be putting the power of the PlayStation 2 into the hands of gamers no one thought it was possible. We admit that we were a bit skeptical at first but our interest eventually grew as the months progressed. The first batch of screenshots were amazing, as were the videos, but watching is one thing and doing is quite another. Now that we’ve had a chance to play games for ourselves we can confirm that the PSP is an amazing piece of technology that is capable of bringing the dreams of handheld game designers the world over into reality.

What’s most amazing is the library that SCEA managed to scrap together for the launch. It even beat Nintendo at its own game by releasing a killer puzzle title, Lumines. All of the other games do their part to showcase the technology of the system while demonstrating that the system is more than just great graphics, but great gameplay as well. Get Lumines if you want an addictive game that doesn’t let up, pick up Ridge Racer if you’re looking for a game that will showcase the power of the system.

Oh and let’s not forget about the system’s awesome wireless capabilities. Using built-in Wi-Fi, players can play wirelessly from ranges of up to 100 feet.

The PSP can be used as a music player but some roadblocks stop it from being more than serviceable. Sony had the opportunity to provide players with custom soundtracks, like the Xbox, but whiffed on it completely. Instead, you have to use the dedicated music player in order to listen to the tunes and the methods of organization are lacking. Users can create one subdirectory for each band, but cannot divide their music into specific albums or performances. So while it’s possible to have a Music/SpeechwritersLLC directory, it’s impossible to have a Music/SpeechwrittersLLC/Clones directory. Playlists are possible but only for all of the songs in the current directory as opposed to all of the songs on the PSP.

If you choose to use the PSP to play music you’ll be happy to know that the battery drain is minimal and won’t eat too heavily into your playing time. After a set amount of time the LCD screen turns off and the remote can be used to navigate through the library, iPod Shuffle style.

The PSP is also a highly capable movie player, although it takes a lot of sweat and tears to tap into that capability. For the movies, Sony decided to go with the MP4 format that it utilizes on its Clies handhelds. This is great for the fifteen people who own Clies, but it’s an absolute pain in the ass for everyone else. The system has trouble reading filenames such as “Family Guy Disc 2 Season 1” as well and instead only responds to an awkward numbering sequence such as “MV10101.” At least the movies look phenomenal once they’re on the system, due in large part to the small screen. The lower resolution allows for you to encode the movies at a much higher bitrate, leading to crisp video that soars at a faster frame rate.

The easier way to watch movies is via UMD, the PSP’s proprietary multimedia format. Packaged with each of the first million PSPs is Spider-Man 2 on UMB and boy, is it gorgeous. It fits perfectly on the PSP’s 16:9 ratio screen and is easily the most beautiful portable video we’ve ever seen. Sadly the UMD lacks special features of any sorts and seems to be the barebones version of the title. This might ultimately be the direction that Sony takes with the UMDs, and while this isn’t too bad for the portable community, it’s tough to swallow considering that UMDs run the same price as fully loaded DVDs.

The last bit of multimedia functionality comes in the form of a picture browser which allows you to use the PSP as a portable photo album of some sorts. What makes this function especially nice is the gorgeous LCD screen which glosses over all of the images. Before this, I had used the Zodiac as my portable album but now that I’ve seen the pictures on a PSP, there’s no comparison. It’s like looking at a glossy photo and one printed from a dot matrix printer; they’re in entirely different leagues.
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