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PS Plus review: PlayStation’s ‘Netflix for games’ may leave us spoilt for choice

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Returnal for PS5: The dark time-loop fantasy is one of the newer games

Returnal for PS5: The dark time-loop fantasy is one of the newer games

Returnal for PS5: The dark time-loop fantasy is one of the newer games

Ownership is so last century. Few people buy CDs or DVDs any more. Music has become an all-you-can-eat buffet since Spotify emerged in the early 2010s. TV for many people now means streaming services such as Netflix.

It was inevitable that the same proposition would come to gaming. Since 2017, Microsoft has been quietly building a massive subscriber base in Xbox Game Pass, its Netflix-like service that now encompasses more than 500 titles for one monthly fee.

Sony’s reaction has been slow to arrive but PlayStation finally struck back last week with the introduction of its Game Pass rival.

In truth, the new PS Plus service is more of an expansion and consolidation of its existing offerings, which have existed in parallel to Microsoft’s efforts without making the same impact. It doesn’t help that Sony confusingly divides PS Plus into three tiers. Given that you’ll be paying anything from €60 to €200 a year depending on your selection, you’ll want to choose carefully.

First up is PS Plus Essential, a rebrand of the existing monthly subscription that includes online multiplayer functionality and a handful of free games every 30 days — for the same price of €9 a month or €60 a year.

Then comes PS Plus Extra, which adds a catalogue of about 40 PS5 games and maybe 350 from the PS4 era — costing €14 a month or €100 a year.

Finally, the deluxe version is badged PS Plus Premium, which throws in all the above and a roster of 300-ish classic titles from the PS1/PS2/PS3/PSP, with the ability to stream instead of download some (but not all) of the older games. It also includes a few time-limited versions of new games — five hours of this year’s Horizon Forbidden West, for instance. All this will set you back €17 a month or €120 a year.

There’s quite a lot to chew on here — but not all of it tastes good. On the, ahem, plus side, the catalogue incorporates a smattering of excellent PS5 offerings (Returnal, Control and The Artful Escape). The PS4 is well represented and the selection pleasingly diverse, if a bit flabby.

Digging further back in time produces diminishing returns and smacks of making up the numbers, despite a few classics such as Shadow of the Colossus. Overall, it’s a case of quantity over quality, although that’s a problem for Xbox Game Pass too.

No doubt the PS Plus user interface will improve over time also but right now it’s all over the shop, with wonky filters and some titles that show up only through the search function.

In comparison to Game Pass, it lacks bright, shiny new things, with Sony refusing to put its own blockbusters up there on release day, as Microsoft does. But PlayStation’s glorious history means PS Plus still boasts a cracking range of interesting things to play.

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A greater question around these subscription services might be the paralysis of choice, as happens with Netflix. With so much from which to choose, and the feeling that maybe there’s always something more compelling further down the list, we may end up flitting from game to game, never satisfied and always restless. It may change how games are made and which ones — but not in a good way.


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