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Review: God Of War 3 (PS3)

By Andy Marsh


God of War 3 is the latest instalment in the hit franchise from SCE Studios Santa Monica. This finale has been a long time coming for fans of the series. A shameful admission of mine would be that I have never played a God of War game, largely thanks to SCEE not releasing the God of War collection for PS3 in Europe at the time of writing.

I find myself in a bizarre situation to review this third iteration. On the one hand I have no preconceptions of how the game should play, but on the other I have no idea what has gone on before in the previous instalments. This leaves me in a unique position to play and judge the game based on it’s own merits, so here goes.

Starting with the overall presentation of the game, the opening sequence of Kratos riding on the back of the Titan Gaia who is climbing towards the summit of mount Olympus is stunning. From this grand start, you know you’re going to be in for a visual treat. Graphically the game is gorgeous; the high definition visuals are some of the best I’ve seen. Characters are for the most part beautifully realised, with Kratos particularly highly detailed. Unfortunately some characters pale in comparison to the brooding and scarred hero, looking a lot less elaborate and kind of flat.

Locations are full of grandeur and incidental touches, like the Pit of Tartarus with its fallen souls raining down from its cavernous roof or Hephaestus the blacksmith working away with his tools in the forge. Camera control has been taken away from the player for SCE to best show off the epic locations. This can be a double edged sword, while some of the camera shots are great for showing off parts of the world, other times it makes some platforming sections difficult, ending in a lot of unnecessary deaths. A free look mode would have made a lot of difference, to be able to take in the views when you wanted is something that’s sorely missed.

God of War 3 sticks with what it made famous in the first place, brutal fighting intermixed with mind bending puzzles. The combat forms the main part of the adventure and it’s easy to pull off large combos with the square and triangle buttons. There is also a large comprehensive list of moves to use, most of which are not needed on the easier difficulties. Button bashers are well catered for on easy and medium settings and will find themselves pulling off a large variety of flashy and devastating moves. On the higher difficulties things become a lot more intense and a good knowledge of what is available in your repertoire is necessary to overcome the games challenges.

While there are a lot of GoW pretenders out there, one thing that does set the combat apart from it’s imitators is the finishing moves. Wear an opponent down enough and you are prompted to start a over the top, brutal and gory take down of your foe. These are handled with quick time events, while not normally my favourite addition to modern videogames, QTE’s in God of War 3 are intelligently handled. Button presses appear on the screen in the corresponding locations they are on the pad, so if you need to press triangle it will appear at the top of the screen, and so on. This makes a lot of sense as you are able to concentrate on what Kratos is doing to some poor fool rather than watching what the next button press will be. It also helps that the button symbol never gets in the way of the action.

Mini games range from fun little Guitar Hero style rhythm action stages to rather repetitive flying sequences. It’s not that these flight sections are badly designed it’s that they are repeated a little too much and in the end it becomes insipid and dull. Some sections can get your blood pumping for entirely the wrong reasons, these usually revolve around trial and error. Running through a collapsing city is exhilarating but needs to be attempted a few times to get what you are supposed to do next. Checkpoints are thankfully sensible and you’ll never have to go far back to try a section again.

There’s a wealth of lovable and loathsome characters in GoW3. Hephaestus is by far one of my favourite and charismatic characters and is voiced brilliantly by Rip Torn. Hermes is wonderfully camp, egging you on to catch him through the streets of Olympus. It’s a shame that Kratos comes across as such an unlikable hero, caring for nothing other than his quest to destroy Zeus. This reaction is likely due to my lack of knowledge regarding the story from the previous games and what has happened to Kratos along the way.

That being said he still holds a great presence with his gruff and menacing voice work. It’s the bosses though that you’ll be remembering for years to come. A stand out moment for me was the fight against Chronos the Titan. This gigantic fight takes place upon the huge Titan himself, working your way around his different appendages it’s up to you to find his weak spot and ultimately triumph. The feeling of being an insignificant speck on the Titan is a great feeling and when he’s defeated just adds to the elation. It’s not just the boss fights later on in the game that have such a sense of scale, even the very first boss Poseidon is a massive and intricate creation for you to destroy.


God of War 3 will take you around 10 hours to finish depending on the difficulty level, but that is just the start. Upon completing the game you open up the challenges of Olympus, these comprise of different arena fights with varying rules. Starting off fairly easy but soon ramping up in difficulty, these challenges are a great for the adding to the games longevity. There’s also plenty of collectibles to find during your journey through the games locations. Taking the form of items of the gods you have bested these can then be used in subsequent playthroughs as modifiers, from the amount of health and magic you have to the number of orbs you collect.

God of War 3 is not without it’s annoyances, the trial and error parts can begin to get frustrating after a few restarts. But for every section that lets you down there are a wealth of epic and stand out set pieces to make you forget about them. I can thoroughly recommend God of War 3 to both established fans of the series and newcomers alike. Although for the uninitiated it may well be worth waiting for the GoW collection to be released at the end of April so the story in this third instalment can be properly enjoyed.

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Heavy Rain Review

By Daniel Lipscombe

It’s wrong to call Heavy Rain a game, it isn’t really. Yes it requires inputs from your fingers to your controller, but beyond that, what you’re living is a cinematic experience like no other.  David Cage and his team at Quantic Dream have created an emotional work of art that connects with the player on a level never before realised. It’s hard to talk about Heavy Rain without really giving away any plot points or scenarios, but I will try to make this as free of spoilers as possible.

Playing Heavy Rain is akin to being the editor on a serial drama, it’s up to you to move through each section of the story and reach a satisfying climax. Do you save that person or did you dislike them enough to let them die and ultimately change the fate of the characters? Controlling the fate of the cast is rather daunting really; just one wrong move can see any of the four characters die, for good.

The interactions of the cast inspire real feelings within yourself, push your kid on a swing and you’ll smile as much as them, head into a near death situation and find yourself tense and twitchy. The beauty and simplicity of the control system really goes to highlight that too. When opening a door, just push the right stick in the direction on screen, if your character needs to control their breathing then slow movements of the stick are needed. After time you find yourself moving your thumb with as much caution as the situation needs.

Everything is instinctive and flows wonderfully, the only time you will find the button presses becoming more complex is when your character is struggling. They struggle, so you must struggle, holding down a combination of buttons that would usually cripple your hand. It would be easy to say that Heavy Rain features hundreds of Quick Time Events (QTE) but this the inputs here carry more weight, after all, if you miss that crucial button press, you could have your head smashed in.

This isn’t particularly a tough game and many people will easily stroll through each section, there are however times when you may be left scratching your head as to where to go next or who to talk to whilst trying to push the narrative along. Quick reactions are needed however for fight scenes and it’s worth nudging anyone in the room with you and hushing them whilst you concentrate.

Heavy Rain is so wonderfully engaging, there is a constant feeling of connection with the game world, and even the loading screens display the marvellous visuals of the main characters as they simply exist. And it’s these visuals that help create such a cohesive environment, being able to see a smirk or a furrowing of the brow helps to heighten the connection between player and character. This is let down occasionally by glitches in the graphics such as a strobing of a background character or screen tearing, as these moments remind you that you’re playing a game.

Some moments in Heavy Rain may cause some confusion, why should I need to make Madison go to the toilet? Why does Ethan need to be able to drink from the orange juice carton? Because it goes further in building a real world, adding your own quirks to these people. Does it make a difference to the story? Unlikely, but small increments /can/ change events, will you miss a scene because you didn’t look out of a window, will you find something your friends didn’t? The wonder of Heavy Rain is simply experiencing what it has to offer.

Heavy Rain is, at its core, a murder mystery. We have a killer on the loose – The Origami Killer who kidnaps children and drowns them in rain water. Each character has their own way of tackling this crime, Madison is a journalist who moves outside the law in her own way, Ethan is a father in distress and must test himself, Norman is an FBI agent with a mysterious past and the ability to find any clue and Scott, a private eye who has been hired by the families of the murdered to track down clues on the killer.

Everyone will inevitably have their own favourite character, but each of them shines regardless. The cast is well fleshed out and each twist and turn in the plot takes its toll on them as well as you. Not surprising as they will have to overcome some dreadful situations on their journey, fistfights are plentiful and enjoyable, obstacles are overcome with complex button presses and at times the atmosphere will become troubling and intense.

The story moves along at a frenzied pace to a satisfying conclusion, the playtime itself will run you around six or seven hours depending on how quickly you solve issues or find clues. With many endings possible there’s plenty of scope to replay the adventure, whilst this will still be fun it will of course lack the original spark as you will know the crux of the story. This shouldn’t be too much of a problem as the ending that I personally received left me all warm and fuzzy, but I was left wanting to see the many other outcomes.

For anyone interested in narratives for games moving forward or drama in general, you will revel in Heavy Rains storytelling and marvel at its characters. The latter is slightly hampered by weak voice acting at times, but this can be forgiven in respect of just how much emotion they are trying to deliver.

Never before have I been so moved by a game, by the conclusion of the game I desperately wanted these characters to survive and reach their end. I cared about them, not just because they might die, but because they were real to me. They cared, they got scared at the same time as me and we travelled the same ups and downs as a team. Despite a few minor flaws along the way, Quantic Dream has created a masterpiece of gaming and it’s something that anyone with even a passing interest in gaming should experience.

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Ratchet and Clank : A Crack in Time – Sony Computer Entertainment Europe – PS3

By Neil McCormick

Do you know, I have a problem with next generation console games. There are not enough platform games. Its a genre that is criminally overlooked, it seems ,now a days developers only want to produce shooters, driving games and RPGs. Sometimes you want to play a game, that isnt stressful and is fun to play, you can unwind and just chill out. Thankfully Insomniac Games have gone against the grain and have produced this, the final part of a trilogy in the Ratchet and Clank franchise It feels like setting sight on a welcome oasis in a barren desert. Another thing that riles me, is when people think about platform games, a certain Italian plumber is normally top of the list. Having played all of the trilogy now, I truely believe that Ratchet and Clank offers far more to the game player , you could almost believe that in the last decade they have been the provider of the best platform experience.

Captain Qwark is almost Pixar inspired and reminds me everytime I see him of Buzz Lightyear. The humour of his belief he is a hero when really he is anything but, had me laughing out loud several times throughout the game. The game opens with Qwark talking about his new film ” My Blaster Runs Hot”. Whilst setting a humerous scene, it also acts as a useful tool to bring new players up to date with the back story.

As is typical with the previous games in the franchise, Ratchet, our furry Lombax protagonist, is still on his quest to find his friend Clank. Clank has been taken by the Zoni, Ratchet has to scar the galaxy in the quest to find his missing friend. Whilst travelling through the galaxy, he will pick up clues to his friends whereabout. What is refreshing with this title, is that the developers, have chose to give Clank his own scenarios to deal with. In the previous two games, it has felt that Clank has only existed to be a minor sidekick to Ratchet. To be honest, this time round it felt that when you got to be Ratchet, it was a distraction. You craved to get back into being Clank again.

The types of mission during the course of the story, also helped create the division in the two playing styles of the characters – Ratchet’s story arc is more geared towards using weaponry and fighting with only a hint of puzzle solving. The designers playing on the fact Clank is a robot hammed up his apparent artificial intelligence by providing more complex puzzles. Sometimes it was nearly too much and you craved a brief rsepite from the more taxing problems by having a brief fight.

The last time i played a game with such fiendish but at the same time enjoyable puzzles was the quite wonderful XBLA title Braid. When you complete a puzzle as well as your own satisfaction of being able to work it out, brings rewards. You earn points that you can spend on upgrading or providing new weaponry for Ratchet to use. A useful feature for younger or less competent gamers, is that the developer built into the game a mechanism, that should a puzzle prove to be too tough, you can pay to have the puzzle completed from your bolts pile.

Normally I hate obviously linear games, I do not like to feel that I am being railroaded into a certain path. Modern warfare 2 for one, felt like being on a traintrack. However the linear approach in Ratchet and Clank works so well that I came away not minding that it had happened. Another feature introduced this time round, is that Ratchet could fly round the galaxy doing a number of side quests. This gave a slight break from the main story and gave a chance to earn weapon upgades at the same time. In no doubt a tribute to 2d scrollers of yester year Ratchet would have to face waves of pirates in his space craft. whilst at first it was a slight distraction, by the end of the game it became fun.

The campaign is probably set at the right length, coming in at approximately 12 hours. Considering that modern Warfare 2 only produced a single player campaign of about 6 hours, you do see value for your money. This game is probably crying out to be a purchase, for over the school holidays. Part of the game’s charm is the fact that both young and old gamers will be able to take something from the experience.

Thank you Sony Entertainment Europe and Insomniac Games for delivering a game that brought back the word fun to gaming. For at the end of the day, this is what gaming should be about, relaxing and unwinding and for a brief moment getting lost in the moment and forgetting about any stress or strain.

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Review: Little Big Planet (PSP, PSP Go) – Sony Entertainment Europe

By Special Guest writer – Daniel Lipscombe

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From the moment the dulcet tones of Mr Stephen Fry fall upon your ears, much like the PS3 version, this is going to be something very special. A game renowned for using your imagination and transporting you to a wonderful land where anything can be made and adventure is everywhere. Taking control of Sackboy, or Sackgirl if you’re of the fairer species, you must make your way through many strange worlds in order to collect the creators of each world and join them together at a carnival and celebrate LittleBigPlanet.

With so many environments to explore there’s plenty to play through. From an Australasian starting point, through the Arctic and even to Hollywood, each level is well designed and will bring a smile to even the most disgruntled person. The levels are full of charm and inspiration, from the rocks that are made of suede to the cardboard clouds that hang from an invisible ceiling with rope. Each and every detail is like a marvellous dream world where you can explore many areas and smile along the entire journey. This was the feeling that the original Ps3 version gave and I never thought that this game would be possible on Sony’s handheld, let alone look and play so well.

lbp 1Visually the game isn’t too far from the home console, except of course from the Hi-Def resolution, but everything else is there. Admittedly there are a few jagged edges here and there and when bringing up the poppit menu some of the icons are muddy and a bit ugly, but these can be overlooked as the levels themselves are lush to look at and quite honestly jaw dropping. The same high quality opinions can be applied to the audio, as each soundtrack to a level helps to sweep you away into the dream land that Media Molecule created and SCE Studio Cambridge brought to the PSP. Of course it helps that Mr Fry deals out linguistic wit that has you hanging on every word as he describes the next world that you’re approaching.

LittleBigPlanet__PSP__screenshot10The game doesn’t stop giving though as with each level you get a well designed romp through a platforming adventure that Mario himself would be jealous of. Each jump is calculated perfectly so that your timing needs to be on the mark for fear of plummeting to your death and respawning to try again. Luckily there is no number of lives, like the PS3 version, as this game can become very tough towards the end. Starting pretty smoothly, running and jumping with confidence, most obstacles are a breeze, but reach the later worlds and you’ll be respawning often and frustration will increase.

However if the difficulty gets on top of you, you can always create your own level or download other peoples creations. Yes, that’s right, even the create a level mode has been squashed into the handheld, and it’s as authentic as the original. Take a blank canvas a let your imagination run free, use the items and stickers that you’ve collected throughout the story levels and build just what /you/ want to see and play. Then when you’ve finished, share it with your friends or publish it and let the world judge your creation and test it to its limits.

LittleBigPlanet__PSP__screenshot1If you’re a bit shy and lack confidence in building your own playground, don’t you worry, let everyone else do the work and download some great levels. At the moment the choice is limited as the servers are quiet, but once the masters of level building come over from the PS3 and dabble with the handheld partner there will be some amazing content.

As with the whole game, there are plenty of tutorials to learn how to traverse levels, dress your sackperson and create masterpieces to rival the developers. This makes it easier for anyone to pick up the game and have fun with it, whether you’ve played a platformer or not. Its simplicity is key, with no more control than jumping or grabbing objects, a child, a parent or a grandparent can join in and play. Even creating a level takes no more than a few button presses to place your objects and move them around.

LittleBigPlanet-Coming-To-The-PSPThe scale of this game is shown by the ambition of the developers; the only thing missing from this handheld version is online play and teaming up with a buddy. Not much of a problem when everything else is here. If you’re a fan of the console version or not you will love LittleBigPlanet on PSP, it’s hard to believe that the game arrived intact and wasn’t a dumbed down version as it could so easily have been. Get out there, collect the items, collect the stickers and build your dreams.

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Uncharted 2 : Amongst Thieves – Sony 2009

By Neil McCormick

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One of the most anticipated titles of 2009 has finally arrived, Electro-candy has cast its eye and here is our take on it.

In just one sentence – this is a true contender for Game of the Year. It is not a sentence I utter lightly, and I can assure you I have not fallen sucker for any hype. In fact I approached the game with certain degree of cynacism, how often does a game get launched with hype and when you play you get a completely different experience that you come away feeling cheated? Finally this is a game where you can believe the hype.

Uncharted 2 sees the return of Nathan Drake roughly two years after the events of Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. Similar to the previous story, Nathan “Nate” Drake’s new adventure revolves around an unsolved historical mystery, the doomed voyage home of Marco Polo from China in 1292. After spending almost 20 years in the court of the Mongol Emperor Kublai Khan, Marco Polo departed with 14 ships and over 600 passengers and crew laden with treasure– but when he arrived at his destination a year and a half later, only one ship remained, and only 18 of the passengers had survived. Although Marco Polo described almost every other aspect of his journeys in minute detail, he never revealed what happened to the ships that were lost.
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The story begins, with a wounded Nate waking up to find himself in a train hanging off a cliff. Through flashbacks, it is revealed that Harry Flynn and Chloe Frazer approached him with a job offer, the theft of a Mongolian oil lamp in an Istanbul museum. Nate accepts once learning that the lamp may hold the answer to what happened to Marco Polo’s lost fleet. Flynn and Drake acquire the lamp, which contains a map showing that the lost fleet had been transporting the Cintamani Stone from Shambhala before being thrown ashore on Borneo by a tsunami. Taking the map, Flynn double crosses Drake, who is arrested and imprisoned for three months before his friend Victor “Sully” Sullivan and Chloe secure his release.

The trio discovers that the lost fleet never possessed the Cintamani Stone. They locate a tomb containing the bodies of Polo’s passengers, as well as a golden Tibetan phurba and another letter from Polo saying that another clue is in a temple in Pokhara, Nepal. At the temple and discover that the stone and Shambhala are in the Himalayas. The rest of the game is about getting to Shambhala and discovering what was there.
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The opening chapter from getting off the train etc, serves as a subtle tutorial, as you learn to climb and interact with the appropriate controls. There are some real “Hollywood” moments, when climbing does not go to plan as pipes come off and your course of direction has to alter. It could be considered agripe at this point was just how linear your route was. Literally it felt like one was being drawn down a set corridor with no option to go “off Piste” . In other games, this would annoy, but it actually was so well done, like a bit of scenery would fall and your path would be blocked, it did not feel that bad.

In completing the game, I only came across two graphical glitches. Even then I have to be honest I was actively looking for glitches. This is some achievement, for I have played several games recently that I have came away wondering was there any sort of quality testing given the amount of errors I experienced.
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The Himalayan Village has to be seen to be believed. I have never seen a more beautiful portrayal in a game. Seeing the Prayer flags billowing in the wind, it was as if you where actually there, and what a privilege it was. At this pont my words cease to be a review and instead I have became a Fodor’s Guide. The interaction with the natives of the village, are genre defining. You really do get the impression of being alien to the environment around you, as children look at you with uncertainty.

I think part of the experience of Playing Uncharted 2 is that, there will be times where you will stop playing, just simply to take in the view. This does not take away from the game experience it adds to it. Surely the playstation processor was close to being maxed out coping with each and every one of the stunning polygons that are set out upon you? Even the subtle things like the cruching of foot upon snow, and the way the character has been animated with feet sludging in the snow, leaving small clumps of snow footprints. This is a level of detail that a lot of game developers could learn a trick from.

Just like the first game, as well as the main mission, you find treasures hidden throughout the various chapters. This works well as you do not rush through the game, as you try to find them. This leads to a dilema, Im not sure if I would encourage you to find every piece of treasure on your first play through. i think that would only serve to distract from taking in the wonderful story.

“I did not tell half of what I saw……” Marco Polo .

This was the first screen, you see as the game opens, and it sums up exactly how I feel; having emerged at the end of playing the game for this review. I could go into more detail about the game, but that would ruin your own experience. This is not a game it’s a spectacle,for Uncharted 2 has blurred the separate boundaries of gaming and movies to form some sort of crazy hybrid. And by zeus it works like a charm.

Uncharted 2, is the greatest game I have played , in 2009, if not the finest title to have graced the PS3 so far. If you are ever in need of a game to benchmark your gaming experience, this is the title. I suspect when we look back in years to come, and talk of the legacy of the PS3, Uncharted 2 will be one of the defining memories.

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The fantastic script and writing in the game, and the incredible voice acting by the cast, are at a level that even Hollywood would be jealous of. Infact there are movies out there that are not even close to the league seen here.

Naughty Dog and Sony I salute your efforts, those of us that have played the game; can say we have found our own Shambhala.

Electro-candy score – A perfect 10. What are you doing still sitting there ?- out you go and buy it!

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Launch of the PSP GO – 1 October 2009

By Neil McCormick

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DUBLIN, 1st October, 2009: Sony Computer Entertainment Europe (SCEE) were pleased to announce the arrival on shelves on October 1st of the all-new PSPTM(PlayStation®Portable) Go with an RRP of €249.99.

Slick and stylish with a neat new sliding screen and a trimmed-down, pocket-sized chassis, PSPgo still finds room to pack in some 16GB of built-in memory. It puts you in control, with the space to download and store your choice of entertainment from games to videos to photos.

“Minis” – available exclusively on PlayStation®Store

To help you start filling up just some of that storage space, SCEE is pleased to announce the arrival of “minis”, a new category of bite-sized, snackable entertainment that offers easy access into the world of PSP. Created by innovative developers from all over the world, the “minis” category includes a wide range of titles, from arcade racers to games that simply defy categorisation. Available exclusively from PlayStation Store, “minis” will have a 100MB size limit, ensuring they are quick and easy to download. And, with initial releases priced between €2.99 and €4.99, “minis” offer a simple entry into the world of PSP, at price points that are easy on the wallet.

To celebrate the arrival of PSPgo, SCEE is also pleased to announce two great launch promotions:

*FREE! Gran Turismo®

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For ten days only, SCEE will be giving away a copy of PSP Gran Turismo® Edition with every new PSPgo – absolutely free*! Gran Turismo on PSP offers the keys to more than 800 beautifully rendered cars, and the best tracks to race them on. Register your new PSPgo on PlayStation®Network and follow the simple instructions. But beware, the offer only runs from 1st to 10th October 2009! For full terms and conditions visit http://www.eu.playstation.com/pspgogtoffer.

*FREE! PSPgo Rewards

Do you own a PSP-1000, 2000 or 3000 and a Universal Media Disc? Think of buying PSPgo? Then SCEE would like to offer you your choice of three free games from an all star list of sixteen titles including Killzone™: Liberation, SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs Fireteam Bravo 3, WipEout® Pure, echochrome™ Buzz!™: Brain Bender, LocoRoco™ and Patapon™. Titles may vary by territory and age restrictions apply. Head over to http://www.eu.playstation.com/pspgorewards for more details and full terms and conditions.

PlayStation Store
Whether you own a PSPgo or any other PSP model, PlayStation Store is your destination for digital content. You can connect to PlayStation Store directly from your PSP (via wifi), by pc (using the Media Go application) or using a PlayStation 3. Whichever route you choose, you can access a wide variety of content, with over 500 digital assets currently available including 185 games, featuring some of the best selling titles to date – with more added every week. The PlayStation Store is also the place to go for exclusive promotions – special offers will be available on a regular basis, including some great deals on those hard to find back catalogue titles that may no longer be available in traditional stores.

You only want one piece of kit in your pocket and PSPgo is it. Take your own games, music, photos and movies on the road. PSPgo is entertainment on the go. And with an ever increasing range of services from Skype® to the upcoming Digital Comics and the PlayStation Network video delivery service, plus remote access to your PlayStation®3 content, it is entertainment without barriers.

Note

*PlayStation®Network account required. PlayStation®Network and PlayStation®Store subject to terms of use and not available in all countries and languages. Broadband internet service required. Wi-fi hotspot or PC connection necessary to download content. Users are responsible for internet access fees. Charges apply for some content. Users under 18 require parental consent.

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