Via Chubigans

What a week itís been eh? Lots to discuss on the firmware front, so letís jump right to it!

Phil Harrison recently gave a speech at the Three Speech event in London the other day, and dropped some hints as whatís to come in the 2.0 firmware update in March. Among the somewhat vague hints include (italicized words are straight from the source, with speculation by me in brackets):

Multi-tasking- included will be audio/video conferencing while browsing the XMB and its features/ gameplay. (It wasnít a stretch to assume this would come sooner rather than later. The PS3 can already multitask to an extent...you can play music while viewing photos, press the PS button and the XMB would display over it...heck, even videos can run in the background...and Sony will just have to tie a few loose ends to get it fully multi-tasking. I really hope this includes downloads for the PS Store as well...)
New XMB display options (consider this a confirmation of wallpapers and themes!)
New animations for audio playback. (I think thereís only one random one right now, so itís nice to have a few new options)
New photo album options. (Not sure if this means new ways of displaying pics or more options for the current choices)
Playstation Store auto resume. (Thank goodness. Currently if you lose your download midway, you have to start all over again.)
PSP Remote Play advanced access option- allows for remote access to your PS3 anywhere in the world via hotspot. (Awesome. I didnít think weíd get this so soon! The only concern I have about this is how the PS3 is accessed currently...you need to leave your PS3 on and tuned to Remote Play before you can access it. This just wonít work if, say, youíre leaving on a two week trip and forgot to set up your PS3 before you go. Itíll be interesting to see how this turns out.)

There was talk of a TiVo-like service for the PS3 in the later fall, but Sony has gone on to say they donít have any promises on that one. It sounds a bit less likely that it will happen, but thereís still that chance. From the original site:

ďThe Tivo functionality in Q3 2007. Seems itís certainly technically possible to do that with PS3, but theyíre not making any guarantees about if or when theyíd add that functionality.Ē


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So the other day I decided to check out Syphon Filter on the Playstation Store (PS1 downloadable). I was hopelessly lost in SF: Dark Mirror for the PSP, so I thought it would be nice to go back and see how it all began. More importantly, this is one of the games that utilized the L2 and R2 buttons fully...and now it was time to see how the PSP handled without those buttons.

Letís refresh your memory a bit on the four different types of control methods the PSP emulation menu offers:

(all face buttons (triangle, square and such) are mapped to the PSPís own.)
Type One: L and R function as L1 and R1, with the analog stick left and right being L2 and R2. Up on the analog stick is L2+R2.
Type Two: L and R function as L2 and R2, with the stick being L1, R1 and upwards for L1+R1.
Type Three: L and R function as L1 and R1. Pressing and holding Up on the analog stick while pressing L simulates L2, Up+R=R2, and the analog stick Down is L2+R2.
Type Four: The digital pad is mapped to the analog stick. The L and R buttons function as L1 and R1, with left and right on the digital pad being L2 and R2. Up on the digital pad is L2+R2.

With all that in mind, letís see what the original controls for Syphon Filter PS1 were:

Circle: Roll
Triangle: Climbs, Action button, Reload
X: Crouch
Square: Fire
R1: Target Lock
L1: Zoom/Aim
R2 & L2: Strafe left/right

As you can see...we could have a problem here.

The Big Test

First off...Syphon Filter hasnít aged as well as Crash. While Crash Bandicoot looks great even today, SF looks a bit dated with itís blocky environments and even more blocky enemies. The FMV audio sounds VERY compressed, and Iím going to assume that was a product of the original game since the file size is still pretty considerable. I could be wrong.

The game didnít suffer from black bars on the top and bottom like Crash did, which was nice...and the levels load very fast. Thereís even a brightness option in the main menu.

So, I jumped right in with Type One controls. Gabe turns like a semi truck...he kind of leans into it and isnít all that graceful. So when I needed to take out some enemies on the other corner of a building, I needed to strafe. So my hand moved to the analog stick, and I fired up the gun as I transitioned back to the digital pad, then to the stick to dodge some bullets.

This was not going to work. At all.

Alright, time for Type Two. The strafing was done via the shoulder buttons, and it felt MUCH more natural. I was finally comfortable with the controls and was able to take out the enemies, with lots more approaching. I got out my sniper rifle and prepared to fire.

Once again, no dice. In order to zoom in with the sniper rifle, you needed to hold down left on the analog stick, use the directional pad to aim and zoom, and fire with square (try doing that right now on your PSP...itĎs pretty difficult!). Alright, so that wasnít going to work...and I needed to target someone on a roof. The only easy way aside from zoom was to target lock...and having to hold right on the analog stick while moving around with the digital pad and shooting with square.

Strike two.

Time to try Type Three. Immediately I knew this wasnít going to work, because itís just way too confusing to use properly in a heated battle. Press L1, but be sure to hold up on the stick to simulate L2! I guess this might work in another game, but not here. Definitely not here.

Type Four was simply Type One with the analog stick and digital pad switching places. Again, it didnít work too well. I was about to give up hope altogether...none of the control settings felt satisfactory enough to continue on with the game...then I realized that perhaps the game had some control settings of its own in the start menu. And sure enough...it did! You can map any button with any control you wanted...nice.

So, here was my winning setup (using Type Four as well):

Analog Stick: Move
X: Aim/Zoom
Square & Circle: Strafe left/right
Triangle: Roll/Zoom Out
L: Target Lock
R: Fire
Left (D-pad): Use/Zoom In
Right (D-pad): Kneel
Select: Real Time Weapon Change

Finally, I was comfortable with the controls and could play the game. There were a few hiccups...the zoom in/out functions donít feel right...but otherwise I could still play the game pretty well.

There are still problems I have, mainly that lie outside the game itself. Because of the digital nature of the controls when it first came out, there are no options for sensitivity. Whether youíre nudging the stick slightly or fully, Gabe still runs the same speed, which can be a bit tricky when it comes to aiming. Thereís no way of adjusting this outside of reprogramming the game, so itís an understandable flaw.

As for the game itself...itís OK, but honestly if you didnít like Dark Mirror then you definitely wont like this game. The more I played it, the more I wanted to jump back into Crash Bandicoot. I can really only recommend this game to the Syphon Filter fans out there...for me, Iím glad I bought it to see how the PSP would handle the lack of buttons, and Iíll play it for a bit before eventually deleting it from my stick. Iím ready for another batch of PS1 games now Sony.

As far as the controls go...well, I am satisfied with how SF controls, but if we get a game that does not allow the customization of controls and a need for the L2/R2 buttons, then weíre in serious trouble indeed. So far, so good...but it doesnít exactly bolster the olí confidence meter for games without customization.

So that about wraps it up...stay tuned next week for an interview with Mario Wynands about his new game, Gripshift DLX, for the Playstation e-Di Network. Hooah!