Our guide to the Sony Ericsson Xperia Play

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Any self-respecting Sony Playstation fan harboured a secret wish for a Playstation Phone. At its peak, the Playstation One was a formidable games console, even when Nintendo upped the technological ante with the N64. It used discs, played movies, CDs and the games will be fondly remembered by many.

Naturally, when Sony unveilved the PSP it caused quite a stir, but many gamers were sad to hear some of the best titles were not being ported over. In fact, PSP games were a new kettle of fish altogether, and as great as they are it still didn’t quite quench the thirst of the mob.

Until now. The Playstation One and PS2 masses can put down their pitchforks and leave the Sony HQ car park: the Xperia Play is almost here. It may be late to the party but at least Sony has listened. Well, sort of.

First impressions

Without wandering dangerously into the realms of speculation, we can of course talk about first impressions. In fact, we managed to give the device a go at the Sony Ericsson stand during Mobile World Congress 2011, so we aren’t just looking at a shiny brochure picture to form our opinions.

So is it good? First impressions are very positive. The slide-out controls are not too disimiliar to that of the old Playstation controller – the standard square, triangle, circle and cross all present. There are also ‘shoulder’ buttons, as well as a new touchpad to ‘funk’ things up.

Gameloft is one developer that has optimised some of its games (more on this later) specifically for the device, which is great but we aren’t totally convinced by one thing. The combination of both touch and hardware seems self-defeating, but we may well be eating our words.

The device itself is rather nice. It manages to tread between gimmicky, too casual and too ‘hardcore’ relatively delicately. Considering it isn’t rare these days to see older gentleman on their PSPs, a sneaky slide-out controller may just prove too tempting for the less brave gamer.

In fact, because the device is a phone there is far more justification for shelling out on one, whether young or old.

Hardware

The Qualcomm Snapdragon may be of the single core variety, but 1GHz is still fantastically quick for most tasks, especially once developers learn to get the best from it.

An Adreno 205 graphics processing unit (GPU) is also a good performer, but not quite as fast as the Apple A9 competitor.

The combination of the above means the Xperia Play may not be the fastest phone out there but it does boast Android 2.3 and the aforementioned slider controls.

What about productivity? Let’s be honest, who needs a keyboard for typing lengthy emails when you could have a sneaky burst of Angry Birds? Most handsets opt for a touch-based offering, so the Xperia Play is hardly at a disadvantage.

A directional pad, touch pad and all the Playstation buttons, as well as typical Xperia phone functions and a five-megapixel camera all compliment the package. Don’t forget the 4.3-inch screen, either.

We could bang on about graphics processing specifically, but it’s clear this is no Xbox 360, PS3 or NGP beater (the new PSP).

The games

The exact number of games specifically tailored for the Xperia Play isn’t known, but Sony has said it will go into the hundreds by the end of the year. In fact, Sony really hasn’t said a lot about the Playstation One or PS2 games it will be porting, other than there will be fifty available within the Playstation Suite app (now available).

What we do know is what Gameloft is offering at launch, and as it’s an Android device, we also know anything on the Android Market should work perfectly. It’s also fairly likely developers, where possible, will update games to support those solid pressable button things we used to play games with.

Most are games we’ve seen before, but a few nice extras seperate the platform from the rest. For one N.O.V.A. 2 will be exclusive to the platform for one month, and FIFA 2011 will have multiplayer.

The device will also come loaded with six games (we assume full versions): Bruce Lee Dragon Warriors, Tetris, Star Battalion, Crash Bandicoot, FIFA 10 and The Sims 3.

Unlike most console and handheld launches, what is out there will provide enough content, so there is no real need to go for sheer wow factor when the Android and Playstation (see Playstation Suite) library proves tempting enough.

We just hope Sony brings back the classics like Twisted Metal and Vagrant Story, not ports of Lemmings and other undesirable games that graced the original Playstation.

What about pricing? All games will be under a tenner, with the simpler ones costing between £1 and £2. Nothing unusual, just your typical App Store pricing.

The price and who’s selling them?

A quick look on Google shows Amazon is selling them for £532, Expansys £499 and other retailers in between. It may seem pricey, but when you add up two years of £35 or whatever you would pay in a contract, it isn’t so bad.

You choose the tariff and operator, factor in some good data allowance (or just always use Wi-Fi for downloads) and everything should be dandy.

Granted, you could get an iPad 2 for this amount, but it all boils down to earlier points. The iPad 2 doesn’t offer physical controls without sticking things to the screen – and even then it’s not an ideal solution – and Sony is as likely to develop ports of its a-list Playstation games for the App Store as our team is to grow three nipples.

When is it out and who will offer a contract?

Apparently all the big operators will have the device, so expect O2, Everything Everywhere (T-Mobile and Orange for those who less in the know), Vodafone and Orange to offer tarrifs.

We would recommend, like with any phone, to check the small print and always ask what the 18 or 12 month options are. You may lose a bit of data or 100 messages, but you could save yourself a hefty wedge of cash.

The device should be available to pre-order now, with it becoming available in shops from Friday. O2 has said it wants to iron out some creases, and we may see others follow, but April

Should I get one?

Some think it’s a bit late, but we love the prospect of Playstation One games coming back on a dedicated device. The fact it has good phone abilities only sweetens an already too tempting deal.

There may be kinks and not every developer is going to bother optimising games, if they even need to, but the doors are now open for slightly more in-depth, creative games – the boundaries between casual and ‘hardcore’ have just been blurred. Touch screen gaming may be the golden child, but a mouse and keyboard/console and controller combination is still best for the enthusiast.

Unless we’ve missed something drastic, the Xperia Play could just be a great gaming device, and no one needs to know you haven’t quite kicked the video gaming habit.

As and when we get more on the device, including our full review or game reviews, we will update the story as best we can. Add a bookmark to this page for easy reference, if you like.

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