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EDITORIAL: What Is Your Loyalty Worth?

Sony neglected to protect and update their servers, as a result they got hacked and lost the details for 77 million PSN accounts and 24 million SOE accounts. In return they’re offering a selection of two out of five games for the PS3 and/or two of four games for the PSP.

So, assuming you don’t own any of the titles, the question is:

“How cheaply can Sony buy your silence? How little is your personal information worth?”

What follows is our guide on how to sell your soul to Sony:

PlayStation 3:

LittleBigPlanet – $22.99 (used), $29.99 (GOTY new), $13.99 (GOTY new, Amazon)

Not a bad little game when it came out in October of 2008, LBP features a game mode, a construction mode and an online mode where you can play through the levels created by other gamers. It has a Metacritic score of 95. The critics loved the game, though I have to admit that I wanted to like it more than I actually did like it. I love Sackboy and one of these days will have a stuffed one on my desk at work, but the game I found lacking. The preview videos were all done in a very sharp high-def image quality, but when the game came out it only supported 720p.

In terms of gameplay, platformers typically have two goals. Whatever you’re trying to do in the game (Mario saves the princess, Sonic beats Dr. Robotnik, etc.) and whatever you’re trying to do on the level (collect coins, rings, save the little animals, whatever.) LBP considers the over-all goal of the game to collect objects for use in the construction kit and forgets everything else, leaving the over-reaching goal more or less to “run to the right”. There is no plot or story here, just run to the right, keep on running to the right and collect more stuff.

The construction mode was interesting, but as a grown adult with a full-time job I never could spend any significant time with it. The player-created levels were hit and miss. Some were created by amazingly talented individuals with far too much free time (the fully functional calculator created with ropes and pulleys comes to mind) and others, well, if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.

InFAMOUS – $24.99 (used), $29.99 (new), $23.44 (new, Amazon)

May of 2009 saw the release of two similarly themed games, InFamous and Prototype and it seems like sales of InFamous were cannibalized by the latter. It has a Metacritic score of 85. InFamous would seem to offer everything you could want, a sandbox environment, a superhero with lightning powers and a morality system allowing you to become either Famous or Infamous hence the whole “inFamous” bit.

There are a few reasons that the game never made it to A-rated status. The controls can be frustrating and in later levels the character becomes ridiculously over-powered. For me, it was the control issues more than anything else that made me put it down. One of the first things you have to do in the game is climb a tower, seems pretty simple, right? We do this in Assassin’s Creed all the time. In InFamous, simple tasks like that become a chore.

Wipeout HD/Fury – $19.99 (digital only)

I’ve been a fan of the Wipeout games ever since the original wayyyy back in 1995 on my original 9/9/1995 Playstation 1. Wipeout Pure and Pulse are two must have games for every PSP owner as well. Bringing the series into the modern era with 60 FPS HD graphics seems to be a no-brainer and a $20 download only title, which came out in September of 2008 was a good way to do it.

Wipeout brings the player into an anti-gravity racing league featuring fast floating ships, trippy tracks and kart racer styled power ups. The full version of the game ha a whole bunch of ships and tracks to choose from, but as in most racers you need to balance handling with speed. Picking the wrong ship for the track will end your race in frustration and tears. Choosing just the right ship tends to over-balance the other way making it far too easy.

Critics complained that most of the content is simply ported from the PSP versions of the game, which is true, but if you haven’t played those then this is worth the time. The Fury add-on pack which is included in the free offer, increased the Metacritic score from 87 to 89.

Super Stardust HD - $9.99 (digital only)

Super Stardust HD is one of three games on this list I don’t personally own, so I can’t speak to it from first-hand experience. I can tell you that when it came out in 2007 it was considered to be one of the, if not THE premier download title on PSN. Critic reviews averaged out at 85 on Metacritic.

It is, however, in the same vein as the old-school arcade shooters, so how well you like it is going to depend on your tolerance for games done in that style.

Dead Nation – $14.99 (digital only)

Dead Nation is the newest of the games on this list, having come out last November. It also has the lowest PS3 review scores, just 77 on Metacritic. It’s also one of the other games I don’t own. What I can tell you is that it’s a top-down zombie holocaust shooter in the style of Hunter: The Gathering and Hunter: The Gathering – Redeemer for the Xbox, PS2 and Gamecube. The big selling point seems to be the co-op mode which is available both locally and online.

Now the PlayStation Portable games.

LittleBigPlanet – $17.99 (used), $19.98 (new), $19.99 (digital), $19.54 (new, Amazon)

Everything I said about the PS3 version, only on a small screen. It received Metacritic score of 87 which is probably about where the PS3 version should have been scored. The joy of customizing your Sackboy is greatly diminished because of the tiny images and much, much lower resolution.

ModNation Racers – $19.98 (new or digital), $17.99 (used), $19.81 (new, Amazon)

This is the final game on the list I don’t own, frankly I’ve never been impressed by kart racers. Mario Kart always struck me as being far too easy, so other cutesy racing games don’t have a leg up with me.

The selling point for ModNation is that it features a level of customization that’s similar to LittleBigPlanet. You can control the look and feel of the drivers, the cars and the tracks. None of that seems to have gained ground with reviewers who scored the PSP version at 73 out of 100.

Pursuit Force – $4.99 (used), $22.99 (digital), $11.33 (new, Amazon)

Pursuit Force (Metacritic: 75) dates back in 2005 or 2006 (Europe and North America, respectively) and it incorporates an interesting premise. You know those action movies where someone is clinging to the outside of a moving vehicle? Well, that’s the game!

It was fun to play, though I have to admit, I haven’t fired up my copy since 2006. Even the sequel came out in 2008, so it’s beyond me why Sony is giving away a title that can be found for as little as $5 used. Critics were less than impressed, scoring it a 75 average on Metacritic.

Killzone: Liberation – $9.99 (used), $15.99 (digital), $9.82 (new, Amazon)

The final freebie title is Killzone: Liberation. The PSP entrant into the Killzone franchise, it came out in late 2006, which puts it after Killzone 2 and before 3. However, in terms of in-game storyline, it falls between the original Killzone and Killzone 2.

In the game, you play as Jan Templar and engage in the usual anti-Helghast tactics common to the other titles. The biggest difference is the shift in perspective. No longer a first-person shooter, Killzone: Liberation prefers a top-down 3/4 view and in the end feels more like Metal Gear Solid from the old PS1 days than anything else. The four chapters of the game didn’t really finish anything, and a 5th chapter became available for download about a year later in 2007. That storyline completes the game, which really should have been finished before it was released.

Critics weren’t too unkind to the game, it averages 77 on Metacritic. It does seem to me though that most critics under-score PSP titles due to unfair comparisons to their big brothers on the consoles, not quite a fair comparison. Titles like Killzone: Liberation pretty much kick the crap out of other portable titles.

So… after all that, what do I recommend getting?

It depends on what you have and don’t have of course. My options are pretty limited. I’ll be picking up Super Stardust and Dead Nation as those are the only two PS3 titles I don’t already own. I never did get the Fury expansion for Wipeoout HD so perhaps I’ll spring for that instead of Dead Nation.

On the PSP side? I’m stuck with ModNation Racers, a game I don’t want and would never play. I could get LittleBigPlanet and Killzone: Liberation then trade in my hardcopy versions of those games, but the games are so old they have no value on the used market. I can’t expect to get anything, really, for titles so old and cheap. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if game stores stopped taking trade ins of these titles just for that reason.

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