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Review

Review: No Man's Land (PS Home)

Land of the free (or it once was, anyway).

Despite not living up to our full expectations (which, to be fair, were heavily over-optimistic) branding Sony’s PlayStation Home as a flop is somewhat unfair. Since it launched almost four years ago, the service has undergone countless updates with regular performance/aesthetic fixes as well as continual content drops from a number of big-name and independent studios.

As it stands, PlayStation Home has delivered on a great number of promises outlined by Phil Harrison during his long-forgotten 2007 keynote which hyped gamers across the globe. Being able to play music and video content in the luxury of your own virtual apartment never materialised, though, several years down the line, this seems like a trivial checkpoint on our tattered wish lists.

We can, however, form social groups, launch games, watch live Sony events, and even hoard a stash of game-related collectibles. It may not be the gaming generation’s answer to Second Life, but PlayStation Home has done well to unite a community of over 23 million PlayStation fans and will hopefully continue to expand in the months and years to come.

In an attempt to connect the social app with traditional console gaming, PlayStation Home has continued to adopt ambitious side projects, advanced even further by its recent engine update. In a nutshell, this long-awaited arrival has allowed studios and small-time creators to sculpt products and gaming experiences that don’t suffer from persistent stability issues and robotic physics/animations.

Developed by Home content veterans, VEEMEE, No Man’s Land is one of the many titles looking to spearhead hardcore gaming in Sony’s virtual world. Compared to the primitive pool of mini-games and activities that greeted founding members back in 2008, No Man’s Lands appears to be some sort of revolution initially.

However, peeling back a couple of layers shows just how far PlayStation Home has to go in order to win over its hardcore inhabitants, not to mention a nasty surprise that will sound all too familiar for some.

On paper No Man’s Land has plenty going for it; a neat-looking, cover-based third person shooter that’s free-to-play. If anything can convince serious gamers to give Home a second chance, then surely it’s a post-apocalyptic online shooter, right?

Set in the not-too-distant future, a burnt-out American district is christened No Man’s Lands following a sudden nuclear attack. Two rival factions are left to scavenge what they can from the remains, whilst authority and order begin to dissipate. It’s your typical post-apocalyptic backdrop, though one that is actually delivered with a degree of believability.

Despite the modest excitement surrounding Home’s new game-driven focus, one shouldn’t march into No Man’s Land with high expectations. This game was never destined to be a fully-fledged counterpart to Uncharted or Ghost Recon, yet the all-round lack of functionality may still come as a surprise.

No Man’s Land is a cover-based shooter, in the most extreme of interpretations. Unlike its contemporaries (even the critically-panned ones) there is a total lack of free movement. The only way players can get around the debris-littered battlefield is via continual cover-swaps (which can be chained in advance to cover longer distances).

It’s jarring, primitive, and sometimes inaccurate in its execution, encouraging players to hold down a defensible position and camp, rather than try to survive the twisted obstacle course of button presses.

With the foundations already shaking, everything else begins to fall down around No Man’s Land. Without diverse player movement, there’s little room for engaging all-out firefights, and almost zero chance of avoiding well-placed grenades. Gunplay isn’t terrific either, despite enabling two player stances (stand or crouch) and even shoulder switching.

Even more archaic is the way players progress in No Man’s Land. Instead of ranking up and unlocking numerous perks with each passing level, players simply acquire points between individual matches and hope they’ll eventually appear on the leaderboard.

The only way to access better equipment and improve your performance is to shell out for shamefully overpriced micro-transactions. It’s not as if these premium tools only offer a minimal advantage either; unless you part with real cash the only piece of equipment you’re entitled to is a fairly unreliable pistol.

Whenever discussing free-to-play games, especially shooters, the term “pay-to-win” will often rear its head. In a nutshell this is the assumption that, due to the presence of micro-transactions, paying (premium) players will always have the upper hand on their free-loading counterparts. In 2012 alone I’ve had a huge amount of experience with a variety of free-to-play shooters, none of which have offered any sort of gameplay advantage to paying customers.

In games such as Ghost Recon Online, Blacklight Retribution, and DUST 514, real money can be used to speed-up the rate at which items are unlocked. However, regular players can still unlock the same gear with earned in-game currency, it just takes a little longer.

No Man’s Lands offers no such second option; you either pay for better gear or get absolutely nothing. It’s pay-to-win gaming at its most grotesque.

Pros

  • Detailed environments and improved animations are a precedent for PlayStation Home.

Cons

  • Gameplay is rigid and not really fun at all.
  • In-game marketplace is over-priced and cash-only.
  • Doesn’t do enough compared to other free-to-play shooters.

Functional yet heavily flawed, No Man’s Land is certainly a step forward for PlayStation Home though, regrettably, a step in the wrong direction. Compared to previous offerings it has its technical highlights, though the despicable business model and half-baked gameplay makes this a Home space that needs a desperate rethink.

If you’re serious about online shooters and free-to-play gaming, until DUST 514 hits later this year, the only platform you can rely on is the PC.

Score: 2/10

13 Comments
  1. McProley
    Member
    Since: Aug 2011

    Oh dear

    Comment posted on 09/08/2012 at 09:12.
  2. Tuffcub
    On the naughty step.
    Since: Dec 2008

    I started writing a review for this but I got stuck in a building in the tutorial and when I quit back to the hub, my character had vanished and I was just a camera view spinning around a fixed point.

    Then when I quit the game, my avatar retained all the features and clothing on the character from the game and did not revert back to normal me.

    I gave up.

    Comment posted on 09/08/2012 at 09:15.
    • Tuffcub
      On the naughty step.
      Since: Dec 2008

      BTw I then went on to play both Sodium games, which are both bloody excellent.

      Comment posted on 09/08/2012 at 09:16.
      • Jim Hargreaves
        Member
        Since: Nov 2009

        Yup. Remember playing Sodium not too long ago. Amazing considering it’s one of the “last-gen” Home games.

        Hopefully Mercia and Blueprint will be fairly neat.

        Comment posted on 09/08/2012 at 09:24.
  3. hazelam
    Member
    Since: Feb 2009

    i didn’t play it for long when i tried it in the us so i wasn’t aware of the microtransactions, i mean, i expected there to be some, but for there to be nothing in the way of unlocks without them?
    that’s just a step too far in my book.

    these things should speed things up, or give you something special, not replace all in game advancement.

    regarding the gameplay though, the grenade thing was the most annoying part.
    when you’re stuck to that little section of, conveniently waist high, wall, you’re screwed.

    i may give it another go now it’s, finally, reached the eu home, but i suspect i’d rather be playing poker in the casino.

    why can’t i favourite the poker room so i can go straight there anyway?
    instead of having to go through the main room first.
    bloody annoying.

    Comment posted on 09/08/2012 at 09:46.
  4. Bilbo_bobbins
    Member
    Since: Jun 2009

    Didn’t expect much from this, plus its in Home, which I’ve deleted anyway. Shame really

    Comment posted on 09/08/2012 at 10:07.
  5. bunimomike
    Member
    Since: Jul 2009

    Whilst Home technically has ticked many of the optimistic boxes we saw before it went live, it crashed so hard that wreckage is still being found. The promise and potential of Home was utterly huge – console-crushingly huge but Sony couldn’t do it. They simply didn’t have the money and/or time to bring the dream to fruition.

    By the time it launched, first impressions were anything from “it’s kinda okay” to “darling? Could you order me a new hard drive as I’ve set this one on fire. Pip, pip!”.

    I hate to say it but I don’t doubt developers barely want to be associated with Home assuming they have successful franchises on the PS3 already. Sure, drop a few items in the Home world but build a game FOR Home? Christ, no.

    Comment posted on 09/08/2012 at 11:08.
  6. Spotter5
    Member
    Since: Forever

    I love Granzellas fossil digging so much its all i do on my PS3 nowadays

    Comment posted on 09/08/2012 at 11:22.
    • MayContainEvil
      Member
      Since: Feb 2011

      Is this a Home game? It sounds interesting.

      Comment posted on 09/08/2012 at 15:07.
  7. colmshan1990
    Member
    Since: Apr 2009

    So, uh…

    Home still exists? Do people still use it, other than reviewers and those who’ve only just picked up a PS3 and don’t know any better?

    Comment posted on 09/08/2012 at 11:34.
  8. Jakster123x
    Member
    Since: Aug 2011

    Yeah, this isn’t very good but Sodium Two is freaking awesome and i STILL have fond memories of Xi.

    Comment posted on 09/08/2012 at 14:21.
  9. Izorpo
    Member
    Since: Jun 2012

    the only game I’ve liked in home is the hovercraft one, I think its a sodium game. That game was brilliant.

    Home, I don’t actually enjoy it though, lots of lag especially if you have acquired lots of swag (rewards). There are lots of invisible people and seemingly most controls for most games are inverted. Seemingly doing anything in home like changing controls, going in with friends in party chat is problematic

    and I’m still sore about the White Knight Chronicles Dragon Knight being male avatar only

    Comment posted on 09/08/2012 at 15:38.
  10. gaffers101
    Member
    Since: Oct 2008

    It’ll take a lot more than this to get me back into Home.

    Comment posted on 09/08/2012 at 21:42.

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