PSN fans should be pleased to learn that Sony's Welcome Back Program is live and the network is now completely up, although on shaky legs.
There's been some debate online about the value of the program. Some people (including dudes on our podcast) simply want the network to work and say forget the free games. Others are complaining that the list of Welcome Back titles are weak at best. They want another five free games, $100 credited to their online wallet, and Sony execs to personally come to their homes and make them a sandwich. I "welcomed myself back" a few hours ago, and I have to say, Sony's response the the month long PSN outage is more than just appropriate. It's a terrific deal for hardcore and casual playstation fans alike.
On the Playstation side of things, you pick two free games out of a list of five. They are:
Little Big Planet
Super Stardust HD
Wipeout HD + Fury
My decision was pretty easy to make. I've beaten inFAMOUS twice and I'm not the biggest LBP fan. As for racing games, I own one cart racer (Sonic All-Stars racing... it's really fun... and it's really cheap. Get it!) so I've got my racing fix. Dead Nation and Stardust it was.
I went into this knowing nothing about Super Stardust HD. I thought it would just be a throwaway title. You know, play for a couple hours, then forget it. Oh no, my friends. It's not like that. S.S.HD is legit. I'm shocked I didn't have this game in my collection sooner. I mean, take a look at the gameplay. Who doesn't want that?
It's a perfect "casual" game. I'm a sucker for arcadey titles that can be played while listening to music or podcasts. I can't tell you how many hours I've sunk into Tetris or Pac-Man C.E. listening to my favorite talk programs. Super Stardust is an older game on PSN but the controls and graphics are tight. The game is challenging but not frustrating. Its mechanics keep you coming back for more, demanding that you replay and improve. I'd gladly throw down $10 - $15 for this game.
Then there's Dead Nation. You already know what that's about.
Let's go kill some zombies.
Those are just the titles I settled on. If you haven't played inFAMOUS or LBP, getting both those games for free is a tremendous value. inFAMOUS will keep you busy for 20+ hours, and Little Big Planet's "create/share" functionality makes it a source of limitless gameplay. These are AAA titles, absolutely free.
PSP users also get some cool stuff. Titles like LBP, Modnation Racers, and Killzone Liberation are up for grabs. Sweet.
On top of all that, you're getting a month of Playstation Plus absolutely free. Current members get something like an additional two or three months. Now, I'm not a big Plus fan. I like my PSN without subscriptions. But damned if I don't use this trial month to get a few games at a discounted price. Samurai Showdown, I'm looking at you...
The only thing left to address is what I wrote in the first paragraph of this article. While it's great that PSN is fully functional, many users have reported errors popping up while trying to use the service. I know a lot of it (if not all of it) has to do with the sheer amount of gamers downloading free content at the moment, but it's still a cause for concern. Sony is just getting through one of the darkest times in its history. PSN was compromised and its customers were rattled. The last thing Sony wants is a rickety reopening. If PSN errors persist for another week or so, it won't do much to restore faith in the network. On the contrary, I'll be wondering if Sony really did enough to rebuild and secure their service. Only time will tell on this one.
For now, the main point is this. Plenty of people have been whining about this Welcome Back deal. But in all honesty, it's more than fair. Odds are there's at least one game on the list that you're going to love. So enough with the whining. Start gaming. Thanks to Sony, my already large backlog of games just got larger.