PlayStation Now games on PC are terrific… when they actually work
Sony will now let you play Uncharted on the PC, so long as its network actually holds up.
PlayStation Now isn't the first game streaming service and it's probably not going to be the last. Right now one of the other big players is NVIDIA, allowing subscribers to GeForce Now to stream PC games from the cloud.
While Microsoft put backwards compatibility right into the Xbox One, Sony went down the cloud-based, subscription route to allow folks to play older generation PlayStation games. Where it now becomes more interesting is that you can use it on the PC, meaning titles like Uncharted and God of War are available to play on a Windows machine.
The service itself is very good. But there are plenty of areas that let it down.
To use PlayStation Now you will need a Sony account, the Windows application and a supported controller. If you already have DualShock 4 from the PS4, you're golden. Hook it up via USB and you'll enjoy full support for all features, including motion control.
Sony says controllers with Xinput may be supported, but naturally, the button mapping and full feature list will be different. Better news is that the Xbox One controller appears to work just fine. It has a similar button layout and most basic controls map to the Xbox buttons that are in the same physical position as on the DualShock 4. The X button maps to A and so on. I've tested a few games with my Xbox Elite Controller without issue.
The application for PlayStation Now is fairly barebones and is mostly a mirror of what you'd see using the service on other devices. There's nothing fancy to it and it's basically just a long vertically and horizontally scrolling list of the games available to play. To make it easier to find something good, Sony highlights its best rated and exclusives up top.
The beauty of a service like this is that you don't need a gaming PC to play games. PlayStation Now titles will be restricted to 720p resolution, which is fine since they're last-generation, are playable in a window or fullscreen and you're recommended to have a 5mbps and above broadband connection. A wired ethernet connection will be more reliable, but I've enjoyed smooth, trouble-free gaming over Wi-Fi.
I'm fortunate to have a fast internet connection so that part hasn't troubled me. Indeed, if you have a ton of LTE data at your disposal you could, in theory, play PlayStation Now on a laptop while you're out and about.
What has been troubling, and would put a serious doubt on spending my own money on a subscription, is the reliability. There's long been a running joke about how many time Xbox Live goes down, but those people can't have ever used PlayStation Network.
Signing up was a nightmare because there was a problem with it. Trying to finish this and another article on the service was a nightmare because there was a problem with the service. Opening a game to play seems to require at least two attempts because the first time the "game is not available at the moment."
And while playing Ratchet and Clank the whole thing just green screened. It was still in-game because the audio was there, but the whole thing just threw its toys out of the pram and sat there glowing at me. Laughing.
PlayStation Now isn't a cheap subscription service. That this happens on a daily basis is enough to make me walk away.
It's not all bad, though. You do get a 7-day free trial to see what it's like before you part with your cash, which is good. Very good. And when it works, it's terrific. It's just like having a PlayStation 3 inside your PC.
You get cloud saves so you can move across devices without worrying about your progress, and once you're playing a game everything is very good. Controls are responsive, there haven't been many instances of lag or frames dropping and it's a huge amount of fun. There are a few basic menu features thrown in but for the most part it's a case of open (twice), play, hopefully enjoy, and shut it down.
Bizarrely, PlayStation Now also seems to be much smoother to use in my experience on the PC than it does on the PS4. On the PS4 it's been pretty janky in-game on the same Wi-Fi connection as my PC.
But, the issues aren't ones to ignore. It might be a fantastic experience when it's all working well, but there are too many times it doesn't. Or just doesn't work at all. Sony has been working on this for long enough now that you'd hope the issues had been ironed out.
Sure, with clouds and networks there's always a risk of kinks and quirks. But until PlayStation Now doesn't do something intensely annoying on a daily basis, it's hard to recommend you sign up for the long term.
Get the Windows Central Newsletter
All the latest news, reviews, and guides for Windows and Xbox diehards.
Richard Devine is a Managing Editor at Windows Central with over a decade of experience. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently, you'll find him steering the site's coverage of all manner of PC hardware and reviews. Find him on Mastodon at mstdn.social/@richdevine