On June 13th, PlayStation launched its long-awaited updated PlayStation Plus in North America.
By combining the previous PlayStation Plus with its PlayStation Now game streaming platform and throwing in additional perks like a vastly expanded catalogue and game trials, Sony now has an all-around more robust subscription service.
Specifically, it’s broken down into three tiers:
PS Plus Essential — same as the original PS Plus, includes online multiplayer, a few free monthly games, cloud saves and more
PS Plus Extra — everything with Essential, plus nearly 400 additional PS4 and PS5 games
PS Plus Premium — everything with Extra and Essential, plus hundreds of additional games from PS1/PS2/PSP/PS3 eras, streaming for select titles and time-limited game trials
It’s quite a lot on the whole, and it’s not exactly all easy to follow. But after going hands-on with PS Plus Premium over the past few days, my big takeaway is that there’s a fair amount to like — albeit with some fairly big caveats.
PS Plus Extra
- Before I go further, I should address the big green elephant in the room: Xbox Game Pass.
I suspect many people are disappointed by the new PS Plus on the basis of it not directly stacking up to Microsoft’s game subscription service. After all, it won’t have big first-party games on day one, among other differences. And I understand why, to an extent, given all of the reports and public comments made over the past several months. But I also understand that Sony and Microsoft are two different companies, and for the former, dumping $100 million games onto a subscription service just isn’t feasible. I have other issues with PS Plus, which I’ll get into later.
With that out of the way, here’s pricing for PS Plus Extra:
- 1 month — $17.99 CAD
- 3 months — $49.99
- 12 months — $114.99
The ‘Extra’ tier adds hundreds of PS4 and PS5 games, and it’s easily what the new PS Plus does best. Impressively, PlayStation has rounded up a varied assortment of first- and third-party games that should appeal to pretty much anyone.
Exclusives-wise, there’s a really good lineup that includes Ghost of Tsushima: Director’s Cut, Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Horizon Zero Dawn Complete Edition, Shadow of the Colossus, and even a few PS5-only titles, like Death Stranding: Director’s Cut, Returnal and Demon’s Souls. This is on top of the PS Plus Collection that’s been offered on PS5 via the base ‘Essential’ tier, which features must-play PlayStation games like God of War, Bloodborne and The Last of Us Remastered.
But it’s the third-party roster that’s even more notable. Overall, it seems like PlayStation has gotten deals from pretty much every major publisher, as well as a bunch of indies, and it’s an all-around great lineup.
Some of the highlights are:
- Action/adventure — Control Ultimate Edition (PS4 and PS5), Red Dead Redemption 2 (PS4), The Wonderful 101 Remastered (PS4), Canadian-made Assassin’s Creed Valhalla (PS4 and PS5) and Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy (PS4 and PS5)
- Fighting — Soul Calibur VI (PS4), Injustice 2 (PS4), Mortal Kombat 11 (PS4 and PS5),
- RPG — Final Fantasy VII, VIII Remastered, IX, X/X-2 HD Remaster and XII: The Zodiac Age (all PS4), Kingdom Come: Deliverance (PS4), Canadian-made Child of Light (PS4)
- Shooter — Doom (PS4), Prey (PS4), Sniper Elite 4 (PS4), Canadian-made Far Cry 3 Classic Edition (PS4)
- Sports — NBA 2K22 (PS5), Wreckfest (PS4 and PS5), Canadian-made PGA Tour 2K21 (PS4)
While many of these games are a bit older, they’re undeniably quality experiences. To that point, I was especially pleased to see a bunch of indies mixed in there, including The Artful Escape (PS4 and PS5), Thomas Was Alone (PS4), Outer Wilds (PS4) and Canadian-made Wytchwood (PS4 and PS5) and The Messenger (PS4). For context, the sheer number of Extra catalogue of games is comparable to Game Pass’, as both exceed 300. Ultimately, there’s a lot of value with PS Plus Extra, and I can easily recommend it if you’re willing to shell out a bit more money on this service.
PS Plus Premium
- 1 month — $21.99
- 3 months — $59.99
- 12 months — $139.99
Here’s where the new PS Plus gets rougher — for several reasons.
To start, though, the best part about this tier is the lineup of PS3 titles. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow HD; Devil May Cry HD Collection; Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas; God of War and God of War II; inFamous and inFamous 2; and Resident Evil 4 HD. This isn’t exactly new, though, as PlayStation Now previously offered PS3 games. Still, if you’re someone who never did subscribe to the streaming service, or see some PS3 titles that tickle your fancy, it’s not half bad.
But everything else about PS Plus Premium leaves something to be desired. The most glaring issue is that the highly requested retro offering is just sorely lacking. To be sure, there are some nice gems, including Tekken 2, Toy Story 2: Buzz Lightyear to the Rescue! and Resident Evil: Director’s Cut. I’m especially happy to see Ape Escape, considering I never played it the first time around. It’s also wonderful to see that PS Plus is emulating the superior 60Hz versions of games, following some initial concerns. I spent a bit of time with all of the above titles and my experience was extremely smooth.
But to have less than 40 games from three entire platforms — PS1, PS2 and PSP — is pretty disgraceful. Tomb Raider, Silent Hill 2, Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions, Marvel vs. Capcom 2, Rayman… there are so many noteworthy games you could mention that are missing. And even ignoring third-party titles, there are big omissions from PlayStation’s own roster, including The Legend of Dragoon, Gran Turismo and Tomba!
“…the way PlayStation has determined which games fall into the “classics” category is confusing at best, and sleazy at worst.”
To be fair, many of PlayStation’s earlier years were defined by big third-party titles, so it’s not quite as simple as Sony drawing from its own catalogue. Third-party negotiations would have certainly had to be made. And several classics are already accounted for with improved re-releases, like Final Fantasy VII (included with Extra), the Crash Bandicoot trilogy (the N. Sane collection is available via the PS Plus Collection) and Spyro the Dragon trilogy (sold separately on PS4). Nonetheless, PlayStation fans have been clamouring for retro titles for years, and just a few dozen games just don’t cut it right now.
Another issue is that Sony’s decision to carve up the new PS Plus into three different tiers makes navigating the dedicated PS Plus tab on my PS5 quite convoluted. On Xbox, it’s simple; open up the Xbox Store, go to the ‘Game Pass’ section and select one of several categories, starting with ‘All games A-Z’ and ‘Recently added.’ For comparison’s sake, I picked the former. Now, because there are only two Game Pass memberships (the $11.99/month base membership and $16.99/month Ultimate tier), it’s quite simple to scroll through. Since some games are available only through EA Play (which is included with Ultimate and sold separately), they’ll have a little ‘EA Play’ icon. Otherwise, everything else is available through either Game Pass subscription option. I can find every game with a few button presses, and I know right away which belongs to which of the two memberships. Straightforward, right?
On PlayStation, however, I can’t view a full list of games, even as a Premium member. Hitting ‘Game Catalog’ brings up a lineup of titles in a pre-arranged ‘Default’ order. From there, you can sort using a variety of filters, including A-Z, release date and genre. But even selecting ‘A-Z’ doesn’t give you complete picture, as it’s actually only the Extra catalogue here. As a Premium member, you’ll also want to venture into the tab beside ‘Game Catalog,’ ‘Classic Games.’ But this still doesn’t include everything; only the service’s small offering of PS1, PS2 and PSP games. Oddly, going to the ‘All new PlayStation Plus benefits’ column below ‘Game Catalog’ and ‘Classic Games’ has a full breakdown of perks per membership tier. This’Classics Catalog’ option has all of the games that are added with Premium.
But even then, the way it’s broken down is… odd. They have a whole section just for PSP, PlayStation and PS2, then another for PS3. There’s no way to filter by platform. What’s more, the way PlayStation has determined which games fall into the “classics” category is confusing at best, and sleazy at worst. Essentially, there were many games from the PS3 era that got re-released on PS4, many through special “HD remasters.” And, for context, a lot of these HD releases were either only ever available on PS4 and other consoles from that generation or just got straight digital ports from PS3 to PS4.
But the problem with PS Plus is that — as part of Premium offering PS3 games — it’s lumping in all of these titles under the higher membership. This means that even though, say, the Jak and Daxter trilogy was released on PS4, PlayStation is seemingly considering these as PS2 titles (based on their original release) and, therefore, locking them behind Premium. The same goes for Batman: Return to Arkham, BioShock Remastered and BioShock Infinite: The Complete Edition, God of War 3 Remastered, Borderlands: The Handsome Collection, Gravity Rush Remastered (originally a PS Vita game, but the point still stands) and more. These are all PS4 releases, but they’re under the rather buried ‘Remasters’ category in the PS Plus tab, which PlayStation is treating as worthy of a Premium membership, not Extra. I understand the original PS3 versions being locked behind streaming via Premium (this is basically what PlayStation Now used to do), but making actual PS4 releases unavailable to Extra subscribers — the tier specifically dedicated to PS4 and PS5 games — just seems cheap.
Finally, Premium has the timed game trials, which are much better across the board. Considering games can cost as much as $90 before taxes nowadays, the ability to try them out before buying is most welcome. Even better is the fact that you get access to the full game, not some super-polished short slice of it, which will definitely give you a better idea if you like it. Most helpful: these also range in length depending on the game. For example, big open-world titles like Horizon Forbidden West and Cyberpunk 2077 have five-hour demos, while something smaller like the side-scrolling skateboarder OlliOlli World offers just one hour.
The only real shortcoming with these demos, other than the fact that they’re locked behind the highest tier, is there are just too few of them. Altogether, only 15 titles are included (technically 16 since Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection includes two Uncharted games):
- Biomutant (PS4) — two hours
- The Cruel King and the Great Hero (PS4) — two hours
- Crusader Kings III (PS5) — three hours
- Cyberpunk 2077 (PS4/PS5) — five hours
- Elex II (PS4/PS5) — two hours
- Farming Simulator 22 (PS4/PS5) — three hours
- Horizon Forbidden West (PS4/PS5) — five hours
- Hot Wheels Unleashed (PS5) — two hours
- Lego City Undercover (PS4) — two hours
- MotoGP 22 (PS4/PS5) — two hours
- OlliOlli World (PS4/PS5) — one hour
- SpellForce III Reforced (PS5) — two hours
- Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands: Next-Level Edition (PS4/PS5) — two hours
- Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection (PS5) — two hours
- WWE 2K22 (PS5) — two hours
A recent report indicated that PlayStation will require all developers making games above a certain price point to offer a demo, although Sony hasn’t said anything official about that. Hopefully, that proves to be true and the lineup of trials significantly expands over time, because it’s quite meager as it stands. It would also be nice if there was some sort of incentive to purchase a game you tried out. While it’s nice that save and trophy progress carries over, some sort of discount would go a long way. Game Pass, for reference, offers 20 percent off any title in its catalogue.
As someone whose main gaming platform has been PlayStation since he started playing games, the new PS Plus is exactly the sort of service that should appeal to me. But unfortunately, it’s only somewhat successful in that regard. The PS Plus Extra tier has a strong library of PS4 and PS5 titles, especially several indies I missed out on, and I do see myself continuing to subscribe to that after the three-month trial provided to me by Sony expires. If you’re someone who games often, I’d definitely say Extra is worth it right now.
However, it’s hard to say the same about PS Plus Premium. Outside of a decent batch of PS3 titles, there’s a paltry amount of PS1, PS2 and PSP games. That’s to say nothing of the even smaller assortment of trials. In many ways, it feels like a beta or, in more common gamer parlance, “early access” — some promising features hobbled together but lacking anything fully formed.
Considering PlayStation had years to study what Xbox did with Game Pass, or even Nintendo with its own ever-growing Switch Online service, I’d hoped that the new PS Plus would be more impressive. Of course, PlayStation has promised that more Extra and Premium games will be offered every month, so it remains to be seen how solid that support will be. Hopefully, PlayStation Plus improves enough to fully capitalize on its immense potential.