To kick off, the main menu is slickly designed and it’s easy to navigate through the four options: Network Highlights, Screenshot Galleries, HD Reviews & Previews, and Featured Downloads. To talk you through these various options is the voice of FirstPlay, comedienne Lucy Porter, who adds a touch of (intentional) humour to each episode.
The first section is Network Highlights, which covers anything happening on PSN. Videos in the beta episode included Top 10 Singstar video uploads and a round-up of content available on the PlayStation Store. It looks like this area will be heavily influenced by the viewers as it encourages you to contact FirstPlay with any ideas for future content. This is as easy as simply pressing square, typing a message, and hitting send.
The Screenshot Gallery in this trial episode featured HD screens of Brink, 2010 FIFA World Cup, Mafia II, and Red Dead Redemption. All images have an audio commentary by Lucy Porter, which works well for the most part, but having one on every single image was slight overkill. Like pictures on the XMB, you scroll through with L1 and R1, and zoom in with the right stick. Speaking of the XMB, all screenshots can be easily exported straight to the XMB by pressing square, which is a nice touch.
Next up is HD Reviews & Previews, which is arguably FirstPlay’s biggest hook. There’ll be a selection of games and Blu-Ray movies featured each week, and as you might expect, the visual quality is excellent. Included in this test episode was a review of the film Cracks on Blu-Ray, previews of Lost Planet 2 and Super Street Fighter IV, and a review of Battlefield: Bad Company 2.
Finally, we come to the Featured Downloads section. For the purposes of the beta, this episode included content already available on the PS Store, but future instalments will include exclusive demos and DLC available only to FirstPlay viewers. The content of future episodes is yet to be divulged, but the potential here is huge.
Overall FirstPlay looks like it will be a great addition to PSN. It took us nearly an hour to see everything this sample episode had to offer, which seems like a decent amount of content for 99p. That being said, having a 10-20 second advert before each video hurts a little considering you’ve already paid for the episode. Furthermore, at 1GB per episode, these aren’t small downloads, although it’s difficult to imagine a way around this considering the amount of HD content in each episode.
The launch episode of FirstPlay releases on April 8th on the PS Store, and according to MCV will feature the likes of Final Fantasy XIII and Just Cause 2. If the quality of the beta is any indication of things to come, European PSN users are in for a real treat.