Sony returned to Earls Court for their second PlayStation Experience, in a new format which saw twice as much of the exhibition centre used to show off a range of new titles and provide an insight in to the world of PlayStation to consumers.


PlayStation Experience, ECTS 2003. Photo copyright GamesPaper


Instead of publishers titles all being grouped together like last year, the genres of games were put in to themed zones, such as online games, music, sports and driving - a mix which seemed to work well, although did tend to lead to certain areas becoming much busier than if they'd have been spread about more.

One of the first games that visitors to the PlayStation Experience got to find was Sony's EyeToy - a product which was shown for the first time last year and saw almost everyone being told how to play it - this year however it seemed second nature and all eight pods soon drew crowds.


PlayStation Experience, ECTS 2003. Photo copyright GamesPaper


Over the way from EyeToy were two pods, one in green and the other in orange, which on closer inspection revealed a surprise new game which we'd not heard of before - Sony London Studio's Sing in Classic and Pop variants. Sing allows gamers to sing along with a number of well known artists whilst seeing the video playing on screen, and overlayed with markers which should show your ideal pitch and tempo.

Sing can be played in both one and two player modes, and songs included in the early version on show included those from Pink, Westlife, Sophie Ellis Bextor, and Mis-teeq in the orange Pop version, whilst the green Classics pod saw the likes of Dido, Motorhead, Madonna and Bananarama. It's also rumoured that some form of EyeToy connectivity may be included in the final version of the game.


PlayStation Experience, ECTS 2003. Photo copyright GamesPaper


A fair number of music related titles were available to sample, including an 85% complete version of Codemasters' Pop Idol game, which sees a cel-shaded cartoon style representation of the television show, and requires gamers to press buttons on the pad which correspond with those on screen, in a similar style to dance mat games but only requiring the movement of your right thumb and fingers to keep your character singing in tune.

Driving games also proved very popular with Codemasters' Colin McRae Rally 04 looking very impressive in it's pre-release form, and drawing large crowds around the demo pods as gamers raced various stages and modes of what appears to be the best title in the Colin McRae Rally series so far. Similarly large crowds gathered around Sony's Gran Turismo 4 which visually looked very good, but was let down by what feels like a slow sense of speed and handling which leaves a fair amount to be desired - in fact the steering wheel and pedals which were on each demo pad took quite a hammering from gamers during the morning session and were being removed during the afternoon because they were starting to work loose from the mountings on the cabinet.


PlayStation Experience, ECTS 2003. Photo copyright GamesPaper


Network based gaming was also proving popular, with games such as the recently released Socom US Navy Seals and the forthcoming Destruction Derby Arenas which appeared to have the odd frame rate and slowdown problem but otherwise looked visually very intensive with plenty of trackside detail and animation.

What did take us by surprise was Sony's My Street which look like it'll be one of those games which packs addictive party gaming by the bucket-load - four player online radio controlled car racing and chicken herding simply can't be missed, and although aimed at children could prove popular with older age groups too.


PlayStation Experience, ECTS 2003. Photo copyright GamesPaper


Whiplash from Eidos was another surprisingly good game, and appears to have some fairly enjoyable gameplay - however without being able to hear the sound due to it being drowned out by the on-stage entertainment, it's hard to get a complete understanding of the storyline which the gameplay revolves around.

Sega's Sonic Heroes was looking very impressive and seemed to have the characteristically fast movement which you'd expect from a Sonic title. Worms 3D was similarly looking impressive, and the 3D aspect really does appear to have been pulled off well, although the early build did suffer from numerous stability problems and crashed frequently.


PlayStation Experience, ECTS 2003. Photo copyright GamesPaper


Other themed areas of the Experience included extreme sports games which even had it's own basketball court staffed by professional basketball players, and an over-18's area which had a novel idea of using four banks of five "bed" style seating areas which gamers laid on to play games including Backyard Wrestling and Road Kill - younger gamers got to try out upcoming titles from within an inflated ball pool, which saw plasma screens suspended above them and controller cables inside a large springy coils.

Upon exiting the show visitors were given a goodybag which included a number of freebies including a PlayStation Experience t-shirt, a bottle of Tango, demo cd's of Ghosthunter and general games which were at the Experience, a copy of the Official Playstation Magazine, a keyring, and several other items.


PlayStation Experience, ECTS 2003. Photo copyright GamesPaper


Sony's PlayStation Experience appeared to prove popular with the public and trade (some 35,000 visitors are thought to have attended) and like last year it helped boost ECTS by running along-side the tradeshow next door - hopefully Sony will return in 2004 for more of the same.