If you were anywhere on the Internet this week, you've probably already heard the news about Sony's "Welcome Back" program for PSN subscribers in North America. Sony is being quite generous with its offerings, but even so, smart gamers will want to maximize the value of the freebies. After all, why not get the best deal possible?
PlayStation 3 owners will get their choice of five different PS3 games. Two of them are retail titles, the other three are PSN games – at least in North America. Wipeout HD Fury was released as a retail disc in a limited run in both Europe and Asia.
Ranked by Metacritic score, your PS3 game choices are:
LittleBigPlanet – Metascore 95: Released on October 27, 2008, as a retail disc, LittleBigPlanet is easily the highest-rated title of the bunch. Given its popularity, it's also likely one that many gamers already own. If not, it's hard to pass up, as the game is sure to appeal to both adults and children. If you know how to hold a controller, there is fun to be had here. The only thing we don't know for sure is if Sony is just offering the original LittleBigPlanet or LittleBigPlanet: Game of the Year Edition. Either way, it's still a safe bet. Just don't confuse it with LittleBigPlanet 2.
Value: According to Amazon, the MSRP of LittleBigPlanet:GotYE is $29.99, but it appears to sell for around $20 new. LittleBigPlanet earned a WorthPlaying Editors' Choice award in 2008.
Wipeout HD – Metascore 87: Released on September 25, 2008, as a PSN download, Wipeout HD is, hands down, one of the best racing games on the PS3. The tracks may be recycled from the PSP games, but everything has been completely rebuilt in glorious HD.
Wipeout HD Fury – Metascore 89: Released on July 23, 2009, as a PSN download, Wipeout HD Fury is actually an expansion pack to Wipeout HD. Normally, you have to purchase it separately for an additional cost, but if you choose Wipeout HD as one of your free games, Sony is throwing in the expansion pack for free.
Value: Wipeout HD sells for $19.99 on the PSN store and as a download code on Amazon. Wipeout HD Fury usually goes for an additional $9.99. Barring any sales, you're looking at a combined value of almost $30. Tack on the hours of gameplay, and it's hard to go wrong by choosing Wipeout HD + Fury as one of your selections. Wipeout HD earned a WorthPlaying Editors' Choice award in 2008.
inFAMOUS – Metascore 85: Released on May 26, 2009, as a retail disc, inFAMOUS was generally well received by critics for its portrayal of an everyman who is suddenly granted superpowers. With an ambiguous moral compass, you can become either hero or villain. The choice is up to you. If games like Batman: Arkham Asylum are up your alley, then inFAMOUS is a good choice. It's also a great way to prepare for the release of inFAMOUS 2.
Value: According to Amazon, the MSRP of inFAMOUS is $29.99, but it appears to sell for around $20 new and was recently on sale for a mere $10. inFAMOUS earned a WorthPlaying Editors' Choice award in 2009.
Super Stardust HD – Metascore 85: Released on June 28, 2007 as a PSN download, Super Stardust HD is the PS3's answer to Geometry Wars. Packed chock-full of pretty visuals, soothing sounds and a hair trigger, Super Stardust HD is perfect for those moments when you just want to kick back and blow up some stuff.
Value: Super Stardust HD sells for $9.99 on the PSN store and as a download on Amazon. The one catch here is that if you want to get all the features, you have to download a handful of expansion packs. Unlike Wipeout HD, Sony doesn't appear to be including those with this download.
Dead Nation – Metascore 77: Released on November 30, 2010, as a PSN download, Dead Nation is the newest PS3 game available in the program. If you couldn't guess from the title, Dead Nation is all about zombies … and lots of them. As the lowest-rated title in the bunch, this is probably going to be a fallback choice for those who already own the other games.
Value: Dead Nation sells for $14.99 on the PSN store. Because of its newness, chances are good you don't own this one just yet.
WorthPlaying PS3 Picks: It's a tough call, but for maximum gaming value, we're going with LittleBigPlanet and Wipeout HD + Fury. Both games have wide appeal and would still set you back a decent amount of cash if you were to purchase them new. Assuming you already own one of the two, then inFAMOUS should be the backup choice.
PlayStation Portable and PSPgo owners will get their choice of four different PSP games. All four of them are full retail titles.
Ranked by Metacritic score, your PSP game choices are:
LittleBigPlanet – Metascore 87: Released on November 17, 2009, the PSP version of LittleBigPlanet doesn't quite match the brilliance of the PS3 original, but it is impressively close. Most notable is the fact that the PSP version of LittleBigPlanet is not a port. All of the levels here are original, so even if you've played the PS3 version of the game, the PSP version is a fresh experience.
Value: According to Amazon, the MSRP of LittleBigPlanet is $19.99, though you can find it cheaper used. It was the pack-in game for the fall 2010 PSP bundle.
Killzone Liberation – Metascore 77: Released on October 31, 2006, Killzone Liberation is set shortly after the events of the original PS2 classic, Killzone. In addition to the story mode, Killzone Liberation also features two-player co-op and up to six-player competitive multiplayer. It may be an oldie, but it's a goodie.
Value: According to Amazon, the MSRP of Killzone Liberation is $19.99, but it appears to sell for around $15 new. Killzone Liberation earned a WorthPlaying Editors' Choice award in 2006.
Pursuit Force – Metascore 75: Released on March 7, 2006, Pursuit Force is the oldest of the PSP games on offer. When it first debuted, the game caught attention with a slick, slow-motion jumping mechanic that was intended to make you feel like you were playing through an action movie. Unfortunately, that mechanic gets overused over the course of the game, making things feel a bit repetitive.
Value: According to Amazon, the MSRP of Pursuit Force is $29.99, but it appears to sell for around $10 new.
ModNation Racers – Metascore 72: Released on May 25, 2010, ModNation Racers for the PSP is a kart racing game with an emphasis on creativity. Much like LittleBigPlanet, ModNation Racers allows you to create custom content and share it with other players. It supports up to six players via Wi-Fi and can connect with the PS3 version of the game. It doesn't hurt that the game shares a racing engine with the PSP version of Wipeout.
Value: According to Amazon, the MSRP of ModNation Racers is $19.99.
WorthPlaying PSP Picks: On the portable side of things, your maximum gaming value is going to be obtained with Killzone Liberation and ModNation Racers. Killzone Liberation may be a little dated, but that doesn't make it any less enjoyable. ModNation Racers shines with its easy-to-use editing tools and ability to share. Assuming you already own one of the two, then LittleBigPlanet should be the backup choice.
Remember, you won't be able to make your selections until the PSN Store comes back online, but once it's live, there is a 30-day time limit to lock in your downloads. The good news is that these aren't rentals, but the equivalent of full game purchases. Once you make your "Welcome Back" selections and download the games, they are yours to keep forever.