First up I tested an SD version of Escape from LA (101 mins) starring Kurt Russell. The file size was 1570MB and my ‘20 Mbps’ broadband was running at its typically poor Friday night rate of around 10 Mbps. Wanting to test how good the film would play while it was downloading, I gave it a few minutes head-start, during which time it got up to 5%.
Fantastically, I managed to watch the whole film without it stopping once, the download itself finished with half an hour to go before the film finished. You can monitor the grey line (like a buffering bar on YouTube) ahead of the playtime when you press Select to see if the film is going to catch up the current download progress. The quality of the visuals and sound was surprisingly high considered it wasn’t the HD version and was more than a match for the PS3’s excellent DVD upscaling.
Metal Gear Solid fans will already be aware that Kurt Russell’s character in the first film (Escape from New York) is the inspiration for the majority f Snake’s image and persona. If you haven’t seen this film, download it now, you’ll be able to tell in minutes why Hideo Kojima worships him. He’s funny, cool and kick ass at the same time and should definitely be involved somewhere if they ever do a MGS movie.
Putting the film onto a PSP was simple to do too, using a USB lead. This takes it off your PS3, but you can put it back later if needed. I can’t fault how good the film looked on the handheld either, even on my old launch model.
But what about HD films? Well, at the moment there’s still not much going on for new HD titles. Many of them seem to be a few years old or comedies. Where the hell are all the shiny action blockbusters? In their absence I decided to punish my broadband with a lengthy HD title, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. This time my broadband managed to get closer to what I’m paying for with 16 Mbps for 8GB (8000MB) forcing its way through.
This was never going to play from the off judging by how long it took to get to 1%, so I left it till it reached 23% before starting to watch. Out of 141 minutes it managed to get 75 minutes into the film before catching up with itself and having to stop. This presented an ample chance to se how it would cope with downloading in the background while playing a game. Thankfully this didn’t pause the download, and I was able to watch the rest of the film an hour or so later.
I can forgive the film not downloading in time as broadband speeds are unpredictable and unreliable at the best of times. However I wasn’t particularly impressed with the HD visuals. They seemed reasonably sharp but the film was too dark in places with the shadows swallowing up some detail that I know to be there from seeing it on other formats. It’s important to remember the quality is going to vary between titles though.
Which is why I decided to try again, with X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Now due to size restrictions the HD movies are in 720p instead of 1080p. Not that you’d notice as much with films like this. The image was of a startlingly high quality with everything from fiery explosions to beads of sweat all looking like the HD dream. At around 6GB, I decided to download it in short bursts over two days, turning the console on and off multiple times between gaming sessions. The download resumed every time and the 14 day expiry date only kicked in after it finished downloading.
If you do have slow broadband, remember, the film expires 48 hours after you start watching it, so bear that in mind if you’re watching while it downloads. Once a film does expire you’ll need to manually delete it from your hard-drive. For those of you who want to buy films off the Store you’ll be relieved to know that you can back the file up on an external hard-drive. You can’t play it on a PC though, for piracy reasons I imagine.
So, if you want to watch something right now, it would seem that picking a Standard Definition film is the best option. But if you have the time to download it in full before watching later and don’t mind the higher price (£1 or £2 extra usually) then HD films are a go too. You could always, I don’t know, use your PS3 to play a game for a bit while it downloads anyway.