Over the next several years, one of the most interesting trends in video gaming will be the introduction of smartphones that compete with handheld consoles. First in line: the Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY 4G, a "PlayStation Certified" 4G Android smartphone that's now available on the AT&T network. In addition to boasting a 4" touchscreen, front- and rear-facing cameras, and six-axis motion control, the Xperia PLAY slides open to reveal a PlayStation-style controller—including a D-pad, PlayStation's iconic face buttons, left and right shoulder buttons, and even two touchpad joysticks. Suffice it to say you won't be dealing with unresponsive touchscreen buttons on the Xperia PLAY.
Unlike most smartphones, the PLAY isn't just a telephone that checks your e-mail and happens to contain a few little puzzle games. Between the control setup, its sizable library—more than 150 titles as of today—and the fact that its chipset is optimized for gaming graphics and performance, the Xperia PLAY is the gamer's smartphone.
The Xperia PLAY comes with plenty of free gaming perks. For starters, seven games are pre-loaded—and you won't find Angry Birds among them. Instead, they offer everything from big-budget sports, to racing, to PlayStation classics. These titles include Madden NFL 11, The Sims 3, Dungeon Defenders: Second Wave, Crash Bandicoot, Asphalt 6: Adrenaline, Star Battalion, and Tower Bloxx. In addition, through January 2012, Xperia PLAY owners can download five free games from EA: FIFA 12, Battlefield: Bad Company 2, Dead Space, Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, and Need for Speed: Shift.
Once owners tire of their eleven free games—which should take a while—they can head to the phone's store for more titles that have been optimized for the Xperia PLAY. Announced earlier this year were PlayStation classics Jet Moto, Hot Shots Golf 2, and Wipeout—but that's only part of the Xperia PLAY-optimized games catalog. A wide range of genres is represented here, with hits from the major players such as EA and Gameloft, and even some from independents. In fact, Mojang chose the Xperia PLAY to launch the Pocket Edition of their hugely popular title Minecraft, months before its availability in a touchscreen version for other Android devices and iPhones.
If you think a smartphone can't offer games that are huge in scope, you'll be surprised by 9MM, a Grand Theft Auto-style third-person shooter; Order & Chaos, an MMORPG; and Shadow Guardian, an action-adventure in which you seek out a lost relic. The Xperia PLAY has an exclusive called Dead on Arrival, a top-down 3D action game that pits you against hordes of zombies. There's also Sleepy Jack, a creative 3D flying game in which you traverse 30 levels that represent a young boy's dreams.
Those who've always dreamed of being hit men can try Contract Killer, and anyone who's addicted to tower-defense gameplay shouldn't hesitate to pick up the World War II-themed Guns'n'Glory WW2. And if it's sports you want, the Xperia PLAY has a handheld take on Tiger Woods 2012 and FIFA 12. For those who can't stop playing arcade shooters, there's also Galaxy on Fire 2 THD, which is, of course, set in outer space.
Just because the Xperia PLAY focuses on gaming doesn't mean it neglects other concerns, either. With a two-year agreement, the 4G Xperia PLAY costs a mere $49.99 on AT&T (Verizon customers can get the 3G version, with six preloaded games, for the same amount with an online discount). Charging is easy with the included docking station, which converts the Xperia PLAY's screen to a big clock display (perfect for desk or nightstand) and has an audio cable for connecting external speakers for music. Then there's Bluetooth, Facebook integration, GPS, and 802.11n Wi-Fi, and more. Most importantly, call quality is high, so your choice of a gaming phone won't mean your friends and family have to yell into their phones and repeat everything.
And while reviewers across the board have praised the Xperia PLAY for its battery life—one writer pegged it at 9 hours and 18 minutes—this clip [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I6O-kURqqEI&feature=youtu.be] from customer services will help you go even longer between charges. For example, you can turn the Internet off while you're not using it, have your programs refresh less frequently, and have your e-mail sync less often. The phone even provides a breakdown of which programs are using the most battery so you can adjust the worst offenders.
With its "PlayStation Certified" pedigree, the Xperia PLAY probably won't be Sony Ericsson's last attempt to blend hardcore gaming with smartphone features. At first look, it's highly impressive, and it offers gamers some great titles to play on the go.
By Matt Walker
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central. This week's is also purely a work of fiction*