Product Review: NHL GameCenter App (PS3)
NHL GameCenter is a must-have app for hockey fans.
The NHL GameCenter app for PS3 is part highlight machine, part Center Ice package, and part video archive. Is it worth your while? The short answer for any sports fan is yes, and for any hockey fan is absolutely.
But wait, you might be saying, why would I download this if I already have Center Ice or can’t afford the GameCenter package? This is still worth your while, as the biggest upgrades from last year’s version to this year’s are that (a) the download is free; and (b) some of the features are free.
Let’s get to the biggest attraction in GameCenter — live streaming of every NHL game, in many cases with both home and away feeds. If you’ve used GameCenter on a web browser, you know the interface can be a little clunky at times. Fortunately, the PS3 version is actually fairly streamlined. After loading the app, you get a catalog selection of each of the day’s games, along with viewing options. You can view the home feed, away feed, a condensed version of the game (usually edited down to 10-to-15 minutes), or a highlight package. If you’re joining in during the game, you have the option to watch the game live or start from the beginning, and if it’s after the fact, all of the aforementioned viewing options are available. Note that the highlights and condensed versions do take some time to be made available.
One nice thing is that you have access to all of this with the option of turning final scores off. So if you’ve gotten home from a long day at the office, you can simply fire up your GameCenter app and it’s like the NHL waited for you to start the games — watch the contest of your choice or catch up on the evening’s action with condensed games/highlights.
When viewing a game, you’ll get a timeline of events at the bottom of the screen. You can fast-forward, rewind, or move to one of these events and it’s not a spoiler description, so you’ll be able to enjoy the game if you’re short on time but want to feel like it’s live.
However, the selection isn’t just limited to the day’s games; with GameCenter, you can scroll through calendar days to watch any game of the season. GameCenter also comes with historic games that can be viewed at any time, dating back decades. Yes, if you ever wanted to watch Gordie Howe skate in his heyday, now you can.
I mentioned that part of GameCenter is free, and even if you’ve just downloaded the app, you’ll have access to each game’s highlights. It’s pretty much what you’d get if you went to NHL.com or a team’s site, except this is on your TV. There’s certainly something to be said about watching the highlights on a bright HD screen.
If it comes down to pure selection and functionality, GameCenter is actually better than the Center Ice TV package. However, the problem with any streaming service is that, well, you’re streaming. Thus, the quality of your stream is largely dependent on the quality of your Internet connection. For me, my PS3 is connected via wi-fi to my local DSL provider. In this setup, the image crispness was definitely not HD. It was much better than a standard-def broadcast but it lacked that extra bit of clarity you get with HD. The other thing is that the framerate didn’t match that of TV broadcasts, so the action isn’t quite as smooth as you’d like.
One very, very important thing to note is that local blackouts still apply. This is probably detected based on the location of your ISP. So if you don’t have a cable or TV package and are hoping to catch your local team, you’re out of luck. Also, NBC hasn’t started its national broadcasts yet, and that may also create a blackout conflict.
If you’re a die-hard hockey fan without satellite or cable, the PS3 GameCenter app is a dream come true — everything you could have wanted out of GameCenter broadcast through your HDTV. If you already have Center Ice or are just a casual fan, the app is still worth downloading thanks to the free daily highlights. If you’re somewhere in between and are weighing your options between Center Ice and GameCenter, it really comes down to this — do you want the highest quality broadcast or the most flexibility with viewing options? If it’s the latter, the full GameCenter subscription and the PS3 GameCenter app is your best bet.