Just playing on the test servers, it's already fun to trawl through the quizzes uploaded by the development team and other journos. The game keeps track of which ones you've played and by the time the gates are thrown open to the general public, the result should be impressive - oodles of free quizzes to elongate your playing time, a rarity in this age of premium downloadable content. That's not to say there won't be paid ways of expanding your question repertoire. Five additional question packs - Rock Legends, Sci-Fi Movies, UK Culture, Australian Culture and Videogames - will be available on the PlayStation Store at launch.
Of course, there's more to online that just the giddy thrill of Web 2.0 user magic. Traditional online multiplayer appears in the guise of the wonderfully titled Sofa vs Sofa mode. Much as it sounds, this pits you - and whoever else crams around your telly - against up to three other teams. The quizzes that follow draw from the same 5000+ question pool as local multiplayer (and single player, if you're weird), but the available round types are limited to just four: Stop The Clock, All That Apply, High Stakes and Fastest Finger. As fun as these rounds are when played remotely, it's a shame that the more outrageous rounds like Pass The Bomb haven't made the online cut.
The system for handling invites is simple and streamlined, and all done in-game, though you have very few set-up options as the host. You can't choose which rounds get played or when, nor can you dictate quizzes based on specific subjects. Maybe it's just because so many action-oriented online games have spoiled us by allowing every aspect to be fine tuned to our exact preferences, but having an online game where you basically wait for everyone to be ready and then take what you're given takes some getting used to. Certainly, if you're going to play at being quizmaster, it'd be nice to tailor the experience a little more to the people involved.
That minor grumble aside, Sofa vs Sofa is a lot of fun and offers a subtly different experience from the offline game. For one thing, everyone in the room with you suddenly becomes an ally rather than a rival, and it feels more like a pub quiz atmosphere as everyone throws suggestions at the person holding the pen. Or, in this case, the wireless controller. Reaction times seemed razor-sharp during our sessions, especially important in a game where being a fraction of a second faster than your rivals can make all the difference. What is missing is any communication with the other players and/or teams, though this is apparently something that Relentless is planning to add sooner rather than later. In-game voice chat and maybe even EyeToy compatibility are both areas the developer has told us it's keen to explore, and either of those would definitely liven up an already entertaining gameplay mode.
So is Buzz! Quiz TV just more of the same in a shiny new shell? To a certain degree, yes, and that's no bad thing. The steps towards a fully connected 24/7 quiz network are slightly less ambitious than I'd hoped, but then there's always room for incremental upgrades once the game is actually populated by you lot. And, let's not forget, Buzz is the only console quiz game to even offer these sorts of features (the 360's Scene It? was bereft of any online functions whatsoever) so it's probably unfair to scribble these wistful musings in the negative column just yet. Having spent several weeks tinkering with the quiz-creation and online quizzes against industry foes, my overriding reaction is that I really can't wait for the thing to go on sale so I can see what everyone else does with these tools. Don't let me down, eh?
Buzz! Quiz TV and its new wireless buzzers are due out on 4th July.