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The first issue of PlayStation: The Official Magazine arrived in the mail a few days back, and since it's the first major US mag launch in a while, I thought I'd devote a full column to it.

Future Publishing's PTOM (the replacement for PSM) is grossly divided into five sections:

- System Update: The news section, encompassing a couple interviews, Blu-ray movie reviews, Adam Warren's comic (formerly on the back page), and a digest of the latest happenings. The two main bits this month are a piece on the PlayStation Eye (with Dr. Richard Marks extensively quoted) and a post-Tokyo Game Show talk with Kaz Hirai.

- Previews: Your typical magazine previews section. This one kicks off with three pages on Soul Calivur IV and continues with large looks at MGS4, Haze, Crisis Core: FFVII, and so forth. A "PlayStation Gallery" at the end fills out the section with some capsule previews.

- The feature well: The cover story on Gran Turismo 5 takes us to Polyphony Digital HQ in Japan, where Kazunori Yamauchi discusses his goals with the new game and shows off all the incredible detail going into the models. A holiday buyer's guide (titled "Holiday Buyer's Guide," which should offer some insight to its originality) is the typical game and gadget-themed Xmas gift roundup.

- Reviews: PTOM rates its games on a five-star scale with three stars set as "okay" and five signifying "exceptional" and earning the game an Editor's Choice award. No review is larger than two pages (as opposed to the multi-page cover features reviews sometimes earn in PSM and OXM), and there's a small page of hardware reviews in the rear.

- PlayStation Network: The "miscellaneous" section of PTOM, similar to the one GamePro has in the back of its book. This issue has multiplayer strategies for Warhawk (online tips will be an ongoing part of this section, it looks like), letters, and quick reviews of PSN titles. A welcome-to-the-mag piece by SCEA head Jack Tretton fills up the back page, which you can tell was written by a true PR aficionado because the name of Sony's current top console is spelled out as "PLAYSTATION®3 (PS3™)" in the article, a custom the rest of the magazine thankfully avoids.

And that's the long and short of it, basically. The mag is 132 pages, 30 of which is the AT&T cell-phone game "special advertising supplement" appearing in all Future game mags this month, so it seems safe to expect the usual book sizes and ad ratios here as in most other titles.

PTOM is about what you'd expect from a US game-mag publisher. The mag has a very clean look, making it look like a cross between EGM and Future's PlayStation Official Magazine UK, and many pages and reviews feature small captions on the sides with some random piece of trivia related to the article it's near, a nice little touch. (The mag is also about half an inch wider than PSM, although it's still got nothing on Ziff's super-wide OPM.) On the writing and coverage end, however, not a great deal has changed from the PSM days -- the text style is authoritative, if not all that excited, and it's not terribly different from the way a lot of online game sites are written.

The biggest surprise might be that the Blu-ray demo disc promised in Future's press release is not included or mentioned, something the editors confirmed on the psmonline.com blog (PTOM doesn't have its own website yet for some reason). There's some confusion in the blog comments about whether the mag will ever have a demo disc, but I'm willing to bet it'll get one as at least a special bonus once in awhile eventually. Otherwise, where's the major, killer advantage in being Official? Or is it more the case of Future saying to themselves "Well, we're the only PS mag left in America now, might as well bite the bullet and pay the licensing fee"?

It's also worth noting that the "FREE Two-Sided Poster" touted on the cover isn't quite accurate, unless it's referring to something available on newsstands only. [ADDENDUM: The newsstand PTOM does come with a real double-sided poster. Odd that it still got advertised in both the newsstand and subscriber editions, though.]

Overall, PTOM is a nice leap forward from PSM visually and undoubtedly serves the needs of its PlayStation-fan subscribers well, but those expecting something revolutionary will have to go expect somewhere else for now.

[Kevin Gifford breeds ferrets and runs Magweasel, a site for collectors and fans of old video-game and computer magazines. He's also an editor at Newtype USA magazine.]