Personal Rating: "Worth Purchasing - if your into game video recording"
Traditional Rating: 8.5/10
Genre: Game Video Recording Software
I purchased this on a whim during the autumn sale but was heading out that evening so I didn't bother installing it thinking I would get to that when I got home or possibly do it over the weekend. What I did was promptly forget about it (I had a lot of work pressures on the mind not being helped by the fact I was also prepping and studying for exams). I also have a bad habit of never remembering what I purchase during Steam sales because I seem to go into a frenzied, rabid mode where all logic and reason get left behind at the start of the sale only to be picked up again as the sale door slams shut and boots me back to reality. To be honest, I have lost count the amount of times I have gotten as giddy as a schoolboy for a game I already own of which I had no idea I already owned.
I am not what you would call an expert at this sort of stuff and quite frankly I don't aim to be so FRAPS, when introduced to me, did everything and more I could expect from software of this nature. PlayClaw 5 has made me aware that I could have been expecting a bit more - but just a bit since we are not talking Great Expectations here.
I initially had teething problems with FRAPS playing and recording on the same drive. There where some significant hits to game performance even on beefy i7 systems but that all changed when I purchased my latest gaming laptop (MSI GT70 i7-3630 with 16 RAM, 256GB SSD and 750Gb internal drive). Having FRAPS installed on the SSD and writing to the internal drive solved all my issues. I installed PlayClaw 5 in exactly the same manner. Besides - I don't want these insanely large video files clogging up my SDD which would have had a hard time anyway of keeping more than two videos of 30 mins of gameplay before running out of space.
So for the relative newcomer to game recording how does PlayClaw 5 stack up against FRAPS (its similarly priced cousin)? I have yet to try out Dxtory - which is significantly cheaper than both. PlayClaw 5 comes with a host of options not available to FRAPS users. You can select a codec (granted you can only choose between fast, MJEPG, H.264 Intel Quicksync and the Nvidia codec if you have an Nvidia card like I do) but as mentioned above to a novice user of software of this nature I am really fine with this. Where FRAPS can be quite resource intensive, PlayClaw 5 is very much lighter on the system. FRAPS also has an annoying habit of loosing frames even though you are recording at 30fps but your systems experiences a drop in fps that is still well above the threshold limit. An example would be recording a game video at 30fps with the game running at 60fps occasionally dropping to 50/55 or lower which in turn would still show up in your recordings. Not so with PlayClaw 5 as long as your game doesn't drop below the threshold set in the options menu as this will immediately drop the recording to 15fps but anything higher will not appear which I really like. PlayClaw 5 also outputs smaller video files than FRAPS although they do still sit at insane sizes (+-5GB for 7 minutes of gameplay recorded verses the +/- 7Gb video size in FRAPS for the same sequence). You will still have to use a video compression tool like Handbrake or Movie Maker for Windows to get them down to respectable file sizes if you plan on posting them anywhere. I also found it useful that you can specify in the options how much of the CPU you want to use for recording.
PlayClaw 5 also has an overlay that can show a host of options to you (set in the overlay tab of the software). I found displaying the GPU temperature and usage as well as the systems CPU core temperature and usage to the screen in a non-intrusive way to be very useful. You can also display information such as write speed to drive and file size of recording (if you want to keep track of the video sizes you are recording). It will also record your webcam (dispayed in the corner) should you set this in the overlay as well as Teamspeak, if so required. PlayClaw 5 can apparently record up to 16 different audio devices but I could not really test this one out. It seemed to record the game sounds and my microphone perfectly so I was a happy camper. You are also even given the option to record audio in a separate audio file. PlayClaw 5 also comes with a screenshot capturing tool which you can set to take snapshots at intervals you set or when you press the desired key pressing. Nothing new here and what I would have expected.
The only downside I can see if you do this professionally is that the software does not allow you to select your own codec for recording that isn't already listed but neither did FRAPS (well not to my knowledge but maybe I missed something). Comparing recording quality I would have to say that PlayClaw 5 seems to have the edge but only slightly but It's not massively noticeable anyway.
If you are looking for game recording software and don't already own FRAPS (or even if you do and still want to see what PlayClaw 5 has to offer) I can highly recommend you pick up this software. Try and catch it when it goes on a sale (I got it for $12 dollars during the Spring/Autumn sale) or better yet if you can't really wait - head on over to the developers website http://www.playclaw.com/
and purchase your Steam key there for $34 instead of the $49 its going for on the Steam Storefront.