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Mobile World Congress hasn't even officially started yet, but already the phones are a-flowin' -- the Sony Ericsson Xperia Play is set to be one of the highlights of the show, and we've gone hands-on with Sony's first stab at making a proper gaming mobile. Click through the photos above to ogle it for yourself.

The Xperia Play's headline feature is a slide-out tray of game controls that will be familiar to anyone who's used a PlayStation controller. You'll get a four-way directional pad on the left, while the iconic PlayStation buttons reside over on the right of the slide-out segment. There are two shoulder buttons behind the handset where your index fingers sit, and two touchpads between the physical buttons for your thumbs.

We've given the Xperia Play the full-on preview treatment already, and we reckon those slide-out controls could make for some rollicking gaming kicks. The buttons feel responsive and the handset as a whole feels well-put-together, and not plasticky.

That said, our major reservation is that the slide-out section makes the Play quite bulky -- if you're looking for the slimmest of the slim, this may not be the smart phone for you. Still, the Play feels quite light, and it's not too rotund -- it'll still fit nicely into your pockets.

The Play is the first phone from Sony Ericsson that has 'PlayStation certification', which means it'll have access to the PlayStation Suite, an online games store for Android. From this you'll be able to download classic PlayStation titles to the Play.

The Play is running Android version 2.3, which at the time of writing is the latest (non-tablet) version of Google's mobile OS. That means you'll be able to play Flash video in the phone's browser, which is helpful, and there's a 5-megapixel camera round the back.

All things considered, the Play is looking promising. Ogle those snaps above, then check out our full in-depth preview.

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