Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Holiday buying guide: PlayStation 3

Holiday buying guide: PlayStation 3

This is the second of atypicalgamer’s weekly buying guides; the first was for the Wii. Future posts will cover the Xbox 360, DS and PSP. Note that while I’ve tried to be objective, these posts ultimately represent my own personal opinions. Links take you to Amazon.co.uk, although it’s worth pricing against other online retailers such as HMV.com and Play.com.

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The PlayStation 3 is aimed at sophisticated gamers and movie-watchers; it couldn’t look any more different from the Wii. This successor to Sony’s industry-changing PlayStation and PlayStation 2 was announced with no little fanfare in 2005, but ultimately limped into the market in November 2006 (March 2007 in Europe), long after the Xbox 360 had cornered the “next-generation” market. At first, its only vocal fans were film buffs delighted with the PS3’s Blu-ray disc-playing function; but since then its reputation has been creeping upwards, with help from significant price cuts. But Sony plays the long game and is, albeit slowly, delivering all the features that were promised in 2005, making the PS3 genuinely a multimedia, Internet-connected giant in the living room.

It’s a product of its forebears in terms of design, especially its controllers, which have not strayed far from the iconic, user-friendly PlayStation design. They’ve recently got force feedback (look for the DualShock 3 rather than the Sixaxis), and contain motion-sensors, although these are rarely central to the gameplay as they are for the Wii.

Should you buy it?

This glossy black creature begs to be shown off, its elegance extending from the on-off button to the startup sound and the menu screens (rather less prosaically called the XMB or cross-media bar). It doesn’t look kid-friendly in the slightest, although there are plenty of family games to download. However, the PS2, nine years on, has many times more games available and remains ridiculously popular and good value. You can download some older games originally designed for the PS as well as newer, simpler (and cheaper games) than you can buy in the Blu-ray disc format. The PS3 also offers online gaming and has all the functions you’d expect to go with it, including messaging and voice chat.

Several versions of the console have been produced, but at present there’s just an older 40Gigabyte version (that’s the hard disc size) and the newer, standard 80G version. You’ll need this hard drive not just for downloading game content, storing photos, digital music files or movies, but because games frequently partly install there to facilitate quicker loading.

Summary of pros and cons

+ Games look fantastic in high definition

+ Newest, highest-spec games come out on PS3

+ Watching Blu-ray discs and DVDs, accompanied by Dolby Digital sound

+ Wireless controllers are recharged simply by plugging in to the console

+ Standard USB sockets allow you to attach separate hard drives and other peripherals

+ Built-in WiFi makes it simple to download system updates, demos and the like. You can also use the console for web browsing, which should become easier once a keyboard is released

+ PlayStation Store is a treasure trove of downloadable content, including entire previously disc-based games

+ Store and access photos, videos, music

+ Relatively future-proof

- Limited backward compatibility with PS2 and PS games included in early versions of the console; any PS3 bought in the past year doesn’t offer this

- Not as many games available as for the Xbox 360, let alone the PS2. But these days nearly all major titles come out on all consoles

- Games are often slightly more expensive than those for other consoles

Ten games to buy

1. Little Big Planet

2. Grand Theft Auto IV

3. Bioshock

4. Dead Space

5. Uncharted: Drakes Fortune

6. Race Driver: GRID

7. Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction

8. FIFA 09

9. SingStar

10. Sid Meier's Civilization: Revolution

Other stuff to consider

At least one extra controller

If you’re planning to move stuff between the PS3 and your computer, or back up what youv’e downloaded, you’ll want a portable hard drive

HDMI cable if you have an HD television

A Blu-ray remote control can be handy for watching lots of films, though the game controller is adequate.

In the UK, the PlayTV add-on allows you to watch and record Freeview digital TV through your PS3.


© Kate Berens, 2008

4 comments:

KateB said...

Testing - apparently some people have been unable to leave comments.

Anonymous said...

I love the PS3 - it looks cool, cooler than the PS2 did, games look great in HD and it's an affordable way to watch BluRay movies.
I'm looking forward to playing Dead Space - seems very atmospheric.

KateB said...

Me too. There's way too little time and too many great games at the moment.

Trunchfiddle said...

I'm looking forward to GoW3!

In the meantime, I'd like to figure out how to move media between my computer and the ps3 wirelessly. They're all on the same network. What's the deal, Sony?