PS3 love story

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Fell in love with a toy

Sony’s PlayStation 3 is here. Peter Kelly gets first dibs on Tone’s latest toy

After a good few years of buildup and hype, the last contender in the next generation battle royale is about to jump over the ropes and prove itself.
Like any good wrestling match the drama is intense. Sony’s PlayStation 3 has been sitting on the sidelines, occasionally walking up and down the aisle to make mean faces and flex its raw processing power, while Microsoft’s stellar Xbox 360 and Nintendo’s cutesy Wii slug it out on the canvas to the appreciation of fanboys worldwide. A quick browse on the internet will soon reveal just how seriously people take these things in what is surely the dawning of a golden age of consoles. In literally thousands upon thousands of heated discussions across the globe, Kiwi gamers no longer need to argue in future tense, but in the present. The sculpted, somewhat imposing black box has finally donned its lycra short-shorts and applied the baby oil.

Love you...

True Blu

Here at Tone we were chomping at the bit to get in a good bit of thumb time on the PS3, or more appropriately, its new ‘Sixaxis’ controller. Turning the unit on, it becomes fairly obviously that Sony has put a fair amount of time into the console’s aesthetics. The PS3 is far more attractive than its competitors: sleek, black and devoid of conventional buttons, favouring touch pads instead. Impressively the unit runs very quietly; much time was spent discussing whether the test machine was actually on or not as we tried to get the right channel on the TV. As you would expect, Sony wanted to give testers the full PS3 experience, providing a Bravia screen, which is full HD and capable of a 1080p resolution. When everything is attached via an HDMI cable 1080p gives a very clear and precise display, but those who don’t have the best of the best will be limited to a far less impressive 480i.

Once the machine has powered up, an interface nearly identical to that of the PSP greets the user. And just like the PSP, it is a good little system. Intriguingly a PSP will wirelessly connect with your new console, giving you full access to both drives and features. On the downside, with all the extra things you can do with a PS3, the interface tends to look a little cluttered and confusing.

This UI will rip music to the hard drive for playback in a nice little player application, surf the internet or Sony Store, and allow the transfer of files from any USB-equipped device or from a host of different memory card formats. Most importantly the system will also play Sony’s much-lauded Blu-ray format movies, which, it must be said, look incredible when compared directly to DVDs.

In terms of onboard storage, the new PlayStation uses a conventional PC-style SATA hard drive, so although it comes with a 60GB unit out of the box, users are able to replace that with a much bigger aftermarket drive if necessary.

The same. Only different.

Picking up the new, wireless ‘Sixaxis’ controller, it becomes very apparent that Sony subscribes to the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ school of thought. Aesthetically and ergonomically, the controller is nearly identical to that of the PS2, bar the L2 and R2 buttons, which have mutated into triggers, a la Xbox. Internally however, the new controller is very different, lacking the rumble feature of its predecessors. Furthermore, there has been the addition of the Sixaxis system. The Sixaxis captures motion and tilt, adding a new dimension to games. But is it a usable dimension or just a gimmick that developers will ignore? In theory it is usable, but in practice, not yet. While playing Sixaxis-enabled release titles like the very entertaining Motorstorm, the feature was promptly turned off after a few minutes of wildly waving the controller around the room. It has potential but it’s yet to be properly harnessed and you can’t help but feel that Sony has merely made a half-arsed attempt to emulate the groundbreaking Wii controller.

As for gaming itself, first impressions were very good. Titles such as Resistance: Fall of Man, Formula 1 2007 and Motoform all had us engrossed within minutes, and we were soon screaming and yelling at one another. Graphically users should expect an experience very similar to that of an Xbox 360, with ultra-crisp, clear visuals and very impressive detail from the RSX GPU. Load times are a little on the slow side, but nothing that will have people throwing their lunch at the screen, while the controllers are solid, lightweight and reliable. Finally catching up with the rest of the world, Sony has put some serious effort into online multiplayer gaming. Unlike Xbox Live’s Gold membership, there is no subscription fee, and with the inclusion of an online Sony Store, you can download game demos, old PS1 titles, movies and more. Browsing the store seemed quite cumbersome, although that may have had a lot to do with the fact that the Australasian site was not yet up and running at the time of our test, forcing the use of a US-based server.

To the victor belong the spoils?

Is the extra money worth it? Quite possibly, depending on a few variables. What are you are looking for in a console? Do you need a home entertainment system or a bare bones gaming machine? Will Blu-ray avoid the fate of Beta-Max and survive as a popular format? After looking at a DVD / BD comparison, one would certainly hope so. The next gen battle royale looks set to continue into the next few years with little respite. The Wii has the fun factor and the economy, the Xbox 360 is already established and has a loyal fanbase, while the PS3 is a far more versatile machine with more processing power than God. Whichever console wins the bout, we now have a more complete picture of the direction of home entertainment.

* Courtesy of Tone magazine – bringing technology to life

 
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  • Grey Fox says
    was it meant to be PS3 for nerds and hardcores, and 360 for having fun only guys?

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