Well I made a deal with the devil... I traded my elusive Wii for a PS3, temporarily mind you. Sorry for the stock picture but just yesterday I sent my Sony DCS-T1 in to the shop for a recall, which is great for me since my wayward brother dropped and cracked the screen...
Now just to be fair in my review of the PS3 I tried to remove all of my previous bias towards the system, but did I get it back is the question I'll be covering in this review. I will be covering several sections including: Operating System, Controller, Peripherals, Networking, Online Services, and Audio/Video.
- Operating Systems - The OS or Dashboard (dash) couldn't be more different on these two systems.
- Sony PS3 "XMB" - Sony has used the XMB on two previous devices the PSX and the PSP. The XMB interface is very basic, and not customizable, now this can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on you preferences. It is very easy to get and find whatever you are looking for, because there just isn't that much to look through. The system can be turned on/off with the controller, my big grip with the XMB is during a game if you hold the PS Button (in the middle of the controller) it gives you options to: Quit the game, turn off the controller, or turn off the PS3, that's it... Compared to the 360 Button the PS Button doesn't really do anything.
- There are nine categories to the XMB (From left to right): Users, Settings, Pictures, Music, Videos, Games, Network, and Friends. Now those categories go from left to right across the screen and then your options appear vertically, this is shown in the above pic in the Music tab and you can scroll through the albums up or down. Now, in the User tab, you make an ID that's just for the dash. I haven't seen one use for it so far, because as far as online goes you have to make a separate ID for that. Now the IDs can be the same (mine is) but if you go to register online and some else has that name then your screwed. Navigating through and changing setting was simple, but like I said there just isn't much to change other than audio and video settings. One interesting feature of the PS3 is it's built-in internet browser, this is one of the most requested features for the Xbox 360. After using the browser on the PS3 I hope Microsoft never puts a browser in the 360... I consider it unusable, it's tiny and tedious. Even with a (USB) mouse and keyboard, navigation is easier but readability is still obviously horrible. Mind you, I have an HDTV so it's not as if I'm trying to use a 15" black and white POS, so I can't image how it would be on an SDTV.
- Next is the Playstation Store. The PS Store is just like the Xbox Live Marketplace, it's where you download items to the PS3, like demo's, casual games, and PSone games. The PSone games can only be played on the PSP, strangely enough... All in all I give the XMB interface a 7.0 out of 10, it looks cool and is super easy to use but lacks customizability and features.
This is what the
PSone PS2 PSX PS3 controller ended up looking like.
- Controller - I would have to say that most people are familiar with this controller lets face it, it's been around for over a decade. The PS3 controller is much, much, lighter and packs a few extras that it's predecessors did not. Motion sensing was added to the PS3 through a six directional gyroscope in the controller. I've used this feature in a racing game (to steer the car) and a WWII flying game (to fly the plane) and I gotta tell you, it's cool. Flying the plane just by tilting the controller up/down/left/or right was really cool and worked amazingly well. In car racing the controller was just too sensitive, this could have all been fixed with a simple sensitivity setting in the menu, but alas there is not one. Another addition is the Playstation Button, which as I've mentioned above does really nothing more than turn the console on and off.
- A feature that has been the most controversial is the removal of rumble due to Sony's impending law suit. Overall I give the controller a 6, I know it's low but I've never liked the PS controller it's just to small and uncomfortable. The addition of motion is awesome but needs to be tweaks some, but the loss of rumble is a big blow and really counteracts the coolness of the motion.
- The PS Button just seems neuter in my opinion, compared to the 360 you can't do anything... I know this is really a function of the OS and not the controller but Sony needs to fix this. Upon pushing the 360 Button you get the "mini dashboard" from here you can do a countless amount of things: Check your messages, view your friends, play music, view achievements, and change a multitude of settings... On top of you know turn on and off the console.
The amazing 360 wireless headset, simple in design and setup.
This an "average" bluetooth headset, setup and quality will very.
- Peripherals - As far as peripherals go the PS3 is very limited in a sense. The only first party (made by Sony) accessories are the controller and I guess the PSP. Now, in a broader sense it supports way more that the 36o does, any USB/Bluetooth keyboard or mouse will work as well as any Bluetooth headset. The problem is for say the average Joe the process of setting up a Bluetooth headset up and running is much more taxing than on the 360.
- The 360 comes with a wired headset right out of the box that you just plug into your controller, the PS3 gives you no such option, you can't plug anything into the controller other than the charging cable. The 360 has a 360 specific wireless headset that couldn't be easier to sync up, you press the sync button on the 360 itself and then the sync button on the headset and ta-da they're paired up. On the PS3 you go to setting, devices, add a device, then you gotta look for a device, and make sure you headset is ready to be paired, then type in the pairing code. Pain.In.The.Ass. Also in my experience playing online only 2 of the 35 players in my match had mics, that tells you right there it's not working. Another thing is that Bluetooth headset are not cheap, now neither is the 360 wireless headset but 360 owners have the option to use the wired headset which is cheap.
The Playstation Store.
- Networking - Now there are a few similarities between these two online stores, first you can download game demos. On the Xbox 360 around 97% of the retail games have a free demo that you can download, some games even have more than one, a multiplayer demo and a singleplayer demo. Also 100% of the Xbox Live Arcade Games have a free demo (trial) of the games. Now from what I can tell of the Playstation Network it seems that about 40%-50% of the retail games have demos on the Network and all four of their "Arcade" games have demos.
- Other than that the PS Network has a few games trailers and a whole slue of PS1 titles that you can buy, download and then play, not on you PS3 but on your PSP... So you can download say Final Fantasy VII (for $10) to your PS3 and then transfer it to your PSP to play it. I would also like to state here that when you are downloading anything from the PS Store, you can't do anything else... You are stuck watching the download progress bar until the download finishes, which can be a long time. Now to be fair the 360 had this same problem, but Microsoft fixed it in weeks. The PS3 is going in to four months with no sign of this changing.
- The Xbox 360 on the other hand has so much content to download that it will fill up the anemic 360 hard drive in no time. First off as I stated above you can download a demo of virtually every retail and every Arcade game. In addition to demos, you can rent movies (in HD) and buy TV Shows (in HD), this is by far the easiest (and only) way to get HD content on to you HDTV. Another amazing feature is that you can stream music, pictures, and videos from a Windows XP/ Vista machine. On the subject of music, you can copy CD's to the hard drive, stream them from a PC, or even connect a MP3 player (read: iPod) and play it through the 360. Now let me clear, when you're playing said music you're not stuck staring at the song title and a progress bar (although you can if you want) you can do anything on the 360. You can go download content from the Marketplace, play an Arcade Game, play a retail game, hell I can be playing Rainbow Six: Vegas while listening to my own custom soundtrack. The music will of course pause itself if an import piece of dialog comes up that the game developer wants you to hear, but other than that the music is seamless.
- The only spot that the PS3 has the edge in this category is payment methods. Microsoft has implemented a very confusing "Points" system, where 79 points is equal to $1. Now this is a pain in the ass when it comes to something like say a TV Show (HD) that is 240 points ($3)... Xbox Live Arcade Games normally fall in two prices: 400 points ($5) and 800 ($10), so they are fairly easy to calculate but come on Microsoft just call a Spade a Spaded... I don't want to have to go to a website to due a currency exchange to see how much money I'm spending. On top of that you can't just say buy just 400 points, the least you can buy is 500 points ($6.25). This method just sucks because you always have to little or to many (I wish) points, it never ends up even. This is where the PS3 has the edge they (Sony) uses "real" money to due their transactions, you put a credit card on file and you buy items a la carte. I give the PS Network a 5 out of 10 for it's simplicity of use but I docked it tons of points for it's severe lack of demos and content available, but most of all it lost points for being locking into the download screen... What a miserable way to tie up the console.
- Online Services - Now here the two systems are vastly different. The Playstation Network is free and Xbox Live has two services silver (free) and gold ($50/year), let's see what Live gives you. The only thing the Gold membership gives you over the Silver is online multiplayer, that's really what you pay the $50 dollars for. So with either account you can: download demos, movies, TV Shows, trailers, game tip videos, and Arcade Games. You also get a unified friends list that is static throughout every game you play. In the picture about you can even see what games your friends are playing, and even more than that if you select one of your friends you can see what they are doing in the game. Playing on level 2 on easy, or maybe playing a multiplayer game, it will tell you what level and game type they are playing on. You can invite friends to play with or even ask to play with a friend, you can start a private a chat with a friend whether your playing in the same game, or even watching a movie. And with the Xbox Live Camera you can even do a video chat with a friend and even if they don't have the camera they still get video of the person who does.
- Xbox Live has a rating system so you can rate people that you play with, if you like them you need not say anything, if you don't you simply state why you didn't like playing with them and you will never see that person again. Your rating of said person will effect their overall ranking, each person is allotted a rank of 0 - 5 stars, what you say or don't say moves them up or down in rank. This is important because the Live community polices itself. Someone with a 5 star rank will never play with someone with a 2 star rank. So all the cheater, grievers, and annoying little kids all get to play with themselves, and friendly, considerate players get to play with like minded player.
- The PS3's online service on the other hand is a joke. As I've said above no one even has a mic, so even if the PS3 offered some type of Private Chat you'd have a hard time finding someone to talk to. But it is free, and you know you always get what you pay for... But to Sony's credit I did play several lag free 25+ player games of Resistance (with my headsetless teammates) so the servers seems stable enough. Overall I give Sony's online service a 4 out of 10, without a unified friends list and a unified way to leave messages, join a friends game, and rate other players it doesn't hold a candle to Xbox Live. To think they had so much time to at least copy Live, but come to the table with this, it's crazy...
The Xbox 360 and the HD DVD addon.
- Audio/Video - A/V wise the 360 and PS3 are on par with each other. They both play games in 1080p (but the 360 doesn't downscale games and movies...) as well as movies. Also they play movies and games in Dolby Surround, the Xbox goes up to 5.1 while the PS3 goes up to 7.1, I believe. Blu-Ray is included in every PS3 but HD DVD will cost you $200 extra dollars, so this puts the Xbox and PS3 right at the same price point. So is it worth it? I have the HD DVD drive and I do feel that HD movies are a step above DVD's but not near the up in quality that DVD was over VHS. My advice would be to wait on any kind of HD movie player, in quality vs price it's just not worth it yet. There is no difference between Blu-Ray and HD DVD quality, neither one is superior and it's a shame that the two consortiums couldn't have agreed on one format and not splitting the "HD Era" in two. I honestly hope that one of them fails and soon, the good part about owning the 360 is that they could have a Blu-Ray addon if Blu-Ray does indeed "win". Now with the PS3 you're stuck with Blu-Ray either way, now I guess they could make a HD DVD addon but what a mess that would be...
- Community - This might just be the most important category I'll talked about. Xbox Live is amazing and no one is claiming that Sony has anything close to it, and they've got their work cut out for them. But the 360 community is so much more that just your friends list, Larry Hryb "Major Nelson" is the communication director for Xbox Live and on his blog is one of the best resources for 360 news and updates. He also does a weekly pod/blog/netcast every week on his own time and money to tell the community about the latest 360 news. Also, on the show each week he usually has one or more interviews with others inside the Microsoft team or developers and other industry insiders. He is a huge resource for the community, he answers emails, tells listeners what going on behind the scenes, helps find answers to problems with games or the console, and just keeps us up to date with the happening at Microsoft regarding the Xbox 360. Sony definitely needs a Major Nelson to talk to the community to show that they really care about their product and their customers needs and that they (Sony) value there (gamers) input.
- Conclusion - Now being that I am obviously a 360 fanboy I'm sure that everyone assumed that my view of the PS3 was going to be a negative one, as this article appeared to be. But in my defense the PS3 has a huge potential and most of the negative things about the PS3 could all be fixed with software updates to the system: background downloading, a unified friends list, and personalization features. Some redeeming qualities about the PS3 are the fact that the HDD can be swapped for any drive you want, so in my opinion the $600 PS3 is a rip-off, the only bonus you get with that is the WiFi, but I would never want my gaming to be over WiFi unless it was absolutely necessary.
- Also the new motion control could be the next big thing, playing Blazing Angles and Motostorm by just tilting the controller was really cool and I'd love to see this come to the 360.
- Also the Blu-Ray function in the PS3 allows for much more data storage than the 360's standard DVD format and I worry one day this might become an issue, not that I care that if one day 360 games are on multiple discs but it is nice to have just one disc. Hell, I remember play games such as Final Fantasy VII and that was on three discs and everybody thought it was cool back then, like it must be such a great game because it takes up so many disc's. The only bad thing about Blu-Ray for gaming is that the read speed (2x) is much worse than DVD (12x) and makes load times in games much, much longer.
- At any rate with some really good exclusive games (Metal Gear and Final Fantasy just don't do it for me anymore), a lot of work in the online department, and some improvements in the XMB and maybe network features like streaming music from your computer the PS3 could become a formidable foe for the 360. But for my money, the Wii60 is the best deal around.