The PS3, a Month Later
Hard and Soft
The PS3’s hardware is unassailable, both in terms of included features (WiFi, Bluetooth, swappable HD, Blu-Ray), and in terms of build quality, at least compared to the unfortunate Xbox 360.
The OS software is where things get interesting. The overall interface (the Xross Media Bar or XMB – is X pronounced ‘k’ now?) is clean and minimalist, although it scales poorly. That’s evident in the interminable settings tab, and also if you have a lot of games or videos, as it always gives you a flat list – is it incapable of hierarchy?
The PS3 has many capabilities, many of which I fear I will never use. You can see that this thing is an actual computer (which was a promise about the PS2 that was never really true). It’s got a decent web browser and lots of features – heck, it connected to my printer and I’m sure it would print up photos if I let it. I understand the media centre capabilities of this thing are quite decent – format support is fairly broad (although not broad enough for my tastes). Unfortunately, I already have computers that do these things much better. Sorry, PS3.
The Playstation store feels like an actual store and less like a creeping huckster contagion that infects everything – the Xbox 360’s approach.
However, the download / install procedure is a baffling ordeal. On the 360 this just works. The PS3 seems to like to install, moreso than it likes to let you play games. Every time you download something, it needs to install afterwards, but it doesn’t do this itself. It waits until you want the thing, and then tells you it’s “Installing…” My worst experience of this was with Burnout Paradise, a 2 or 3 gig download, then an install, then – outrageously – a sequence of five(!) software updates that had to be downloaded and installed, which completely occupied the PS3 for a good hour. Why the fuck couldn’t those have been applied to the file on the server?
So far, I don’t know too many people with PS3s, so I haven’t tested many of the online services like friends lists and chat and all that – an area of weakness compared to the 360, as I understand. Well, at least you don’t have to pay for it.
I bought a few games, both through the online store and on Blu-Ray.
There is a refreshing amount of experimentation going on in the available downloadable games like FlOw, FlOwer, the PixelJunk games, Noby Noby Boy, Everyday Shooter. Home is also a noble idea. It’s not one that works in practise at present: what the hell am I supposed to do in there?
The PixelJunk games are fantastic, or at least Eden and Monsters are. I’m in love with Eden. It’s minimalist, beautiful, addicting, and can be played in 10 minute bursts. Monsters seems like it got too hard too fast, but still ranks with the best tower defence games I’ve played. I wished there was more to Noby Noby Boy. And yes, Burnout Paradise at $20 is a truckload of awesome.
On disc I’ve mostly played Uncharted and Metal Gear Solid IV. They are spectacular, really – great examples of current generation A-list games, with engrossing stories that imbue the gameplay with significance. MGS certainly has its quirks. But I’m willing to view them as a strength, as I was a huge fan of Kojima’s auteurism in the past MGS games (although I’ll admit to gradually tiring of the stealth gameplay). I also picked up Valkyria Chronicles and Ratchet and Clank Future, but haven’t spent much time with them. A man only needs so many games at once. If I became suddenly unemployed or they added an extra couple days to the weekend, I’d be trying Killzone and Little Big Planet for sure.
More recently I’ve become quite taken with Demon’s Souls (more on that in a separate post), but that may get punched in the face by Nathan Drake shortly.
A post like this seems like it needs a section about Blu-Ray, but I confess to not being the enthusiast I thought I was. Well, I guess I just spent a week watching three films a day in theatres, so give me a break. I did rent a flick and it looked amazing; it’s definitely the best quality home HD option, far better than either Rogers HD feeds (which generally suck, with visible macro blocking and poor lowlights) or HD rentals on Xbox / iTunes, or even downloaded .mkv files. Then again, I’m having a hard time making myself buy Blu-Ray discs. It just feels like it’s not worth the money. When DVDs were new and fresh, I bought a whole bunch of them. Now I have shelves full of the things, and I can count on one hand the ones I’ve watched multiple times, so the bulk of them weren’t worth the money. And it’s clear that my film collection of the future will all be on some 500 terabyte hard drive. So I’m hesitant to go through the whole thing again, at least until prices drop. I can see myself renting the things fairly frequently, though.
Summing the Hell Up
The PS3 slim is a nice piece of work. It used to be that the PS3 was the $700 console with a crappy games lineup. Now, the console is $300. Sony’s game library is strong, and and we still haven’t seen the old Sony standbys like God of War, Gran Turismo and Final Fantasy. Blu-Ray is the only remaining HD disc format, and the PS3 the only console that offers it. Sony even outsold the Wii in September.
Times have changed.