May 11, 2006
PlayStation 3 Hands On
It came as no surprise that the main focus of the huge Sony stand was PlayStation 3 – the entire central portion of the stand was given over to PS3, but PSP was also given a huge area. With an official price of almost $600, Sony needed to make it perfectly clear that its next gen console would be worth the asking price. Of course you can pay less for a PS3, but for your $499 you only get a 20GB hard disk instead of a 60GB one and HDMI is off the menu.
But it’s not just the hard disk and digital output that get cut on the cheaper PS3. The 60GB version also has a MemoryStick slot (something that the PS2 should have had), but if you’re not a fan of Sony’s memory card format, this PS3 will also accept CompactFlash and SD cards. But the most compelling reason to go for the 60GB unit is that it has integrated WiFi – this is something that the Xbox 360 should have had, but I guess MS wanted to sell those USB WiFi adapters. Of course using a USB adapter or a wireless bridge works, but integrated WiFi is a far more elegant solution.
This was the first time that I’d seen the PS3 up close and it was a lot larger than I had expected. There were silver and black consoles on display, although considering that both iterations of the PS2 were black, I think I prefer the look of the silver one. Also on show was the “new” PS3 controller. Gone is the boomerang shaped unit that debuted with the console last year and in its place is, well, the same old PlayStation controller. OK, to be fair it’s not the same old controller – these ones are wireless and will charge via a mini-USB socket on the front of the controller. The controller should be able to last for around 24 hours on a single charge. There will also be a motion sensor implemented into the controllers to allow basic tilting controls much like the Wii, although the controllers on show didn’t have this feature.
Although the PS3 controller may look almost identical to the older versions, once you grab hold of it and start playing a game you realise that Sony has made some major improvements. Most evident is the sensitivity of the analogue sticks – whereas the analogue sticks on the PS2 controllers felt very clumsy, these ones allow far more subtle movements. The trigger buttons also have a far more tactile feel to them and actually feel more like triggers than before.
There’s no doubt that it was Gran Turismo stealing the show, and it did look very good, especially considering that it’s still in a very early build stage. Sony stated that Gran Turismo was running at 1080p, but it wasn’t clear whether the console was actually outputting a 1080p signal or whether the TV was simply de-interlacing a 1080i signal into a 1080p image. Either way the effect was impressive and the frame rate seemed pretty smooth.
There are surely loads of Gran Turismo addicts out there who can’t wait for this new version to break cover on the PS3, but having played this early version I can’t say that I’ve started counting the days until the PS3 launches because of it.
Also on show was Virtua Tennis 3 which looked beautiful, although it didn’t feel like the gameplay had moved on too much from previous versions. To be fair though, this game isn’t due out for another year so Sega has plenty of time to polish it up. But much as I like Virtua Tennis, the PS3 version doesn’t look any better than the Xbox 360 version, so again there’s little incentive to go down the PS3 route. But this is nothing new, most big games come out on both the PS2 and Xbox, so we can expect the same thing to happen with the PS3 and X360.
Virtua Tennis 3 on the PS3.
Virtua Tennis 3 on the Xbox 360.
Sega was also showing Virtua Fighter 5 on the PS3. I’ve always been a big fan of the Virtua Fighter series – while Tekken has a “thrash the buttons” arcade feel to it, and DOA is, let’s face it, all about the babes, Virtua Fighter has a kind of integrity to it. Sega invented the 3D beat-em-up and has evolved it with each iteration, concentrating on strategy, fluid movement and stunning visuals. After playing a few rounds of VF5 today I’d say that Sega is definitely making the most of the PS3 with this one.
Of course Sony has announced a few titles that I am very excited about. Metal Gear Solid 4 should be great, and knowing Konami’s history with the MGS series, you can expect it to take full advantage of this new hardware. Also, after playing Resident Evil 4 on the GameCube last year, I can’t wait to get hold of RE5, although again this one is due for release on both PS3 and X360. Fans of Dante will also be very keen to get their paws on Devil May Cry 4, which should show off the PS3 to good effect. But sadly the launch line up for the PS3 still hasn’t been confirmed, so it’s hard to tell what games you’ll be able to play after you’ve parted with your hard earned cash in November.
So, I finally got my hands on some PS3 hardware, but I wasn’t overwhelmed by any stretch of the imagination. It’s not to say that the games on the PS3 look bad, but they don’t seem to be any better than what we’re seeing on the Xbox 360 now. After having spent the morning with Nintendo’s Wii, Sony’s PS3 doesn’t seem to be breaking any new ground – yes there are some great visuals on show, but nothing took my breath away like Zelda did.
Sony is, unfortunately a victim of its own success. The original PlayStation was such a massive hit that the PS2 had a tough time living up to that legacy at first, and back then it only had the Sega Dreamcast to compete against. This time around the PS3 will be competing with the Xbox 360, which will be running second generation games by November, while also battling the Nintendo Wii with its innovative control system and far lower price point.
Ultimately though, I’ve no doubt that the PlayStation 3 will be a huge success because there is such a massive loyal PlayStation fan base out there – these people are probably outright refusing to buy an X360 and waiting patiently for the PS3 to hit the streets. Even with such a high price point you can expect to see a buying frenzy in November, even if there aren’t too many great games at launch.