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The PlayStation 3 is Sonys third generation of home consoles. After the stellar performance of the PlayStation 2 and launch of its two rivals the Wii and Xbox 360 the PS3 has a tough act to follow. Sony are clearly not worried as according to their marketing the PS3 is a “supercomputer” and is capable of “4D” graphics, with such bold claims I had to pick one up for myself and see if it was true!
The first thing you will notice about the PlayStation 3 box is that it’s huge! The Xbox 360 had a rather large box but this is incredible being about 1.5x as big. The box design itself is worth a mention as it is pretty neat and the front has a picture of the console floating with the wireless sixaxis controller on a black and red background. On the bottom left hand side you will see the model you have purchased which will be either 40GB or 60GB (if you purchased an older console) the bottom right advertises the built in Blu-ray disc player. To help you carry it home it has a handy carry handle which unfortunately isn’t very comfortable, it doesn’t help that the box weighs 6.5KG and once I had brought the thing home my hand was aching!
Once you have the box open you will notice the two carboard tabs instructing you on how to get your system out. There are two main segments, one smaller segment contains the Sixaxis wireless controller, AV cable, USB cable, and Scart adaptor. The second much larger segment contains the PS3 console itself, this is wrapped carefully in polythene to protect the console finish. There is also a (sizeable) instruction manual buried at the bottom of the box but I was far too excited to bother with reading it!
Wow! That was my reaction when I first unwrapped my PS3, it is almost a work of art! The console is modelled after the old model PS2 but is much more curvy and made with the shiny black plastic of the PSP. PlayStation 3 is written on the front of the machine in spiderman font (I have no idea why they chose this but it seems to work). Also noticeable is a stylish silver band that runs down the disk tray and along the console. Like the PS2, the console can be positioned vertically and horizontally and the PlayStation badge on the disk tray is adjustable matching whichever position you choose. I decided on horizontally as I didn’t want to risk it falling over. Glancing at the Sixaxis not much seems to have changed from the PlayStation 2 Dualshock 2 controller but after further inspection you will notice a PlayStation button in the middle of the controller and there are some triggers replacing the L2 and R2 buttons.
I was going to do a set up section but honestly if you have hooked up anything to your TV you will have no trouble. The first thing you will notice when you turn on your PS3 is the new interface the XMB or cross media bar, this will be familiar to those of you who have used a PSP or one of Sonys high end Bravia TVs. It is very simple and you simply scroll from left to right till you have found the tab you want then up and down to pick the feature you want to access. The tabs on the XMB include, Users, Settings, Photo, Music, Video, Game, Network, PlayStation network and Friends.
The user tab is self explanatory; here you can create new user accounts for your PlayStation3. Your user account stores all your personal preferences and saved game data so multiple users can enjoy PS3 games at their own pace. If you are logged in you can easily switch user by accesing the user tab and selecting your username.
The Settings tab is where you set up all your preferences, for example if you have bought a HDMI cable for your PS3 you can go here and tell the PS3 you are using HDMI and then you can choose what resolution you like upto 1080p. Sound can be set up here as well as configuring access to a wireless network and many other things such as the language of Blu Ray movies and controlling the upscaling of DVDs and original PlayStation games.
The Photo, Music and Video tabs all feature some of the same things. In the photo tab however there is one unique thing which is the slideshow. The PS3 will render your pictures in 3D and have them flip out in a stylish manner which is perfect for showing off your photos. If you insert an audio CD or Blu Ray movie they will show up under the relevant tabs. If you have a media centre PC and configured it there is an option to search for media servers where your PS3 will display all compatible media. The last function is a handy playlist where you can save a list of all your favourite music and photos for easy access.
The Game tab is where you will go to access your games (well duh!) and manage your game data. Blu Ray games and downloaded demos will show up here with a handy preview often featuring music and images from the game you have chosen (this is similar to the PSP). Downloaded content is also removable from this tab if you no longer want it and need space on your hard drive. An option to create a virtual memory card on your hard drive for PS1 and PS2 games is present thoug the PS2 option is redundant on the 40GB PlayStation 3 as it is not compatible with PS2 software.
The Network tab features an Internet browser, much like the one on PSP although the PS3 is compatible with a USB keyboard and mouse so browsing on the PS3 is quite easy to do though if you don’t have a keyboard and mouse you can use the Sixaxis controller using this you will find inputting website names can be annoying. The browser does feature bookmarks so you can easily set up links to your favourite sites. There is an Information board which you can turn on, this displays a news bar on the top right corner of your screen, if something catches your eye you can go to the network tab and view the story in a fullscreen browser window. Next you have the Remote Play function where you can configure access to your PS3 for your PSP, the only thing not accessible through remote play is games as the PSP doesn’t have enough buttons, this is very neat as it can be configured to work over the internet so you potentially have access to all your media from any internet connection.The last feature is Folding at Home, this is project set up by Stanford University with the goal of curing cancer by folding proteins, this is optional and is not preloaded on the PS3. If you want to use folding at home it is a quick 50MB download.
The PlayStation network tab is where you go when you want to set up your PS3 for online gaming. After a short registration, where you choose your online name, avatar and put in your details, you are ready to go. After you have done this you will be able to access an account management feature where you can change your details if you have put in any incorrectly, and modify your avatar. The PlayStation store is also here and is where you will download, demos, trailers, themes and even full games for your PS3. However you want to buy full games you will have to enter your credit card information.
The last tab is the Friends tab, here you can manage your friends list. You can add friends, set up a block list, view players you have met online, start an online chat with friends, view your message box and of course view your friends online status. You have a variety of ways of communicating, the voice chat function is great and you can have multi user chats which also have an option for you to share photos, there is also a crazy pitch changer built in and you can make your voice sound very deep or very high. If you prefer to text you can send text messages, like a mobile phone PS3 has predictive text built in which is handy for quickly writing messages.
Other things worthy of a mention are the Sixaxis controller, it is now wireless, is very light and has a built in motion sensor. This is utilised in most PS3 games with varying degrees of success. It is also rechargeable with the included USB cable. As an Xbox 360 owner I am used to the sound of a small power plant in my room when I use it, I was very pleased to discover that the PS3 is practically silent even when playing games which is very nice. The Blu Ray drive is also a great thing to have as now I can watch HD movies and will not have to go out and buy a separate Blu Ray player which can cost upto £500. What Blu Ray means for games is that they can be packed full with more content as there is much more space on a Blu Ray disk compared to a standard DVD.
Games are what make a games console so even with all these features without great games a console will fail. The PlayStation3 is slowly building up a library of quality games in each genre. PS3 now has a pretty solid line up of titles including, Ratchet and Clank: Tools of destruction which is a great explosive new game in the series featuring some of the most fun platforming yet, Heavenly Sword a solid action title featuring insanely detailed characters and animation, Warhawk a 32 player battlefield style online shooter, Motorstorm a dirty racing game , Uncharted: Drakes Fortune, a tomb raider style adventure with some Gears of War style gunplay, Resistance fall of Man, a great FPS featuring a great single player campaign as well as a solid online mode. These are exclusive titles and the PS3 has many other great multiplatform games. PSN downloadable games are also good featuring easy to pick up and play titles such as Calling all Cars and Super Stardust HD. With the promise of more great exclusive titles such as the likes of Star Ocean 4, Killzone 2, PlayStation Home, Little Big Planet, Gran Turismo 5, Final Fantasy XIII and Metal Gear Solid 4 coming soon the PS3s future is looking bright!
The PS3 is by no means perfect and has some pretty annoying issues. When you download a game demo or full game from the store or even play a retail game, you have to wait another 10 minutes or so for it to be installed, I presume this loads certain data to the hard drive to improve loading times and such but it is annoying nonetheless. For those of you with 1080i HDTVs the PS3 doesn’t feature a proper scalar and will downgrade the picture quality down to standard definition, this is a real disappointment and requires the purchase of a new TV. Another annoyance is the lack of any way of displaying your PS3 in HD out of the box, being touted by Sony as the only “true” HD console this is really disappointing and requires you to go out and spend an extra £20 on a HDMI or component cable. Furthermore the Sixaxis wireless controller has no rumble, which you really miss especially in driving games and shooters, due to Sonys lawsuit with Immersion, thankfully this has been resolved and we’ve been promised a DualShock 3 but that means even more money but if you haven’t got a second controller yet it may be wise to hold off. The last thing is the lack of backwards compatibility, this was originally in the 60GB model but to cut costs, (for them) they took it out of the 40GB model. For newcomers to PlayStation this is not a problem but for people like me who have bought over 50 PS2 games this is extremely irritating as it means I have to keep my old PS2 around.
The 40GB PlayStation 3 costs £300 solo but there are many bundles offering you games and extra controllers for just a little more. I bought a PS3 with Ratchet and Clank and Warhawk for £330 from Game. If you have an HDTV remember to pick up the required cable so you can see PS3 at its best. There are a wide range of accessories available from BluRay remotes to PS2 controller adaptors ranging from £10-30. Compared to its main rival the Xbox 360, the PS3 is slightly (£50 more than the Xbox premium package) more expensive but it has many more features as standard so in my opinion it’s worth the extra cost.
Some good deals are available however at computing-pc.com.
If you’re looking for a stylish modern games console and enjoy the odd movie now and then, the PS3 will suit your needs perfectly. If you’re just a gamer who already owns an Xbox 360, it may be wise move to hold off a little longer until some of the big titles are out along with a controller with rumble! 4/5
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