The Tech Report (“Beat Down” style)
Okay, since Christmas last year, the techie world has been all abuzz about three gaming systems, The Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and Nintendo Wii. The question eveybody is asking is who is going to win this collision of software mega-maniacs. I’m here to give my humble opinions as someone who sells them and has tinkered with all three.
The Playstation 3
I’ll admit, I’m gradually warming up to the Playstation 3. Recently, we had our Sony rep come into the store (The big red one, if you know what I mean), and he started talking about all things Sony. Now, I didn’t believe most of what he said (for instance, there is no way on God’s green earth that Sony is actually going to produce 144 NEW titles for the Playstation 2 by end of year 2007), but there was some stuff that did strike a chord. First off, nothing has helped domestic sales of the Playstation 2 like the release of the Playstation 3. For some reason, when the “next gen” system broke, everybody wanted a piece of the PS2. Now, if you are contemplating upgrading you Sega Genesis or Super Nintendo, the PS2 is a safe way to go. Compared to the PS3 it is relatively affordable (coming in at a modest $129.99) and according to our Sony guy will be in production for the next 2-5 years at least. Secondly, the PS3 had the same problem the 360 had when it was first released, nobody knew how to make a fantastic game for it. The Playstation has one or two good titles out right now, but the upcoming slate of games looks impressive. The problem that the PS3 and the 360 shared was the game manufacturers were making games for systems that they had only seen on paper. When Call of Duty 2: The Big Red 1 came out on the 360, Activision was so psyched about the HD graphics that they overdid the color pallette and ended up making everything look like a very well-drawn Warner Brothers cartoon. The sky, for example, was a nice shade of “Road Runner vs. Wiley Coyote” blue, while the ground was “hamburger bun” brown. The same is true for the PS3. When NBA ’07 was put out for the PS3, they were so happy with the new “sweat generator” for the players, that Shaq looks like a big white blur going down the court in the fourth quarter (which is probably the only time that can be said for him). Not all games for the PS3 have this malady, however. Sony Computer Entertainment America (Sony’s American arm) knew exactly what limits and capabilities their system would have, and they pushed all of them quite well with MotorStorm. One thing to be said for Sony’s racing games however, it is always more fun to crash than it is to win… this is all the more true with the enhanced carnage the HD processor provides. Basically, the PS3 is an impressive system, but give it another couple months to get some really amazing games before dropping $600 on one.
Final analysis: Price, $500-$600 (ouch). Best Games out Now: MotorStorm; Virtua Fighter 5; Resistance, Fall of Man; Ninja Gaiden, Sigma. (Note to readers, Rainbow Six was excluded because it is too shiny, not enough real gameplay… you want to see slots? Go to Vegas. Madden was excluded because of its Franchise status will get gamers no matter how quality the game is… even though the new Hit Stick is a barrel of fun) Most Impressive Upcoming Games: Lair; Heavenly Sword; Warhawk
“Word” to Microsoft, give yourself more time to work out the bugs before releasing a system! Right now, Microsoft is pushing a new system out the door every two years. That doesn’t seem to be washing with the QA guys in the shipping department. Let me put it this way, there is a reason the new system has a three year warranty… there won’t be any new systems until they fix the old ones, and they want you to feel that your investment was worth it. Microsoft seemed to have hit a key note with gamers when the original Xbox premiered, and the 360 seemed primed to follow up that success by being the first to hit the HD age. Unfortunately, the 360 was released with issues that seem to be plaguing the system like flies in Egypt. The main stregnths of the 360 Elite are the bigger hard drive (120GB of space), the HDMI port (which will increase it’s accessibilities to new televisions), and the fact that the programmers already know how to make a game for the 360. The problem is the system itself… for some reason Microsoft can make a great computer, but not translate that into the game market. Mr. Gates, please reconsider before shipping the next model in 2010.
Final Analysis: Price: $249.99 (for the core model, not bad)-$479.99 (for the elite… ouch). Best Games out Now: Splinter Cell, Double Agent; Madden 08 (For some reason, sports sims play great on Microsoft machines); Gears of War; Dead or Alive 4; Call of Duty 3. Most Impressive Upcoming Games: Halo 3 (the next installment of the best Sci-fi FPS on the planet), Grand Theft Auto 4.
Nintendo Wii: The little system that could.
The Nintendo Wii is the hot item right now. Sales being accelerated by it’s more affordable price tag ($249.99 for a flat rate) and reverse compatability with the Gamecube (giving gamers an incentive to upgrade), means big $$ for Nintendo. For all of us who thought that Nintendo had put themselves out of the market with “too little, too late” in the Gamecube, they are actually making the hardcore Mario fans look really smart for believing that Nintendo would bounce back. However, due to the high demand for systems here and in Nintendo’s home nation of Japan, those accelerated sales are being tempered a little bit by disatisfaction in the availability of the actual console. The big innovation for the Wii was not HD programming or high-capacity gaming disks (like the PS3 does), the big innovation is the integration of motion into the gaming structure itself. As someone who shares a house with one, you can work up a decent sweat playing Baseball in the included “Wii Sports” program. The other big selling point for the Wii is that it comes with a game, whereas the PS3 and Xbox do not. Now, most would think that if a game is included in the packaging during the release, it can’t be all that great, right? WRONG! In fact, Wii Sports is one of the better multiplayer games out for the Wii. Not to be outdone by it’s own release, Nintendo also created the “Wii Play” title with an included remote. This adds to the Wii’s potential for a great party game. You have two games with multiplayer capability that are actually a conglomeration of several smaller games (Wii Sports having programs for bowling, boxing, golf, tennis, and baseball, and Wii Play having 9 minigames), that have a fast switch between them. The whole “I got winner” thing takes on a whole new life. Some people have noticed that the Wii doesn’t have a lot of “Big name” games available on it yet, but that is where the reverse compatability with the Gamecube really pays off. If you were an ardent Gamecube player, you can buy a Wii, and take your entire game collection with you to the new system. Combine the intuitive gameplay with the ability to buy classic games online from the Wii’s homepage, and you have a really accessible system that can switch from party game to one-on-one, to man-vs-machine in a very fluid motion. To temper expectations, Nintendo thinks they will be behind on their supply until the Christmas shopping season of this year… so if you really want one, you better get up early.
Final Analysis: Price: $249.99 (not a bad price on a new system) Best Games out Now: Wii Sports, Wii Play, Sonic and the Secret Rings, Prince of Persia: Rival Swords, The Legend of Zelda: The Twilight Princess. Most Impressive Upcoming Games: Super Smash Brothers: Brawl, Boogie.
And just for the fun of it, the PSP:
Yes, sports fans, there is a new model of the PSP coming out later this year. The new PSP will feature a slimmer profile and lighter frame. It will also be available in a bundle with Starwars Battlefront: Renegade Squadron, and be available in Black, Silver, and Ceramic White. The big news is that they will all come with a 1GB memory card, and the ceramic whites are usually only available in Japan. So for those of you who fell in love with your PSP just to drop it and break something on it, hold off on replacing it till later this year for the new one. If you get the bundle, you will also end up with a limited edition screen printed White PSP. Not a bad deal to this gamer.
Final Analysis: Price: Currently $169.99 for the 1001-a’s, but that price will probably jump to the $250 neighborhood with the new release. Best Games out Now: ATV Offroad Fury: Pro, Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories, Alpha Fighter (gotta love a classic, right?), Starwars Battlefront 2. Most Impressive Upcoming Games: Starwars Battlefront: Renegade Squadron, Smackdown Vs. Raw: ’08.