Playstation 3 initial impressions (PS3, Xbox 360, Motorstorm, Xbox Live, Playstation Network)

Last night I hooked up a Playstation 3. I’ll be getting back to Heavenly Sword once my review is published, but here’s my initial impressions of the hardware and the Motorstorm demo I tried out.

Build quality is of a very high caliber. The plastic doesn’t creak, everything fits snugly and the whole system looks cool. I am impressed by the Sixaxis controller – disappointed by its similarity to the flawed Dualshock, but pleasantly surprised by its dismissable weight and short charging time. The system itself is heavy, but on the other hand there’s no additional power brick to spoil the view and it stands stable. (Yes, I’m still bitter that you can’t actually use the 360 upright. Well you can, but you shouldn’t.) Setting up was painless, but the initial system update took a good while, something around half an hour. Operating noise is much lower than with the Xbox 360. The single unpacking disappointment came with the controller’s USB cord, used to recharge the Sixaxis, which is so short that I could barely play while charging. On the other hand, it looks like standard USB cabling, so I guess I could replace it with a longer one. While the Blu-ray drive does clank and whir when reading a disc, it’s still quiet compared to the 360’s infernal DVD noise. Although slot-loading drives are more prone to jam, it does eliminate the plasticy drive tray that plagues the 360’s sleek lines. All in all, the PS3 outdoes the Xbox 360 in terms of hardware… presence, no contest.

Getting into the “XMB” menu system, I’m digging it. It looks cool and I like the color changing mechanic. It does its job better than the 360’s counterpart – which is not flawed on its own. However, Sony has not been paying enough attention to us SDTV users; many fonts are hard to read and the screen seems to flicker… maybe it’s running in 50hz? I don’t know. (God help me, last night I dreamt of getting a HDTV.)

Moving onto the online experience, I do like the fact that it’s wireless. I have a (WLAN-enabled) router right next to the consoles, but eliminating any wires is a good thing. Setting up the connection was entirely effortless. (Although, plugging in a USB keyboard to enter my information, I got this moment of doubt – was I installing a goddamn PC or a gaming console? But that passed.)

The Playstation Store is a disappointment. There’s just not a lot of content (I’m on the European version) and it’s slow and unintuitive to use. I guess you can’t appreciate the progress Microsoft has made with Xbox Live until you have something to compare it against, and currently the Playstation Network can’t begin to touch Xbox Live. I haven’t tried any online games yet, so I can’t comment on the actual online play experience. Warhawk is on the to-do list, though.

I played some Heavenly Sword, The Darkness and the Motorstorm demo. I’ll look at Motorstorm, because that’s one of the system’s generally recognized initial high notes. I am unimpressed. It looks pretty good and I dig the fact that it runs very smoothly. However, the physics doesn’t compare well to Flatout 2, especially when it comes to the environment, and the gameplay just doesn’t feel aggressive enough. Granted, this is based on a brief sit-down with the demo, but I can’t see myself really getting into this, even though I was pretty interested in the title to begin with. Playing with the Sixaxis motion control steering was fun and I think I’ll try that out a bit more.

I have not bought the system (you know, with actual money), but I can see myself doing so in the future. There’s a lot of potential here and once we get around to the second batch of PS3 games, I don’t think I can afford to stay just in the 360 camp.






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