Review by Lsnake

"Exceptional potential, but will it make it? (PAL Release)"

Many years ago, Sony released the Playstation 2. Back then, it was known as the "Third place". It launched with a pretty hefty pricetag, and had actually a quite similar lineup of launch titles to what we're looking at now. It introduced the DVD format to everyday people like you and me who back then couldn't and wouldn't afford to fork out lots of money on a dedicated DVD player.

And it was a fantastic success. Not only did it surpass the PS1, but it has written itself into history as one of the(if not the) most successful and popular consoles of all time. Third place became First Place. Now the big question remains, can Sony do it again?

Before I judge Sony's beast, I'll start by covering the technical aspects. In fact, to say it like it is, the Playstation 3 is a technological marvel. It is potentially the most powerful of any console to date, and with more functions and usability than you can shake a stick at.

The beast within
The PS3 is quite stunning to look at. Pictures really doesn't do it justice as the somewhat odd design makes it look a little weird. But when you unpack it and examine it, it's hard not to be impressed by it. It looks and feels very expensive, very high quality. However, as good as it looks, it's the power inside it that makes it what it is. Powered by the new Cell processor, it's undeniable that it has an exceptional potential that is just waiting to be unlocked. The same held true for the PS2 as comparing any of the first year games to some of the games released 2006/2007 is like comparing two different consoles.

When that is said, after having extensively used it since the european launch, I must say that I'm perhaps a little underwhelmed by it's power. Not because of the latent powers that is waiting to be exploited, but because none of the launch titles seem to go that extra mile to showcase it. Both Resistance and Motorstorm does a fine job of displaying it's power and how it handles next generation games easily, but the "wow" factor isn't quite there yet. However, this was the case with the Playstation 2 at launch as well(compare the first SSX with SSX3 for example), and it's a natural part of a console's life. Just don't go in and expect to be completely blown away like never before, because it will take a year or so for the real stuff to get out that shows exactly what the PS3 is capable of. However, for a warm up, it's looking stunning already, and the raw horsepower is evident during Resistance where there's not a single drop in framerate no matter how big the battles become. You can feel the power in there, it just hasn't exploded yet.

Built in Blu-Ray makes for an easy transfer over to the HD Movie generation, and I'm pleased to say that it works well. It makes the transfer from current DVD to Blu-Ray simple and easy, and once you go there, it's hard to watch DVD's again. There has been some complaints that the movies played with the PS3 Blu-Ray drive suffers from grain and other image issues, but I have yet to see any notable quality issues. Other complaints have been that the inclusion of the Blu-Ray drive is one of the biggest reasons for the very high price, and while that cannot be denied, one cannot ignore that it first of all gives game developers alot more space to work with, which means less compressed data(simply better quality) and room for more content, and it also helps introduce Blu-Ray to everyday people like you and me.

One step forward, two steps back
The backward compatibility has been a hot subject when discussing the PAL PS3. After Sony decided to go over to software emluation of the PS1 and PS2 games, the amount of compatible games working on it was actually quite alarming. However, with the recent firmware update released just in time for the european launch, many of the problems have been removed and most games do work decent/well/good. Further firmware updates are expected to solve any notable problems and the problem is now a minor one.

A great thing about playing your PS1 and PS2 games on the PS3 is the Memory Card emulation. A simple guide lets you create virtual Memory Cards stored on the Harddisk, which then functions as a normal Memory Card would do, except that it's actually alot faster to load and save now. For those of you who don't feel like playing through 150 hours of Final Fantasy XII again, you can also buy a Memory Card Converter and transfer your old saves to the HDD.

My experiences with PS2 games has so far been positive. Bigger titles like Final Fantasy XII, Kingdom Hearts 2, Gran Turismo 4, Metal Gear Solid 2 and 3 has worked well without problems, in fact some games appears to look slightly better than before. Jagging seems less as well, causing my copy of Final Fantasy XII look alot better on the PS3 than on the PS2.

Grumble grumble where's my rumble?
Another issue that left many players and fans in shock was the announcement that the Sixaxis controller would not have Rumble anymore, because of the motion sensor built in it. This was arguably my biggest initial concern about it, as playing PS2 games with and without rumble is a very notable difference. Yes, it is notable, but no, it's not as bad as one would imagine it would be. Furthermore, Sony has patched up their relation with Immersion and this hopefully means we'll get Rumble back in newer Sixaxis controllers one day.

The controller is also wireless, and is supposed to last about 24 hours of playing after being fully charged. It can be hotplugged with a included USB cable any time to charge it up and played with the cable plugged in as well.

When it comes to the motion sensor, it is more limited than the Wii, but it's still interactive enough to allow for physical interactivity with games. In Motorstorm, you can use the Sixaxis to steer your vehicle, and in Resistance, you have to shake the controller to get out of the enemy's grip. It works quite well actually and it's not overdone in the launch games.

He's got the whole world in his hand..
The PS3 comes included with a Network cable, and while I had some initial concerns about how to get it to work, I found myself pleasantly surprised about just how easy it was to connect the PS3 to the Internet. With a DSL modem, all I needed to do was to plug in the PS3 and run a small wizard that makes you choose how to obtain IP Address and so on. You might have to consult your Internet Provider or manual if you're using alot of manual settings, but in most DSL cases it's only a matter of plugging in the cable and letting the DHCP server assign an IP Address to your PS3, which usually occurs within 5-10 minutes. Then you're good to go, and both the Sony's Network(Where you can download demos and games), Firmware updating, web-browsing and online playing worked right away. It couldn't be easier, and it works well. It also holds a surprisingly high speed, as 500-700MB demos was downloaded in a flash.

Sony's online services are still not on par with what Microsoft offers, but in Sony's defense, they are still relatively new to that compared to MS.

The PS3 also offers PSP connectivity, but I did not test this properly before this review.

It's not gold all that glitters
All is not well though. First of all, it is utterly disappointing that Sony doesn't deliver HDMI cables with the PS3. For that price where everything else is prepared for HD, you get cheap, low quality composite cables with the console. Do yourself a favor and order proper ones(Preferably HDMI or Component. HDMI is better, but Component is still very good). It's not a very costly expense, but it's unnecessary and you might end up asking yourself what's wrong with the console if you're thinking about using the cables that came with it.

The price is an additional problem. As it is now, the PS3 costs about 15-20% more than the PS2 did back at launch, and right now there's two other good alternatives for half the price, the 360 and Wii. The high price prevents alot of potential customers from buying it, but for the sake of keeping this review about the PS3 itself, I'll leave it at that.

Lack of attractive high profile games just around the corner is another issue. While most will agree that Metal Gear Solid 4, Gran Turismo 5, Resident Evil 5, Final Fantasy XIII, (Hopefully) God of War 3 and other well known series will make the PS3 a justified purchase, it does lack any killer apps as of today. Resistance and Motorstorm are both good games, but there's not that many games coming up soon that makes it an essential purchase. You might buy one or two games at the moment, have great fun with it, and start to wonder, "what now"? That is a indirect weakness with the PS3 at the moment. It lacks enough incentive to buy it. You get the Blu-Ray functionality, some nice games, but there's still not any console defining games for it.

Is this living?
The most important question is first and most of all, is the Playstation 3 a good console? The answer to that is yes. Yes it is. It's actually a fantastic console. There's no doubt that it's a technological dream, the eight wonder of the world. But it's by no means perfect. Luckily, the negative issues are actually less directly console related and more game support related, and there has been surprisingly few amounts of reported problems with the PS3, indicating that it indeed holds a high quality. That it plays Blu-Ray out of the box as well makes it even better.

No in fact, the problems with it is the lack of killer apps and the high price. The price will go down eventually, easily justifying the purchase. But it remains to be seen how the console will fare against the now established 360 and the smash hit Wii. With reports of previously thought exclusives going multi-platform, Sony has to work hard to make sure the PS3 remains an attractive console and most important, a gaming platform.

If you ask me now, 5 days after I got my PS3 if I think it's worth it, then I will say yes. The console itself as I've said, is nothing but awesome. And eventually it would most likely be an essential console to experience. But right now, it's a question if you want to pay alot of money for an eventual incredibly console that has yet to show it's full potential and true power.

Eventually it will.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 03/27/07

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