Thursday, 16 April 2009

A journey with the PS3: I came, I saw, and then I went "Meh"

I've spent the past few weeks in a daze of sorts. DMT? No, I wish. Alcohol? Sure, but that's only partly to blame. No, my real drug of choice has been Sony's Playstation 3.

I've sampled this piece of kit in every manner possible and come to some interesting conclusions. This is a tale of my time with the PS3, split into sections detailing each specific area.

The interface

Crucial to the console experience, the initial interface or hub is as vital as an
ything. Coming from the Xbox 360, I was at first a little at odds with the lack of eye candy. I then realised that this was actually a rather cheeky little interface; enabling you to customise most elements. Needless to say, I stuck a nice pic of a lady up for my background and was pleased to see it fully on display (unlike with the NXE and its random black blobs of blockage).

DVD playback

The PS3 is the DVD playback king, no doubt. The upscaling is incredibly good. End of discussion. Oh yeah, and blu-ray is good too.

Killzone 2

It seems as if this game is, by itself, a part of the PS3 so integral that it almost seems embedded in the console. I was very won over by the hype before this game came out and I will admit that it was a major factor in my mind when it came to deciding whether to buy or walk on by.

For me, FPS titles are where it is at gaming wise. KZ2 is a mighty title. It is graphically incredible. It is technically impeccable. It has very good online multiplayer. However, here comes the inevitable. It is essentially just another linear FPS. It gets old quite quickly. It suffers from all the old FPS faults and it isn't as good as CoD4 online. Nuff said.

Playstation Network

Now here is where my proper analysis kicks in. We all know that the PSN can barely touch Xbox Live when it comes to ease of communication. However, what amazes me about PSN is simply how reliable it is most of the time when compared to Live. This is largely due to dedicated servers being the norm in most games.

For a game like KZ2, dedicated servers aren't around and yet the lag seldom sets in. It is generally a flawless affair. However, with games like Little Big Planet (see below) lag creeps in like a wasp through your car door on a hot summers day.

"Be gone, lag! Hello?"

The above line about sums up ones inner thoughts and linguistic behaviours during a session of LBP - the game I "wanted" to love. You see, the PSN succeeds only with a few games whilst in others you simply begin to miss Live. I hate admitting it but I have grown accustomed to Live over the years and can't seem to tolerate the choir of trying to arrange a session with mates without the Live tools at my disposal. Even before NXE's fantastic party mode feature, for years Live allowed gamer to send messages, arrange private chat, and quickly send invites. Sony take note.

The PSN is a form of stripped down, bare essentials, online experience in comparison. Like an old Soviet T-34, the thing works but just lacks the polished, feature-ladden sparkle of Uncle Sam's M1a1 Abrams (and yes I do know that this is likely the worst cross tank / online system comparison ever considered by a gamophile on the internet).

In all fairness though, a brilliant new feature has just recently come out with a firmware update. Now you can create private text-based chat channels and use them to communicate with friends when in games. Not quite a party mode but it's close and actually something Live doesn't have.

Little Big Planet

Made just up the road from me, LBP is a unique gaming experience akin to taking
five dried grams of psilocybin magic mushrooms. The only difference is that with psilocybin you get to see self replicating machine elves, whereas with LBP it's all about sack people.

LBP represents a lesson for me. This is a lesson I should have learnt a long, l
ong time ago. That lesson is this: don't go telling people to get a game unless you know for sure it's worth the cash. I waxed lyrical about this thing for weeks. The problem was I hadn't played it much online with other people. When you do, things fall apart due to lag.

I've tried playing this with two or three friends and the lag kills all fun. With one other, it is just about playable but even then gets sluggish and hangs during load times. Lag, or netcode, utterly ruins this game online and the whole point of this game is the online component.

PS3 Home

Ah, now the fun bit of my little tale. Home is a kind of Second Life-like, Active Worlds wannabe but without the ability to make your own world and show your mates. Instead, you get an apartment that no-one ever sees because no-one cba to look at how imagin
ative you are when it comes to arranging generic furniture around a template room.

Home is essentially a 3d realm of Sony hegemonic adware. You get to look at posters for PS3
exclusive games. You get to watch videos of people talking about the PS3. It is all very stomach churning. Home is also unoficially a 3d flirting space where males attempt to chat up females who are, in reality, males looking for lulz.

For a week or two it was fun but I soon got bored of telling people great ane
cdotes about all manner of things only for them to say "I have no keyboard".

It was all looking bleak for Home until...


Xi, which literally means something, is a sub Crystal Maze ARG, or Alternate Reality Game. Basically, Sony made a sort of persistent MMO challenge, split into missions and clues. You start in a lobby environment and eventually enter the "games" area. This was the state of play the last time I logged in. It gets updated constantly. However, I'm no longer interested.

In reality, Xi is an exercise in Googling. You need the answer to the first mission? Cba to actually work out the puzzle for yourself? Google the code! Google the next code! Google the answer to everything until you actually have to start doing something with your controller.

The first real mini challenge is a fun series of timed arcade games. You then get to have a go with the six axis tree dodging. Finally, you get to experience a text-based rpg old school style. I was just about still interested up until this point but then suddenly a new mission struck. Now, you're expected to do all those mini games again... only on an expert setting. Read strict time limits and other annoyances. I gave up with it. Where is the incentive? Nah, it's not worth the button pounding.


If I'm honest, the main reason I got a PS3 was for the internet browser, which I heard was very good. I was pleased to discover it's true greatness. 90% of my PS3 time now consists of just resting in bed watching Youtube, iplayer, Dailymotion, etc. The way you can make videos full screen and view them on your HDTV is just total goodness.

Life with Playstation (formerly Folding@home)

Wtf is this? No, seriously. I still don't know. It seems to be a series of mathematical downloads akin to Seti packets of data for CPUs to churn over. Whilst the cell works, you get to look at a globe and read news stories. Downright random. I wasn't won over. I wasn't even approached by anything from what I can tell.


The PS3 is a highly sophisticated device capable of all sorts of things. Little touches like upscaling and wireless connectivity out of the box impressed me. I actually like the interface too. It's simple and mature, unlike the NXE; a horrendously misjudged mish mash of childish theme and adult content.

Although I like the PS3 for being an all singing console, the sad truth is that I know the 360 will still woo me back to it everytime with its promises of easy mic-based communication, invites, fast and instant downloads, and a vaster library of games. All I know is that last night I was on CoD4 on Live and it felt oh so good.

Here's the deal with the PS3. It's not a games console. It really isn't. It's a sort of blu-ray/dvd player with an internet browser and a decent set of codecs for file playback. This thing is basically a big bad black son of a... media player.