I love this game. I love all the PS3 games and the remote controls and cables. I think I have died and gone to heaven. I am so glad I traded my $1,500 Rolex that my parents bought me when I graduated from Harvard Medical School. After all, a watch is just a silly watch, but a PS3 ...
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That s probably a joke.
I hope that s a joke.
No, it has to be: the writer goes on to explain that since his November acquisition of the Holy Grail of the holiday season, a Sony PlayStation 3, his girlfriend has left him and his parents are convinced he s becoming mentally ill. His obsession is overboard but he doesn t care because he has a PS3. I believed it until the part with the girlfriend.
He has a PS3 and a girlfriend?
You d break it off if you had a PS3.
Not to propagate stereotypes or anything; some of the best gamers I know are women, and you d be surprised at the number of serious-minded professionals who are not full-blown nerds but play video games regularly and have a life and maintain perspective. The thing is, I ve been tooling around on the PS3 for a few weeks now and find it hard to believe any serious gamer if they took the console out of the box and spent quality time with it, putting aside the hours they devoted to waiting in the rain to buy it would declare their world utterly, irrevocably rocked by the PS3. Frankly, it s been easy to get up and turn my back on it.
At $600, too easy.
Last month, a handful of days before Thanksgiving, Sony and Nintendo debuted the next-generation of video game consoles, the PS3 and the Nintendo Wii (pronounced weee ). Perhaps you saw the young men lined up outside stores, staring ahead patiently for hours like cats waiting for their feeding. You probably heard about the hold-ups and the gunshots. You thought it was nuts. But seeing how the video game business is a $30 billion a year industry and the movies (the next most profitable entertainment business) are expected to take in about $9 billion in North American box office, this was no minor thing.
But, that s the problem.
PS3 glows with self-satisfaction it believes its own hype.
It s as powerful as promised, but so far, it s not lovable, and not the must-have all the frenzy suggests. I ll get to the reasons in a minute, but in short: All the silicon in Silicon Valley does not in itself make for a good time. You can t exactly write PS3 off yet. It s in its early days. The launch games have been disappointing but better titles will be released. A game will come along that allows the console to live up to its hype, and the online service will eventually feel seamless (I m assuming). But at the moment, this thing is unwelcoming and expensive and not exactly mind-blowing, and feels symptomatic of an industry that has ignored casual gamers for a decade and lost perspective. Yes, I had fun with the PS3 not $600 worth.
And isn t fun the point?
Oddly, it hasn t been lately.
If you played video games years ago but got scared off, it was probably the growing complexity of the games, the overloaded controllers and combinations of buttons you had to master before you could do anything like any art, a faction of the audience took on an insulated clubhouse mentality and headed out of the mainstream.
Generally though, when this happens (avant-garde jazz, experimental fiction, etc.) the faction remains a faction. With video games, a young male demographic took over and demanded depth, and while games became more sophisticated, something was lost. Games became intimidating, not fun, and the game industry became lost in its own navel. With the PS3, once you ve gotten past the sticker shock, you realize the industry has created the silicon equivalent of belly-button lint:
An overpriced system offering the promise of a more sophisticated game experience that has not quite worked out what sophistication should look like.
Sound but no fury
The machine itself is as shiny and smooth and curvaceous as a new sports car (and nearly as heavy reinforce that entertainment center). Pop the hood and you find a high-definition Blu-Ray DVD drive, a wireless Internet network, the graphics card of a high-end personal computer, and a processor chip so overwhelmingly powerful it will bench press your kids and kill your dog with its bare hands.
But Blu-Ray? Unless you re in the market for a high-definition DVD player, who cares? And if you are, and you purchase a PS3 but the hi-def HD DVD format takes off instead you re essentially stuck with a high-end gaming unit attached to a Betamax. (And talk about stingy. Despite being one of the leading supporters of Blu-Ray, Sony doesn t even include the hi-def cable to connect the PS3 to a hi-def TV.)
Games look amazing on it (though only a few are worth $60). Sound reaches every inch of the room. There are ridiculous oversights (that I ll get to in a minute) you can ignore when the presentation is this dazzling.
So why did I keep thinking, Is that it? This is next-generation?
It s been five years since the debut of the Sony PlayStation2 and the Microsoft Xbox then, the most powerful consoles ever made, ambitious attempts to fuse a multi-purpose home entertainment center with a gaming system. We really liked them, and in the time since, the game business has only grown, while the expectations for the next-generation consoles have not so much grown as resided in the stratosphere for those five years.
The next generation of video gaming consoles would be even more wildly powerful technological landmarks. This wasn t an assumption. Nothing less than that would be tolerated. Now understand, all of this is conventional wisdom in the gaming world: You buy a new system, you expect graphics to be more realistic than the previous generation of system, and the sound to be more life-like, and the games to be more complicated.
You get that with the PS3. (Not always; NBA 07 and Madden NFL 07, though glossier, aren t dramatically different than their counterparts on the XBox 360. And as engrossed as I was with the alternative-universe shoot em up Resistance: Fall of Man, I had as much fun with the 360 s somewhat similar Gears of War.)
So why am I underwhelmed?
For answers, look to the Wii.
In fact, because the PS3 and Wii were released 48 hours apart, and simultaneously became the hot gifts of the holiday season, Sony and Nintendo have set off a debate in the gaming world as to what the next evolution in gaming should look like indeed, what makes a video game fun?
Hint: it s not about power.
It s about (gasp) fun.
The Wii and Mii
Nintendo could not compete with Sony or Microsoft on processing power, and so the Wii s images appear sort of blocky for a hi-def gaming era, somewhere between the graphics on the old PS2 and the original Xbox. Actually, the Wii itself (a modest $250) couldn t look more stark alongside the PS3. It s no bigger than the average hardcover book. I had no trouble setting up either system; both come prepped for wireless networks, and both connected without an issue. But similarities end there.
The PS3 offers a Cross Media Bar, reminiscent of the tool bar on a Mac. The Wii, however, skips past the passwords and settings and immediately asks you to design an on-screen doppelganger. This is your Mii. Right away, you feel comfortable. Your Mii plays a part in various games (including Wii Sports, which is included). The Wii doesn t play DVDs. It s not a hi-def machine the best it can do at the moment is a Virtual Console function that allows downloads of classic Nintendo titles like Donkey Kong. The PS3 offers a place to dump MP3 files and photos; its online store has games, too.
But when PS3 offers this, it s not friendly. Sony gets the big functions right but botches the details that make it sing. For instance, I regularly download new game demos to my 360. Rather than wait for the game to load, the console allows me to play another game while downloads go on quietly in the background.
The PS3 doesn t.
You wait for every download.
And though controllers on the 360 and the Wii rumble with the action get hit with a rocket or a linebacker, you feel a jolt the PS3 controllers don t. Which is just strange. PS2 controllers rumbled, and though never the most vital function, it s become sort of de rigeur. You miss it.
But the real reason the Wii is swamping the PS3 at the moment is because of the Wii controller and the way games are played. Graphically, video games now resemble the illustrations on the box. But whether games have become more entertaining or simply better is doubtful, and that point rests at the heart of the Wii. Nintendo seems, in fact, to have decided to drop out entirely on this quest for realism and opted to alter the play itself.
You barely use the buttons on the Wii controller. To play tennis, you swing it like a racket. To box, you box. In the excellent Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, to slash your sword around, you wield your controller like a sword, and when your character fishes, you mime the casting of a fishing rod. Game play is so aerobic, occasionally an on-screen prompt (charmingly designed to resemble airline safety cards) suggests taking a break and my tip: watch the lamp behind you. It s the closest that a company has come to virtual reality, to a reminder that we don t play games to control mini-movies, but to leap right into the movies.
There are hiccups.
You can t aim much with the Wii. (PS3 controllers are motion sensitive, too, but so far, it s hard to tell how.) Like the PS3, the first Wii titles probably don t exploit what the console can do; a number of Wii games, like the adaptation of Happy Feet and the arcade classic Rampage, strain to refigure ordinary titles for the arms-flailing Wii-centric outlook. And of course, there is the real possibility that Nintendo has a hot novelty on its hands, not an advancement in gaming.
But I think they nailed it.
The Wii is more realistic than the PS3, even if they don t compare on paper. I realized this during Madden 07. On the PS3 and the 360, that venerable franchise is solid but not surprising any more. On the Wii, I found myself throwing up Hail Marys, cocking back, letting loose, actually getting into it. I looked ridiculous, but it made me stop and think: When I first played video games it was on an Atari 2600. Systems got better. ColecoVision, I loved. Atari 5200, not bad. The graphics were, for 1984, more realistic.
Both consoles bombed.
Home gaming consoles didn t capture imaginations again until the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1986. Graphically, it wasn t much of a leap. But unlike Sony and the PS3, Nintendo got that imagination part just right.
And they ve done it again.
Contact Christopher Borrelli at: email@example.com or 419-724-6117.