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The Playstation 2 was rightly a massive success and to some extent, it still is. The console was lucky to have a massive array of games developed for it and a large number of those games were superb. The console also really pushed itself graphically in its final years, with some titles showing such great graphics that put some games released these days to shame with their detail. Sony were always going to have a hard time trying to follow up this success with the Playstation 3 and while most people know about the companies mass of PR failings, we are going to focus solely on the console itself and not the PR nightmare that surrounded it.
As its digital soul, the Cell BroadBand Engine represents a tour de force in parallel processing, which means a gaming experience that is beyond what you know today. Its built-in Blu-ray Disc drive delivers a whole new generation in high-definition gaming and unmatched digital media storage. Whether it's gaming, Blu-ray movies, music or online services, PlayStation 3 invites you to Play Beyond.
As you all know by now, the design of the Playstation 3 is shiny black, yes it does pick up your finger prints if you are moving it around a lot, but personally Iím not and I think it is better looking in many ways compared to the Xbox 360. I also feel the casing and internal parts of the Playstation 3 have had more thought gone into them than they ever did with the Xbox 360 design, firstly the Playstation 3 feels well built and simply little things like the slot loading Blu-Ray drive and the touch sensitive controls just ooze quality right out of the box. Also it is much much quieter than any of the 360 batch of consoles; it also remains far cooler in the same environments and hasnít had any where near the amount of crashing problems that Microsoftís console has suffered with for the past 2 years. So well done Sony on that aspect.
The inclusion of the Blu-Ray drive is a contentious issue for some, for me it was a no brainer, I wanted to watch high definition films and having the drive included was pleasing for me, I didnít mind paying more money for a console that had high definition support out of the box and I still believe that Blu-Ray is the way to go for many reasons not only the mass of content it can hold and I mean that from both a console and a PC recording point of view.
Another plus point the Playstation3 has over the Xbox 360 is that Sony has decided that any user can update the hard drive themselves and not invalidate the warranty, this means you can easily buy yourself a cheap hard drive online and then add it to the Playstation 3 without any over priced payments for 120gb drives like Microsoft would like us to shell out for. Iíve updated my Playstation 3 drive for just £20 and when you consider the equivalent drive for the 360 would cost £70 it is clearly a rip off for most 360 users.
The user interface is basically the same as that seen on the PSP, it is simple yet works well, I it easier to navigate than the Xbox 360 blades, but there isnít as many options as Microsoft have and the mass of content/media extender/arcade stuff that the Xbox has means it wins over the Playstation here. While I prefer the darker more stylish look of the Playstation 3 menus I also love the way the colour in the background changes as the day goes on, brightening as the day starts and darkening as it gets towards night, it is a nice touch Ė but this does mean that there are not any themes that you have on the Xbox 360 that many people love.
As mentioned just a moment ago, the content on the Playstation 3 is what really lets it down at the moment, not just in gaming terms, but also on their lacklustre online store which has a very poor user interface which just doesnít blend in well with the PS3 interface. Hopefully this will all change once Home goes live, but right now there are just a few demos on there with a number of videos and the odd arcade title that you can download. One thing I do like is the downloadable classics that Sony have on offer such as Syphon Filter and Crash Bandicoot, there run upscaled and can be transferred to your PSP to play portably, a very good idea and they are cheap too Ė Iíll be pleased when more older PS titles start to come out on there.
Gaming is where it really matters though and this is where the Playstation 3 is most disappointing right now nearly a year after its release. There are not many games out for it even now and those that have been released have either been basic poor ports or just average games. Titles like Lair that were expected to be the big AAA titles on the Playstation3 have unfortunately been a disaster. Heavenly Sword was excellent graphically but far too short with little replayability on show. So far the best show off for the Playstation 3 has been those graphics seen in Heavenly Sword which really are superb and hopefully means as more and more titles come out games will both show the power of the console as well as some far better gameplay than has been seen so far.
Unfortunately Sony hasnít let us have any access to Home for our review so we canít give any impressions of that or of any first party titles other than those we have purchased ourselves as they felt we would be too biased against the Playstation 3 due to the name of our site and the coverage we do. Clearly a company that didnít read links we gave them otherwise they might know better!
The Playstaton 3 is regularly updated thanks to downloadable updates which are picked up when you go online. This is where the main differences are compared to the Xbox Live! Service, firstly the Sony service is completely free which is great news for gamers and Iím pleased to say that for any title that I took online I didnít have any problems connecting to games and didnít get any lag problems. One letdown though is the friends lists, you canít invite people to play games online when you are playing, you canít check messages or reply to messages when playing either, it all feels like an afterthought Ė once again I expect this will get better with future updates and Iím judging that on the excellent progress Sony have been making with these updates.
Blu-Ray playback is superb, especially on a 1080p TV running at 24hz which the Playstation 3 supports it really looks great and runs really well. The playstation 3 also manages to load these Blu-Ray titles up faster than most stand alone Blu-Ray players which is good news. It can also upscale DVDís to high definition and it does a good job of it too just like the Xbox 360 does as long as you are connected via VGA.
There has been a lot of talk about the HDMI aspect of the Playstation 3 and Iím pleased to say that Sony made the right decision in adding it to all their consoles, it certainly shows off colour better than component video does and is less hassle to setup than component as well. The 1080p settings for movies is excellent but one let down is that the console doesnít have an upscaler in it like the Xbox 360 does, this means that 720p titles are not upscaled and this means you get some poorer looking games because of it. There are only a small amount of 1080p titles out on the PS3 so upscaling would and should have been added.
So overall it is a mixed bag, the hardware behind the Playstation 3 is excellent there is no doubt about that and over time I am sure that developers will get used to the Cell processor and produce some really great stuff with it, but a year since its release there should be some decent games out for it and apart from one or two titles there isnít anything worth talking about at all. There are some good looking titles on the horizon in the form of Drakeís Fortune and Ratchet and Clank so there is hope. Blu-Ray playback is excellent though and everyone knows I am a fan of that format over any other at the moment. The drop in price over the last month for UK users is good news and is likely to mean a few more sales and the Xbox fans will keep telling you the Xbox 360 is far cheaper, but add Wi-Fi and HD-DVD Movies to it and it is actually the same price. Let's just hope that Sony gets it act together and brings out Home soon and gets the games out that the consoles early fan base deserve.