I got to have my way with a Japanese PS3 earlier today. First thing I should point out that this was just connected through composite so I can’t claim to talk with any authority about the graphical acuity that people will get through component and HDMI. Unless they’re on a 1080i TV, of course. Ba-dum tish!
With the obligatory bash out of the way, on with the impressions. First, the hardware itself:
- This mutha is mahoosive. Imagine the monolith from 2001 with an HDMI port. It’s slightly bigger than the 360, and a similar size to the original Xbox. Where are all the jokers who made the size quips when that came out, I wonder? Queuing for their PS3s, I’d assume.
- It has the same shiny finish as the PSP. Thankfully you’re not required to touch it and therefore smudge the hell out of it as you were with that, but it looks nice.
- (whisper quiet). A very good thing. A bit louder than the near-silent slimline PS2, quieter than the 360…not that that’s difficult.
- Slot loading disc drive and touch-sensitive buttons are extremely slick.
- If you’ve used a PSP you’ve used the “XMB” dashboard-thingy. I wasn’t that keen on it then and I’m still not, but it’s a dramatic improvement on the PS2’s frontend…not that that’s difficult.
- The web browser is decent but a mouse and keyboard is a necessity. The controls for it are even more convoluted than on the PSP.
- 100MB firmware updates? Let’s not make this a regular occurrence when some of us have bandwidth limits.
- The jury is out on the SIXAXIS. I’m not a huge Dual Shock fan anyway, and although the sticks have a nicer finish than the DS2, they’re still not nearly as accurate as Nintendo and Microsoft’s analogue sticks. Rumble is one of those things that you miss when you don’t have it. It’s not as light as I’d heard, and so I was expecting to hate it since I’d been given comparisons to the SNES controller; it’s still a bit on the cheapy side, but not bad. I’ll talk about the motion sensitivity where relevant in the games.
Right then…the games. I tried five of them.
Resistance: Fall of Man
On the day that I got Gears of War any shooter is going to look its worst, but through composite if it wasn’t for the smooth framerate you could be watching someone play Killzone. Playing it with the same floaty sticks just made it feel like playing a PS2 game to me. It’s competent and I’m sure it looks a ton better on an HDTV, but it just struck me as a very generic shooter.
Ridge Racer 7
It’s Ridge Racer (insert “RIIIIIIDGE RACER” joke here). That basically sums it up, because once you’ve played one of these you know what you’re getting – insane drifts in sports cars around coastal roads – and it does what it does well enough. It looks nice, if unspectacular, but most importantly runs rock solidly.
The fact that it recycles many of RR6’s tracks makes me even more inclined to call it Ridge Racer 6.5. But hey: people who don’t like Ridge Racer won’t buy it anyway.
Genji: Days of the Blade
Must…resist…urge…to make…crab jokes…
The reviews have summed it up really. It’s an above average hack-and-slash romp that, to be honest, wasn’t as bad as I was expecting. Notable for the addition of real-time weapon change.
Tony Hawk’s Project 8
As glad as I am that they resisted the urge to call it ‘Tony Hawk’s Pro Sk8r’, they still can’t match the series’ apogee in Tony Hawk 2. Yes, that one was better than THPS3. The poor framerate that the reviews had complained about is definitely there, and it dropped to unacceptable levels with a lot of foliage on screen.
Out of curiosity I tried it with tilt control and, in this situation, it doesn’t work. Even with the sensitivity turned down it felt way too twitchy, and even motions that you don’t realise that you’re making get translated into moves. Tilt is potentially a good idea but I feel that it has to be used in natural situations such as, for example, shaking enemies off in Resistance or COD3. I’m sure it’d kind of work here if I was to take the time to learn it, but when the tried-and-tested conventional controls work so well, why bother?
Marvel: Ultimate Alliance
Meh. Wouldn’t buy the 360 version and I wouldn’t buy this one either. It’s probably better than my quick blast suggests but I wasn’t inclined to play it any more.
So overall my impressions are similar to what I said about the PS2 back in 2001: it’s a nice bit of kit, but unless you’re really desperate wait for the kinks to be ironed out (notably that hideous upscaling oversight), the price to come down, and the really good games to come out. I look forward to being able to walk into a shop and walk out with one, hopefully without hassle, when MGS4 comes out.