A non-gamer view of the Playstation 3

Just before Christmas, I was able to find a Sony Playstation 3 at my local retail store the day I decided to get a console… Not sure what this availablility shortage scare was all about? This is my first console, having almost completely left the world of gamers over 10 years ago (shortly after Doom and Descent 1.0 came out). I therefore consider(ed) myself as one of these non-gamers the WII is trying to attract.

I have been considering buying a console for a while, and my initial choice was to get a PS3, mainly because of its HD capabilities, the built-in Blu-ray player and the strong history behind the Sony brand when it comes to gaming. But with all the hype behind the Wii at launch, I almost went with that one as it seemed to be the least “serious” console. As they only had the PS3 in stock that morning, I came back to my initial choice.

Having enjoyed this device for just over a month now, my biggest problem with it is that I simply don’t have enough time to use it!

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Not sure how much better the Xbox 360 is, but it seems that Sony is getting updated out on a regular basis, with version 1.50 released this week greatly improving the visual quality of PS2 games (it was really unplayable before). Online gaming is one of the big selling factors for the latest generation of consoles, but I haven’t tried this yet… I need a lot more practice first 😉

From an online perspective, the built-in web browser works great and seems to do a great job at rendering the web pages I’ve tried so far (except a minor little display bug with my Blog CSS that I’ll have to fix one day). The Playstation Online Store is really nice, especially as you can download playable demos of games for free as well as smaller games such as Lemmings. With an average download of 800Mb to 1Gb, it is really annoying that you cannot have the download continue in the background while surfing the web, listening a movie or watching a DVD / Blu-ray disk… so many processor cycles seem waisted because of this.

Also, why can’t I listen to the music I’ve ripped on the hard drive of my PS3 while browsing the web… Sony, did you hear about Multitasking? With such an advanced hardware, it really feels strange that you cannot benefit of something that has been available in all operating system for years. And while I’m at it, please, please, let me listen to my ripped music when I play Ridge Racer 7. The few techno-tracks that come with this game are really not my kind of “music” :-)

OK, enough complaining. The Sixaxxis, e.g. the wireless controller, has motion sensors. It might not be as violent as the Wii, but once activated in games, it adds a completely different level of interaction… it’s almost to sensitive for car racing and I’ve disabled it for now… just waiting for a PS3 steering wheel.

And when it comes to the graphics and sound quality of the games I have, there is only one thing to say: Wow! Considering that these are the first generation of games and that developers haven’t learned all the tricks of Sony’s latest console yet, I am really impressed by the quality. Downloadable for free from the Playstation store, Grand Turismo HD Concept is really impressive, and bullets are flying left-right-middle-center with a 5.1 sound system playing Call of Duty 3.

And what about Blu-ray movies? Taking “The Fifth Element” as a test movie, and trying both the HD version and the High Bitrate DVD version, I can clearly see the difference. To bad the Dolby Digital or DTS track are missing from the Blu-ray version of this movie as my sound-speaker isn’t able to process pure 7.1 digital signals. With upcoming titles such as James Bond Casino Royale, I expect the encoding to be a lot better.

All in all, there are still a few things for Sony to improve in up-coming firmware updates. Top on my list, support for multi-tasking, network sharing capabilities (access my music, pictures and movies on an other computer, and sharing the music and pictures on the PS3 with other machines on the local network), support for DiVX / Xvid encoded movies as well as a magical way to free up some of my time to enjoy the Playstation more :-)

I must have been lucky as Sony just raised the price of the Playstation 3 in Canada… sometimes there are benefit for being an early adopter!

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