PlayStation 3 games console - PS3

Sony's PlayStation 3 has finally arrived in the US, and although not available yet until March in the UK, Pocket-lint has managed to score not one, but two consoles for review from Sony so we can bring you the low down on if it's answer to the next evolution of gaming.

So will the PS3 be worth the wait or should you go out and get an Xbox 360 or Nintendo Wii before Christmas? Read on to find out.

The big (and we mean big) black glossy console will dominate any shelf that you put it on under your television. Sony might get around to going small, but it never does on the first outing - remember how big the PS1 and PS2 were first time around? Well the PS3 makes both look relatively tiny considering. There is no two ways about it, the PlayStation 3 is a big beast, but a shiny one at that.

Perhaps realising that you're unlikely to have enough space to open any disk tray as in the past, Sony has opted for a slot loading Blu-ray drive at the front along with a power and disk eject button neatly underneath. Hidden under a cover to its left are the three memory card reader slots (Compact Flash, SD Card and Memory Stick) and when you aren't using them you don't have to look at three gaping holes. Underneath that are the USB connectors for the controllers, Sony's EyeToy and anything else, including your MP3 player - if you want to connect that to it.

Around the back and it's fairly straightforward; power switch (as with the first PS2 the power pack is built in to the console) Scart/RF Phono out, Optical out, Ethernet (although the unit is also wireless ready) and of course most importantly HDMI.

Out of the box and frustratingly the console isn't automatically set for the HDMI connection meaning you still have to connect the scart until you change the settings.

Owners of Sony's PSP handheld console will recognise the menu interface straight away and it is very quick and easy to use. Different areas such as users, settings, photos, music, video, games, internet and access to PlayStation Network run across the top while going into the menu offers whatever is in that area in a sort of family tree type approach.

It's here, especially when it comes to videos that the power of the PlayStation's inners start to show and anything stored on your hard drive, which you can download either from the web or a USB key, is played whilst still in the menu mode. This way rather than just a still image you can see what the clip actually does before you play it.

Showing off its other multimedia features, the console also features some of the elements of Sony's LocationFree TV technology. Currently you can watch anything stored on your console's hard drive on your PSP as long as you stay within the confines of your wireless network, however Sony inform us that come the UK launch this is likely to be expanded to anywhere in the world as long as you've got access to a wireless network. While you won't be able to get live television you will be able to watch whatever you've got stored on your box, be it movies or porn.

Of course one of the major issues in the delay of the player in the UK is the inclusion of the Blu-ray drive.

In an attempt to make customers buy in to the format Sony has included its next generation DVD format in the console making this considerably more than just another games machine and certainly more multimedia savvy that Nintendo's DVD-lacking Wii.

We tested the PS3 with SWAT, Into the Blue, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Hostel, Tears of the Sun and Ultraviolet. Like the Samsung BD-P1000 Blu-ray drive, the PlayStation 3 produces very good quality movie images with plenty of definition and clarity.

Unfortunately with delays to Toshiba's HD DVD players in the UK Pocket-lint has yet to test Blu-ray against HD DVD to see which is the better format, however as a standalone player and our second Blu-ray player review (it's a lot quieter than the Xbox 360) the quality is very good and certainly better than we expected from a unit whose main focus is supposed to be games.

And on to those games. We tested the new console with some launch titles and titles yet to be launched. In our testing we played: Motorstorm, Formula 1 2006, Lair, Genji: Days of the Blade, Ridge Racer 7 and Resistance: Fall Of Man.

In all cases the graphics were stunning, with Ridge Racer and Resistance: Fall Of Man proving to be the best in terms of graphics. Opting for the HDMI output on a HD television doesn't automatically mean, as one might expect, give you games in 1080p, but even at the recommended 720p for Resistance it still looks tasty.

Motorstorm was a close third with Genji and Formula One just behind. We especially liked Motorstorm's use of real footage interlaced with game footage in the foreground to give it an even more realistic look - We'll be posting separate reviews and previews shortly.

While all the games are very graphically luscious, the gameplay with the exception of Resistance: Fall of Man isn't that strong. Racing games aren't going to break the mould, nor are a splurge of first person shooters and the usual array of sports titles such as Virtua Tennis. While all the titles we've seen so far give Sony the chance to show off the power of the Cell chip inside, they aren't a touch on Nintendo interactive and inclusion gaming efforts found on the Wii.

That said, Sony is promising around 20 games for the UK launch and considering it's got another 4 months this is very doable. Out of all of the games we tested our favourite has to be Resistance: Fall of Man and although very different from Gears of War on the Xbox 360 its probably best described as Call of Duty crossed with a Sci-Fi B-Movie.

The First Person Shooter's main strength apart from the graphics is its AI and rather than just sit there the aliens actually do their best to shoot you.

Yet most puzzling compared to the Nintendo Wii is that although Sony has also included a motion sensor contoller does, most of the first party games we played - with Lair, which isn't due out until later next year, being the exception - didn't use or benefit from motion sensor gaming.

Verdict

So should UK readers wait? While we are big fans of the Xbox 360 here at Pocket-lint we have to say that from what we have seen so far, the PlayStation 3 certainly out performs it when it comes to graphics.

Gears of War on the Xbox 360 is luscious, and looks fantastic, however the crispness of Resistance: Fall Of Man, complete with leaves blowing in the wind as you fight the forces of evil, show you it’s the little details that count. Likewise in our comparison testing Ridge Racer 7 came out top over the graphically niceties of Project Gotham Racing.

As for movies against the Xbox 360 we've yet to test the optional HD DVD drive as yet and will update this review when we do in the coming weeks.

Against the Nintendo Wii, graphics isn't really relevant here as both the Xbox 360 and the PS3 blow it out of the water, however where Nintendo will succeed is in the games that are available for it from day one that really bring some truly innovative ideas, including the motion sensor controller to the table.

So what's the verdict?

If you are after graphics, fancy the idea of Blu-ray and don't mind waiting until Christmas 2007 before getting a good solid selection of games that will really push the console then the PS3 is worth the money.

If you can't wait that long but still want the graphics then opt for the Xbox 360 and get yourself a copy of Gears of War, Pro Evo 6 and Project Gotham Racing to get you started.

Finally if you actually want to have a laugh in front of your telly then we would recommend the Nintendo Wii, with Tennis, Trauma Center and Zelda you'll be hard pushed to beat the gameplay, and better still its only going to set you back £180 rather than the expected £500 for the PS3.

A very impressive machine, if only the games and the movie selection were at the same level as the console this would be a no brainer. Hopefully for UK readers, by the time the console launches here both issues will be resolved.

Looking for the answer to the PS3 competition? You've come to the right place. The answer is Boston is the name of the office dog.


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