Your Console and Handheld Guide: PlayStation 3
The PlayStation 3 is a monster. "It looks like something from the '70s," my wife said as I was hooking it up. "You mean from 'Close Encounters?' " I replied.
Large, black, rounded at the top and sleek as all get-out, the PlayStation 3 pretty much lurks in your entertainment center. It's basically a gaming computer pretending to be a game console. It offers high-definition graphics and a hard drive for storage, and it plays Sony's high-definition movie discs, called Blu-ray; DVDs; CDs; MP3 CDs and more. The hard drive can store and play back movies, photos and music, or you can stream them from your PC. Some models can play PlayStation 2 games (see below). The Sony shop offers free game demos, independent games and older games for purchase, and eventually it will serve up movies and TV shows on-demand. The new Sixaxis controller is wireless and senses tilt (hold up the gamepad and you can use it like a steering wheel), but it lacks rumble feedback. The PS3 can also go on the Internet and includes a full Web browser.
Oh, it also plays PlayStation 3 games, too.
There are a confusing number of different PS3 models on store shelves. All have different price points, and not all of them have the same features. Most importantly for some people, Sony has removed the ability to play PS2 games from some newer models. The 20GB model is no longer in stores and the 60 GB model for $499 has been discontinued. The 40GB model for $399 cannot play any PS2 games, while the more expensive 80G version ($499) can only play some PS2 games.
The PS3 is still fairly new, but Sony has done a good job offering the standard controllers and more for the system. One interesting new peripheral is the PlayStation Eye. The PSEye is a digital camera designed to work in low light conditions; it also serves as a speech-recognizing microphone. So far it can mainly be used for social networking, gaming and more over the Internet, but innovative games like the collectable card game/videogame hybrid Eye of Judgment, which uses a version of the Eye Toy peripheral, prove that Sony is still thinking outside the box.
There are a wide range of controllers, cooling fans, skins and other goodies available for your PlayStation 3.
Resistance: Fall of Man: This is a very well-made first-person shooter with top-notch action, graphics and a unique WWII-meets-'Aliens' environment.
Uncharted: Drake's Fortune: Terrific writing, pacing and -- gasp -- acting feature almost as prominently as the death-defying derring-do your character executes while swinging from vines and ropes and climbing rocks in search of treasure. Add in a whole bunch of fighting and a terrific cover-and-shoot combat system, and you have the next Indiana Jones or Lara Croft on your PS3.
Rock Band: Bring the band back together on your PS3 with this expensive ($169.99 MSRP) social rhythm game. Play drums, guitar or bass, or take a turn wailing on the microphone. Pricey? Sure. But it's still a real bargain in terms of gameplay and replay value.
Everyday Shooter: This is a tiny indie game that plays like Geometry Wars or the old Asteroids coin-op. The twist is that this one plays electric guitar chords with every hit. The carnage is nonstop and it totally rocks! Everday Shooter is now available for download from the PlayStation Network.
Warhawk: This game features up to 32 hovering and soaring futuristic fighter jets, tanks, turret gunners and soldiers all mixing it up online over your broadband connection.
The PlayStation 3 is the most sophisticated and powerful gaming console available today. While sales are slow and it looks like former industry leader Sony might end up in third place this console generation, the PS3 is still a solid gaming system and a good value, particularly if a Blu-ray player is something you want for your home theater, anyway. The good news is that the dearth of games plaguing the system in its first year seems to be ending, and it looks as if 2008 has a lot of great games in store for Sony's big black beast.