I’ve had some good times with my PS2. Finishing God of War, Grand Theft Auto San Andreas, and Resident Evil 4 were awesome feats of patience and practice strung over months of intermittent playing, if I do say so myself.
Now the PS2 era is slowly ending — with 120 million consoles out there it’s not going to disappear overnight, but new games are going to be a lot rarer in the coming years. And so I’ve been looking closely at the next generation of consoles — Xbox 360, PS3, and Wii.
These are three very different systems, so I knew the decision would be difficult. There was so much to consider, including price, games, capability, reliability, and functionality.
In terms of price, two of the three systems are pretty expensive. The Xbox 360 Elite is $549 to buy, and I’ll probably pay another $50 for a second controller and $40 for a battery charger kit to bring the total to $639 before taxes. Xbox Live, which is crucial to play online and will allow me to access everything from television shows to free games, is another $50 for the year.
The PS3 retails for $699, and a second controller is $60. While expensive, the online service is free, and it comes with built-in Blu Ray high definition player and wireless Internet capability. On the other hand, the Elite comes with a 120 GB drive, compared to the PS3’s 60 GB drive, and an HDMI cable ($15 to $70) value. I can also buy a HD-DVD add on for the 360 in a year or two if it wins the format wars.
The most affordable system out there is the Nintendo Wii at just $289. However, throwing in another $50 for a pair of Wii Classic Controllers, $50 for the Nunchuk controllers, $45 for a second Wii Remote Controller, and $25 for the Wii Wireless Sensor Bar, brings that price to $459. Throw in the battery charger and we’re climbing into 360 range.
As for games, the edge has to go to Xbox 360 which hit the market a year before the competition, while Microsoft has been successful in locking in some great exclusive games while signing up game companies that once produced exclusively for Playstation. Xbox can usually play PC games as well, something previously unavailable to console owners.
The PS3 should have some great exclusive games in the next few months, but no longer has the edge. Nintendo has some fun looking games as well, but my overall impression is that the games are for kids (and seniors), and reviews of the Wii motion-sensing remote suggest that this is less precise and therefore less exciting than it should have been. When the technology gets to the point where the movement of a sword or baseball bat onscreen matches my exact remote movement at home, I’ll probably be a little more generous.
In terms of capability, nothing is quite like the Cell processor used in the PS3. The heart of all games is physics, and the Cell has the physics crunching power of about seven processors.
However, game companies have complained that it’s a difficult processor to program for. As a result it’s more than likely that the majority of games will be ported for use in all consoles and will never fully tap into the Cell’s power.
At the same time, some computer geeks will swear up and down that the Xbox 360 has superior processing power and graphics. It all comes down to polygons, shaders, dot operations per second, and so on. There’s a good article on GameSpot ( www.gamespot.com ) that explains the basic technology.
The Wii is vastly underpowered compared to other next generation consoles. It offers no high definition content, and has a fraction of the computing or graphics power of either the PS3 or 360. However, Nintendo has proved that polygons do not equal fun, while injecting some sanity back into the tech-spec crazed gaming world.
As for reliability, both the Wii and PS3 are so far performing quite well, while Xbox is rumoured to be plagued by overheating issues, software glitches, and the “red circle of death.” The next-generation Elite will have a lower-heat processor, and most of the early reliability issues have been dealt with according to Microsoft.
Which leads me to the last criteria, functionality. All three consoles offer an online environment that includes downloading classic games, online player, online bonus content, web browsers, and chat services, while the 360 and PS3 will offer television and movies as well.
The Wii, inexplicably, can’t be used as a DVD player, and considering I currently use a PS2 to watch movies that’s a big negative.
The Xbox 360 has the advantage because their online experience is several years more advanced than the PS3’s. The larger 120 GB hard drive also means I can load pretty much all of my music collection onto a 360 and use it as my living room stereo, as well as DVD player and game machine.
The winner? Unless PS3 does something dramatic in the next few months, it looks like I’m getting the Xbox 360. It’s not perfect, but all of the next generation systems have their drawbacks.