Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Console Wars

This is so late in it's coming I might as well be reviewing pac-man. However the two big consoles in the world — I think — have reached their peak of usability with regards to games, online experience and operating system. I actually only own the Xbox 360, but I have a fair bit of experience with the PS3 and finally feel qualified to go through each feature and directly compare the consoles. Yes I am disregarding the Wii, and I will give you a very good reason; "I HATE THE WII", but more on that later.

Controller

Let's start simple, the controller is the main way that your body interfaces with the console so it's fairly important. The Xbox wins so clearly. The Xbox controller fit's snugly and ergonomically into your hand, the buttons and triggers are elegantly positioned and perfect for your thumbs and indexes. It's much heavier than the PS3 controller, but that doesn't bother me, because it means it has some substance. The rumble is also wonderful providing a decent haptic response. The PS3 controller on the other hand is tiny, so much so that it will be dwarfed by any hand older than 4 years. This makes it hard to press buttons causing cramps and repetitive strain injury up the butt. The triggers on the PS3 controller are horrible, they're sort of semi-springloaded, but they just feel spongy and uncomfortable, which is really annoying when most driving in games is now controlled chiefly by triggers. The PS3 controller's sixaxis, while sounding cool and a good premise, is just plain annoying and useless. The only time I've tried it is in GTA IV but it was horrible.

Operating System

This is slightly less clear, so I'm just gonna directly compare facets. First the look, simple, the PS3 operating system is gorgeous, the Xbox system looks like lego, PS3 wins. Menu layout is up next, they're only slightly different, the animation is much nicer on the PS3 but that doesn't really affect usability. I remember the old Xbox operating system worked much better and was pissed off that they changed it, but for the life of me I've forgotten everything about it now. Functionality next and I'm gonna try to avoid online function. I have less experience with the PS3 on this front. I know that on the Xbox however, you can listen to music and watch videos from a usb connected device, you can stream from a windows PC, which is useless for me, a Mac user. I'm pretty sure there is similar function with the PS3 but there is probably less restriction on file types and mac blocking.

Online content and function

The Xbox online content is great, Microsoft constantly pump out interviews, previews, demos, images, reviews, tips, tricks, arcade games and in the case of Britain a couple of douchebags doing some very poor work. While the PS3 produces less exclusive content, it has the important stuff, downloadable demos and dlc for games. However when you get to the versatility of internet usability the PS3 wins outright. The one thing that the Xbox is missing most of all is the most simple thing, a web browser. Even with the recent update, which gives you facebook, twitter and last.fm functionality on your Xbox, it is still nothing compared to a bloody web browser. I'm a big revision 3 podcast fan and every week I am forced to download podcasts to my 4gb memory stick and then put that in my Xbox. If I had a PS3 I could simply use the web browser to stream or download rev3 podcasts directly to my console. But it's not like that is the only application of a web browser. The way Microsoft have restricted online function is absurd and I cannot figure out why they want to control it so much. Online play is the last facet of this section, on the Xbox you pay a subscription to be an, "Xbox Live Gold Member", which frankly sucks and isn't that cheap. The PS3 online play however is free, regardless of game, however there is less integration with the gaming community than on the Xbox. DLC is another big thing, more and more games are coming out with extra content online that you can download for a fee, whether you agree with this or not I will leave up to you, but I will say this. On the PS3 it is simple enough you pay the price using you card and you download, with the Xbox you have to buy points first and exchange these for games. The problem is you can't buy points in the amount that any DLC costs, which is both very shrewd and clever on the part of Microsoft and also makes me want to kill them.

Hardware

The PS3 wins, even before they released the slim version. First off it has a blu-ray player built in, not only that, but it's supposedly the best blu-ray player currently on the market. Xbox sided with High Def DVD and didn't even put it in the console, you had to buy a separate drive. The PS3 is bigger and heavier but it is also very good looking and practically silent compared to the Xbox, which sounds like a Boeing 747 taking off. I understand that if you care-not for your warranty — which is stupid considering the amount of faults the Xbox has — you can send your console to some specialists, who will take it apart, and put it in a giant box, which will slightly reduce the noise for some money. The PS3 is all built in, which is good because you don't have to fork out £50 for a wireless network adapter, but not as good because you can't remove and change hard disks like you can with the Xbox.

Hardiness

There is one last point to be made. The Xbox is famous for something called the red-ring-of-death, which comes up when you're xbox is basically going to die, you can send it back to the manufacturers to be repaired for free as many times as you like, it's probably gonna die. Plus when you send it back you no longer have an Xbox, which is poop. The reason so many Xboxes have this problem as I have been made to understand it, is because, when the initial release of the console came, it was rushed to beat the PS3 and win some market saturation. As such components were installed poorly, without testing. I'm lucky enough to have one of the few Xboxes that has suffered from nothing more than a few false starts, which still keep me awake at night with worry. However everyone else I know with an Xbox has had the red ring and eventually either sells it and plumps for a PS3 or sells it and gets a replacement which is a pain. I also understand that for the first few years the percentage of Xboxes suffering from faults was a large majority of the total population, but now it has been reduced massively.

So as you can see each console has its merits and demerits, and I hope I've given people, considering getting a console, a hand in choosing. It's a tricky decision which now can no longer be made on the basis of price, as they're getting closer and closer though the Xbox is slightly cheaper. Personally, if you can afford it, then get both, you'll then have the best of both worlds, and be able to play all the games regardless of platform. I will explain why I hate the Wii in a later post.