PlayStation 3: Kikizo Hands-On Feature
As the world's first consumers pick up a PS3, we share our thoughts on the console we've been playing since pre-launch and include a bit of an obligatory photo shoot as well. And this time, we can even mention games...
Whether stood upright or laid down flat, PS3's black plastic exudes glamour and authority in a modestly lit room, but under very bright conditions or bright light it can look like it's been out on the razzle for the night - you know it's still a looker, but it's make-up could do with a bit of a touching up.
Admittedly, it's not a handheld machine, so you might think that unlike PSP it won't get its shiny surface all smudged with fingerprints. But come on. Look at it and tell us that you, and your pals won't have their hands all over your PS3. It's gonna get dirty, not to mention attract dust like a last-gen console - so you best use that same soft cloth that came with your HDTV to wipe down the PS3 as well.
|Under light you can see stuff like the enormous cooling fan (but only in this prototype version, not in final PS3 models)|
Since this is only an issue when you go studying the machine with a bright light or under flash photo conditions, it's far from a big deal, and in a geeky kind of way, it's also quite cool to be honest. On the plus side, PS3 is so shiny that it's practically a mirror, and we all know shiny electronics are what it's all about. Until the fashion goes back to silver or white and Sony releases the PS3 in new colours - perhaps throwing router and additional HDMI ports back in the process to make it just like an E3 prototype. Double 1080p was always a joke anyway.
Considering we've heard minimal reports of overheating problems with PS3, this machine has got to be a work of engineering genius, despite its physical size. Firstly, the power supply unit is internal, unlike the often-mocked external 'power brick' that accompanies an Xbox 360 purchase. Second, Cell and RSX are both powerful chips that are going to eat power. Third, the PS2 emulation technology is condensed into a single chip inside PS3, comprising 'Emotion Engine' and 'Graphics Synthesiser'. Yet, this console is practically silent. Xbox 360 sounds like an airplane taking off, but PlayStation 3 barely emits more noise than a humble, beloved Sega Dreamcast, occasionally increasing in volume to a mere whimper.
|The back of PS3 is optimum hand-warming temperature in these cold winter months|
Here at Kikizo the hottest equipment we use has got to be metallic external hard drives, and these get too hot to touch - literally - when in constant use. PS3 doesn't get quite that hot, but is optimum hand-warming temperature in these cold winter months. The front of PS3 as you look at it standing face-on, which covers the Blu ray drive and PSU, doesn't get hot at all, but it's the rear/underside of the machine - propelling hot air upwards and to the back where the vents are - that gets very warm indeed. It surely all means that PS3 is a) powerful, and b) deals with heat properly. So far, so good. And it means you can watch HD movies (or play atmospheric games for that matter) without excessive noise in the background...
Moving onto the part of PS3 that is surely more controversial that the Blu ray inclusion, and that is of course the controller. We've done all the controller issues to death to be honest - we miss the tactile feedback in Resistance: Fall of Man that tells you you're being hit. But there's no point in talking about rumble and there's no point in asking anyone either. What is worth talking about is the quality of the final controller as well as updated impressions on the motion-sensing feature.
We'll say that initially, the controller did feel a bit cheap, and our first impression of an unwired, unrestricted PS3 controller in our hands was kind of in line with gossip about a tacky feel to the controller. But with prolonged use of PS3 over the last week or two, our impression of the controller is now the opposite. We really think that the cheap feeling is an illusion owing to the much lighter weight of the unit, thanks to the loss of rumble motors. It feels light like you'd expect a toy to feel, initially. But the undying comfort of the DualShock format stands the test of time, and the refinements made to the shoulder buttons (now trigger-style on the lower shoulders) feel natural and comfortable. A six hour play session on an Xbox 360 controller might cause slight strain, but less so here.
There's no doubt that the motion sensitivity of the PS3 controllers is functional and responsive, but even with some final software to play, we're still making our minds up as to how effective it is. We think that like PS3 itself, it's something many developers are still working on getting the most out of - for example, sensing a player's slight, subconscious use of the controller and enabling that to affect atmosphere or whatever - something Harrison has suggested in the past.
We'll quickly offer an honest, brief rundown of some of the software we've been playing, before our final hands-on impressions previews and then reviews of each at some stage soon.
Resistance: Fall of Man is a solid game but feels like rather a standard first person shooter with below average enemy design. Although there's nice-looking architecture through the game's environments, the graphics aren't that hot on the whole, especially with Gears of War raising the bar on Xbox 360. The weapons are great though, and you can tell that enemies are smarter here than in, say, a Call of Duty 3, from about a hundred miles away.
We still need to put more time in with Lair, but so far our early impressions are that the motion-sensitive control is an obstacle more than anything else; the game seems to require relatively big movements for it to work properly. Nonetheless, it's the most interesting example of motion sensing we've played so far, and ideal for showing off what the motion sensing means to a layperson in the most obvious of terms. It does look very smart at times, with some particularly nice examples of HDR lighting as you move from looking at horizon to sky or land, but it's otherwise quite... brown.
Genji: Days of the Blade is really still just Genji, with multiple characters and fast-change weapons. There's motion-controlling character movement but it's mostly superfluous since it works better on the stick. Formula 1, similarly, is Formula 1 and not much more. It doesn't look all that good and the demo is very limited, but it does run quite smoothly. We only have the TGS build of Ridge Racer 7, meanwhile, which we've previously reported on.
MotorStorm is the best of them all, however, and we've got a huge, in-depth feature on the game coming right up, so look forward to that one.
It should also be noted at this stage that, based on final production, thirdparty PS3 games we've had the chance to play extensively via developer access, those with Xbox 360 counterparts look pretty much identical on PS3, despite the extra time allowed before launch of PS3. But with the busy launch session complete for PS3 developers, many will now be focussing on the unique strengths of PS3 for exclusive titles, even though it remains to be proven commercially viable for dual-development titles to be specifically honed on the strength of either platform.
So these are our initial impressions of first in-office and in-home experience with final PS3 hardware. Clearly this is a hugely exciting machine that has a guaranteed fascinating story ahead of it, and for the time being we're looking forward to getting more time with finished hardware and soaking up many of the launch window games. Stay tuned for tonnes more PS3 coverage, we have lots planned.Director, Kikizo.com