PS3 - PC In Disguise

The whole point of a console is to provide great looking games that are guaranteed to work without the hassle of installing the game, patching it, opening up firewall ports and configuring server and friend lists on a per game basis. It’s what I’ve become used to with the original Xbox and then the 360. So why is the PS3 so fucked up?

Before I rant on I should say this isn’t a Microsoft fanboy love in post. The PS3 is a great media player and there’s lot’s of things I really like about it compared to the 360. However the amount of firmware updates it’s now had are bordering on the ridiculous. Even worse, I still can’t access my friends list, chat to friends, playback music or easily swap to another game while in a current game. I need to quit and go back to the XMB and then I can chat etc. It feels so backwards when compared to the 360. Sony are promising in game XMB this year but I’ll believe it when I see it.

Another growing trend on the PS3 is installation of games. If you download anything from PSN then you then have to install it. This applies to all games, from the small 40Meg games up to gigabyte installs for Warhawk and GT5:Prologue. However more and more games insist on an install before you can even play the game. Most Capcom games and now GT5:Prologue want to install content on the hard drive. While this allegedly improves performance this step is taking up to 20 mins – hardly a console experience. Makes me chuckle when I think back to MS launching the original Xbox and how Sony sneered that it used a hard disk and was really just a PC. How times have changed.

Further annoyance with GT5 was an update you had to download before you could play the game. This took about an hour for me to download but I was lucky. I know a couple of people that had to try many times before the download actually worked. Grrrr. Once in the game GT5 lists ports that should be opened as well for online play. I’ve not had to do that for a game in years. How many people would know what to do?

I think that’s my major annoyance on the PS3. It feels bitty compared to the unified experience on the 360. It feels like PC gaming. Simple tasks on the 360 are made difficult or impossible on the PS3. Headset’s are a given on the 360 yet on the PS3, because they aren’t standard, you get issues. Quiet games or worse, compatibility issues within games. It’s for all those reasons, plus the fact that the majority of friends are using the 360, that non platform exclusives are always purchased for the 360 and there is nothing that Sony are doing that look like changing my mind. Shame.

Fifa or PES?

For the football loving gamer this is usually an annual question with an easy answer. If you prefer real stadiums, teams, leagues and players as well as some great graphics you pick Fifa. If you prefer subtle controls, a more realistic game and some flowing animations you pick PES. For me PES has always been an easy choice. Fifa suffered from repetitive gameplay, easy goal scoring and a real lack of challenge. PES was tough and I felt a better sim of football.

However the last release of PES on the 360 was disappointing. Stuttery graphics and more importantly gameplay that was far less fluid than the PS2 version had left a bad taste in the mouth. Online wasn’t bad but it wasn’t exactly glowing either. A subsequent patch had left it almost unplayable as it would drop half way through a match.

The demo’s for this years versions pointed to a far closer battle. PES was smoother in game than before but still stuttered badly in replays. Fifa felt very slow but had a lot more depth than previous versions. Both had camera issues but that was down to poor options in the demo.

Why I Bought PES
So I stumped up for PES yet again. The game was a lot better than last year with all in game stutter a memory that only returned during replays – they were awful! The gameplay was also smoother with a lot more depth and a nice feel to the game. Strict referee’s were back but once again i was happy with PES. Online though was a kick in the teeth. The first online PES 2 years ago was a mixed bag. Cheats could quit without penalty and the net code wasn’t the best. But it did allow 2 vs 2. Last years was less laggy but cheats could still prosper. Also the hosting was shared between the two gamers…meaning you could have a great first half if your hosting followed by a horrible, laggy, torrent spoiled second half. 2 vs 2 was also dropped.

This year still sees only 1 vs 1 and the couple of games I played were mixed. Seemed to go OK but after a period the lag was horrendous making the game unplayable. It was PES but only just. This was disappointing especially with Fifa promising online leagues, a way of playing for your team online and also a 5 vs 5 mode. To be honest I laughed when I read that – they’ve no chance of getting that to work well.

Why I bought Fifa
A couple of trusted friends eventually bought Fifa….and loved it. It didn’t have the depth or the fluidity of PES but online it rocked and the 5 vs 5 mode…..worked a treat. I’ve had the game over two weeks now and it is superb online. 1 vs 1 and up to 5 vs 5 is a very special game mode. Lag free and just a joy to play. It can be spoiled by greedy and mouthy players but played with a few friends is a great experience.

Graphically the game is good although sometimes the animations are a bit clunky. Sometimes the game can frustrate as it just isn’t as good as PES. However the online mode is so good you can overlook those issues.

You also have the ability to create your own public and private leagues, upload video’s and pictures to the net and take part in matches representing your team. Offline has much the same modes as PES but not to the same depth as PES master league.

So what should you buy?
If you only play offline, PES. If you are going to play online at all or never have done but like multiplayer gaming them Fifa is for you. It’s been a long time coming but Fifa has finally bettered PES this year for me. If only Konami could get near Fifa’s performance online – what a game that would be.

Orange Stats

Looking forward to playing Orange Box (especially Portal) at Christmas. Glad I kept that game back during the games deluge over the last month or so. Something Valve is known for is publishing game stats and with Team Fortress 2 they haven’t let anyone down. Great to see how popular certain classes, weapons and map’s are. Achievements also broken down – looks like it wasn’t played that much on-line with big parties. Either that or people have no friends.

Cheaper PS3

Announced today, there’s a new PS3 for £299 with no backwards compatibility, a smaller hard disk and only 2 USB ports, no media card drives. A pretty good price. The 60GB model drops to £349 and includes two first party PS3 games. So that’s what they are doing with Lair then!!

It’s a good price drop and takes it into 360 range especially as the features dropped aren’t essential in my opinion. However it leaves just one little question. Where’s the fecking games?

Metacritc PS3 Top 20
1 Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, The 93
2 Ninja Gaiden Sigma 88
3 NHL 08 88
4 Resistance: Fall of Man 86
5 Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Vegas 86
6 Virtua Fighter 5 85
7 Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 85
8 Sega Rally Revo 85
9 MotorStorm (JPN Import Version) 84
10 Warhawk 84
11 Super Stardust HD 84
12 SKATE 84
13 NBA 2K8 84
14 DiRT: Colin McRae Off-Road 83
15 Fight Night Round 3 83
16 MotorStorm 82
17 Gran Turismo HD Concept 82
18 Tekken 5: Dark Resurrection 82
19 College Hoops 2K7 81
20 NBA Street Homecourt 81
Metacritc Xbox 360 Top 20
1 BioShock 96
2 Halo 3 94
3 Gears of War 94
4 Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, The 94
5 Guitar Hero II 92
6 Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 90
7 Forza Motorsport 2 90
8 Call of Duty 2 90
9 Castlevania: Symphony of the Night 89
10 Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Vegas 89
11 Burnout Revenge 89
12 NHL 08 88
13 Project Gotham Racing 3 88
14 Project Gotham Racing 4 87
15 Elder Scrolls IV: Shivering Isles, The 86
16 Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 86
17 Fight Night Round 3 86
18 Elder Scrolls IV: Knights of the Nine, The 86
19 Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 86
20 SKATE 86

The table show the top 20 games on the PS3 and XBox 360 according to the average ratings as shown on Metacritic. I thought this would be the fairest way as biased reviews would be averaged ut across platforms. Doesn’t make very good reading for the PS3, does it? Where are the AAA exclusive titles for the PS3? They’ve been and gone and weren’t that good. It’s poor that the best rated exclusive title is Resistance which was a release game. It was good but that review score was very generous. Compare with the top 3 on the 360 and it makes for a compelling reason not to pick up a PS3. Even cross platform games are picking up the same score if not better on the 360.

If Sony wants to pick up sales it needs to address the games. If the PS3 had the AAA titles that the 360 has enjoyed then price wouldn’t be an issue and there wouldn’t be an entry level console launched today.

Halo Update

Still loving it, campaign on legendary is very hard, multiplayer is very very good and the ability to download maps and game variants that other people create and share offers so much life. We played a rocket racing mode tonight which was great fun.

There have been lot’s of reviews but I’m wondering…another 10 from Edge? I think it would be justified and would also be the first game series to be awarded two 10’s.

Halo 3 Rocks

So I’ve had 3 or 4 hours on Halo 3…enough for a quick opinion but not much else.

It’s a very pretty game. There’s been a lot of talk that it’s not up to par with Gears or Bioshock but in those games you only see a few enemies at a time and the levels are small and enclosed. The maps in Halo are very big, have lot’s of enemies, ships flying around, vehicles etc and I think it looks stunning. No glitches, always smooth (although I haven’t played much) and a very solid feel. They are also far more colourful than the drab, but detailed, Gears and Bioshock.

Halo 3

I’ve only played through a tiny bit of the campaign (screenshot from my campaign trial this afternoon) as I’m keeping that for co-op only. The sections I did play were pretty tough and the AI seemed much improved. I also kept running out of weapons and didn’t get to see any new weapons at all. Still, early days for the campaign. I played on heroic although fancy doing co-op on legendary to keep the challenge high. Looking at my friends list today there were a couple of folk running through the game on normal….looks like they took 6-8 hours to rattle through the game. So play on at least heroic to enjoy the game at it’s best. Thank goodness co-op mode was added as this will probably be the first Halo campaign I will actually complete.

However the campaign is the smallest part of Halo 3 – the emphasise looks to be on multiplayer as that’s what will keep gamers occupied for the next couple of years. I say years as I played and enjoyed Halo 2 for over two years and I hope this latest version has as much depth online as the previous version.

Halo 3 - Sword Action

I’ve only really played Team Slayer (4 vs 4) and on 4 maps so far. Firstly, no lag to be seen. Second, no cheating either. The new weapons offer quite a varied arsenal and it will take a while to get used to them. Old ones have also been tweaked. Sword for example does not last forever and also takes longer to pull out and use – it’s still powerful but not as much as in Halo 2.

Gameplay hasn’t changed too much but that’s a good thing as there wasn’t too much wrong with Halo 2. Bungie have addressed some community issues though. No more listening to morons on Live screaming, swearing, shouting, calling you gay, asking if you want a cup of tea and a scone. There’s a variety of options including not hearing opponents and being able to quickly mute your team. They’ve also introduced push to talk which has quietened things down too. It made for a far more enjoyable online experience.

Halo 3 - Flying Sword

There seem to be many more online game modes with the ability to create your own and share those creations with friends. Rocket Warthog racing anyone? I’ve not had any time to dabble with Forge which is a game mode in it’s own right that allows one team member to drop weapons, vehicles, change spawn points – basically customise the map to their hearts content. This is another option that should give longevity to the title.

Bungie have also increased web and community integration. Using the theatre mode I can share film and screenshots with friends and also via the Bungie website. I can download screenshots from Bungie and also select in game clips from the website to view on the 360. As the movies use the in game code you can only view the movies in game on the 360. How lovely (but massively bandwidth intensive) would it have been to save movies to a Bungie Youtube equivalent that could have been used to share in game movies with anyone? They have also made it easy to see what your friends are playing and how far they are in their game and they’ve upped the post game analysis details on their website.

The screens above are all from my short play time this afternoon (Flickr set here and will grow over time). The top picture shows the level of detail seen in the campaign mode. The next two are from one game of Team Slayer. The second picture is me wielding a sword and about to double kill another red guy. The last picture is an in air kill, again with the sword. You can also see a team mate sniping form right to left. The level of detail (bullets, blood etc) in incredible and a great example of how good the Halo 3 engine really is.

That’s about it really. A cracking update to the Halo universe and something I’ll look forward to playing for many months. Call of Duty 4 though will provide some stiff competition as it’s online mode is excellent. I probably played my last game on it tonight though as most of my friends will be picking up Halo 3 tomorrow. Let the big team battles begin.

Silly Season

Why has the games industry compressed a year long sales window into three months? Take the 360 for example. From January to end of August the only games I bought were GRAW2, Crackdown and Forza 2 alongside a few Live Arcade titles.

In the September to November months this is the likely list of games I want to buy:

  • Bioshock – bought
  • Tiger Woods 08 – bought
  • Madden 08 – bought
  • Halo3
  • PGR4
  • Orange Box
  • Pro Evo 2008
  • Call of Duty 4
  • Mass Effect
  • Assassins Creed

That is just too many in a short space of time and also leaves out games like Skate and Sega Rally which have OK’ish demo’s but are lost in amongst the flurry. I understand it’s holiday time but surely having so many AAA titles launching in the same period can only hurt there sales. Imagine how crowded it would have been if GTA IV was launching in October? It would certainly make more sense to stagger these releases over the year. Well more sense to me as it owuld give me more time to enjoy each game.

However this is shaping up to be a vintage year for games. The game’s over the last few weeks have been excellent. The Call of Duty 4 beta has been a superb taster for the game, Halo 3 is out on a few days and in October alone PGR4 and Pro Evo 8 are both big big titles. Only caveat with Pro Evo is that the demo is a little odd. It plays faster than previous versions and that can end with real pinball sessions in the box. Still, it’s smoother and a lot prettier than previous versions although no doubt online will still have some issues. It also has a dive button. Finally.

You’ll notice there’s no mention of the PS3. A few of the games above are also out on the PS3 but due to Xbox Live and also friends with 360’s it makes sense to get the 360 versions of the non exclusive games. Heavenly Sword was pretty disappointing and Metal Gear Solid, Little Big Planet and GTA IV are delayed until next year. So what’s left for PS3? Killzone 2 does look very nice and Uncharted – Drakes Fortune picked up a lot of buzz at E3 but both would need pretty stellar reviews to make them purchases. There is also a bigger demo version of GT5 that does promise online racing for up to 16. I’d normally be sceptical of those numbers but Warhawk has been a great multiplayer game on the PS3 with 24 and 32 player games. Server support makes all the difference and hopefully it will come to Xbox Live soon, especially as it’s a paid for service unlike PS3 which is free.

So next up is Halo 3. Considering I was playing Halo 2 over two years after release there’s an argument that I should only be picking up one more title this year. I’ll post up some thoughts on Halo next week…if I get time that is.