Because my son’s domination of the television and, indeed, the entire living room by his 24/7, non-stop playing of Call of Duty 4, and his loud, loud, continual swearing, homophobia and racially-tinged epithets which is, of course, your standard Xbox Live experience really made it impossible to get anything done that required thought, I consigned him, the 360 and the TV to his bedroom, where he could belittle strangers with some doors between him and I.
This left an empty space in the living room where the TV used to be, and a rather lonely set of Rock Band drums. The only game I played on the 360 was Rock Band, but since CoD4 invaded the house, I’d gotten very little chance to play, anyway.
So I subscribed to ConsumerReports.org, put in my desired screen size and price, and got their top recommendation for a cheap, basic HDTV, an Insignia (who? yup.) 37 inch, 720p TV. It was even on sale at Best Buy. This last weekend, I completed the set with a Playstation 3.
I didn’t buy the PS3 for the games. It’s been out for how long? And I still have not seen even one game that would compel me to purchase it, aside from Rock Band, which I already own. For the past however long it’s been out, I have been waiting for that one PS3 game I could not live without, that would force me to buy it. Nothing, nothing and more nothing. I don’t play shooters or war games. I’m not really into killing games, my MMO hobby aside. I don’t feel like competing online with foul-mouthed boys. I do like family-friendly games, but then, I have a Wii. Oh yes. Unlike the PS3, the Wii WAS a system that compelled me to buy it.
I bought the PS3 as a DVD/Blu-Ray player, and a media server. First thing I did was watch some Battlestar Galactica and Doctor Who episodes from my Linux server. Then I put in a DVD — Iron Giant — and watched as it looked sharper and clearer than I had ever seen. The PS3 is an amazing media/DVD player.
Anyway, the PS3 I bought came with Metal Gear Solid 4. Since I had less than zero interest in a game where you run around assassinating people (and I wonder how I will feel about the Agency when it comes out? Since it’s all about randomly assassinating people from what I understand), I handed it to my son.
We waited ten minutes while the game installed on the hard drive. I thought this odd. Can we toss the disk now? During those ten minutes, Snake smoked three cigarettes all the way through, and had started on a fourth. Yup, the LOADING… screen is just this old guy, chain-smoking. Early on in the game, in one of the game’s interminable cut-scenes, one of the other characters asks him why he looks so old. My guess: his smoking habit. After a hard day dragging the victims of your sniper-scope attack into the shade so they don’t attract attention, you can even select the cigarettes in his inventory, and he’ll light right up. Ahhhhh. Suddenly the fact that he’s been spotted and a leapfrogging robot is after him, just fades away, like a cool mountain breeze.
I had kicked the Xbox 360 away from polite company only to hand the PS3 and the living room right back to my son. The irony was crushing.
Anyway, now that I have both consoles, here’s the comparison, so far.
Playing media. Both the Xbox 360 and the PS3 can play most media files from their hard drives. The Xbox 360 can talk with Windows machines running the Media Center extenders to stream media; the PS3 can talk to any DLNA/UPnP media streamer, including Windows MCE. Both consoles can play DVDs. The controls work better (imo) on the PS3. Plus the PS3 controller does not need batteries or a rechargeable battery pack, since it gets its power from being plugged into the PS3 via USB cable for an hour. Built in wireless networking removes the need to buy an extra wireless card, as the 360 requires. Plus the PS3 upsamples DVDs amazingly so they look high-def, AND it plays the new high-def DVD format, Blu-Ray, out of the box. Advantage: PS3 by a long mile.
Games: I am going to have to disqualify myself. I don’t like any of the system-exclusive games for either system enough to actually fork out $60 to play them, aside from franchise games that appear on every platform. I’ll play Guitar Hero World Tour on PS3 when it comes out, and in fact I will probably buy franchise games for the PS3 now that I have it, but I didn’t buy a PS3 to play them. That said, Xbox 360 has all these achievements with which you can keep score with your friends. I don’t know if the PS3 has achievements. Their Playstation Network is free, while Xbox Live has a monthly fee. Since I don’t care particularly for the games on either system, I will have to consider this one a draw. My son has a clear preference for the Xbox 360, since all his friends have 360s and they can get together and call each other gay for twelve hours straight. So counting his vote, advantage: Xbox 360.
Hardware: The PS3 is a nice bit of machine. The controls, and in fact, the entire machine has heft, design wins, and cute little touches like the touch sensitive buttons. The Xbox feels light and cheap. The wireless controllers need a constant supply of batteries, or a recharger — sold seperately. The wireless adapter is sold separately. Because licensing fees for wireless controllers are apparently beyond the means of manufacturers, Rock Band forced people to use a messy, separately-powered USB hub to get all the instrumentes plugged in. Advantage: PS3.
Compatibility: The Xbox 360 is compatible with Xbox games. The current version of the PS3 has no backward compatibility with PS2 games. Advantage: Xbox 360 by a mile.
Variety: The PS3 comes only in the 40 GB edition. The Xbox 360 has a bunch of variations, depending on your needs and budget. Advantage: Xbox 360 again.
Final tally: If you want your next-gen console to live as the heart of your entertainment center, the PS3 is your obvious, easy and best choice. If all you care about is gaming, and especially gaming with people online, and calling someone a ****-****** ****** *** doesn’t bother you, head right down and get that Xbox 360 with your name on it.
If I seem biased, well, remember. I paid money for both these consoles. And the last time I wondered about this, I ended up buying the Xbox 360. Having lived with all its quirks and flaws for seven months, I have a better basis for comparison. I also complain a lot about Xbox Live. After using it for many sessions of online Rock Band, and listening to it for months as my son played it, I honestly don’t have a generally high opinion of the random strangers you meet online. They tend to be children or teens and they spout racist, homophobic language of such fervor that I really wonder how they will view the world as adults. That said, since I have no PS3 games, I have not used the Playstation Network. I have heard it’s not as bad as Xbox Live, but I have no personal experience with it. When I revisit this topic, maybe I’ll have found that PSN is just as bad or worse. As it is, Xbox Live is the only one with which I have experience, and if my son weren’t an adult, I wouldn’t let him use it. The one PS3 game I have seen opens with the main character chain-smoking for ten minutes, so I don’t have a high expectation for PS3 games, though obviously they look fantastic. Well, that one does, anyway. They had Heavenly Sword at the demo station at the store, and that looked fairly cool, but I know from reviews that it is a short play. The lack of compatibility with PS2 games is a severe downer for me.