It may surprise long-time readers of this blog that it took me so long to get one, since I've ranted all about the Xbox 360 and Wii's problematic interfaces. You might have just assumed I was a Sony fanboy. Well, nothing could be further from the truth. I actually have had a little distaste for Sony consoles over the years. Yes, I have a PS2 and I've wholly enjoyed several titles on it. In fact, I've developed a grudging respect for it. But it's never been my console of choice.
The fact is, I passed up the PS3 several times around the holidays last year because it was just too expensive and didn't promise much in the way of gaming experiences. I only picked it up now because I was curious to compare Blu-Ray movies to HD-DVD and to try a few high-def games to see how they stacked up against the Xbox 360.
Once I made up my mind that I would get one, it took me much longer than I had imagined to find any compelling games and Blu-Ray exclusive movies to go with it. I finally settled on Resistance: Fall of Man since I enjoy sci-fi shooters, and The Fifth Element and The Black Crowes: Freak N Roll (the latter I had to special order online since it's apparently not available at any Seattle-area store).
On top of that, Sony announced its five free Blu-Ray movies promotion two days after I picked up the console, so I had to return it and repurchase it. Now, just a few hours after I finally cracked the box, word leaked out that there will most likely be a $100 price cut on July 12, right after Sony's E3 press conference. Fortunately, I believe Best Buy has 30-day price protection.
Right off the bat, the third-party component cables I picked up did not work at all. (Not Sony's fault, per se - except they made me buy them instead of including them in the box, and Fry's has never, ever received any first-party cables for some reason so I ended up buying Asid or some such brand.)
After getting the PS3 up and running with composite, I tried to create a PlayStation Network account, but the UI told me to had to go under System settings to perform an update first. This is such a rookie mistake: Why not just offer me the update right then and there? Why must I go digging through the UI to find some obscure menu choice? I held the Xbox 360 to the fire for the same issue back when it launched, and a year later they fixed it. Sony has had an extra year to learn from Microsoft's mistakes, and they chose not to. But I'll pick apart the UI in more detail in coming weeks.
The update itself took about 30 minutes to download and install, even over a reasonably fast DSL line. This gave me enough time to start charging my wireless controller and run out Best Buy to pick up an official component cable.
My next stop was to create that account and start downloading stuff from the PlayStation Store. I only have the one retail game to last me until another compelling console exclusive is released (Lair looks promising), so I wanted to download flOw, Gran Turismo HD, the Ninja Gaiden Sigma demo, trial versions of some puzzle games and some HD videos. At first I was impressed that I could stack nine or so downloads with ease. But I was annoyed when some downloads (such as Folding@Home, the application that helps scientists get process data needed to cure diseases while your console is idle) broke the mold and demanded to be downloaded in the foreground, interrupting my queue. (After all that, it also required another update since the first file was out of date!) Also, one video download errored out, and there's no obvious interface to restart it. And everything downloads hell-a slow.
So I went to see the Transformers movie and came back. The PS3 was still downloading, with only a couple files complete.
I then popped in a few Blu-Ray movies and was disappointed to learn that my Sixaxis controller makes a crummy remote. I can buy the official Sony remote for $25, but it's Bluetooth - which means I won't even be able to teach my Harmony remote with it. There's apparently a third-party remote that uses a USB dongle to accept IR inputs, so I'm going to investigate that.
For comparison's sake: My launch Xbox 360 came with a basic DVD remote (as a limited time promo), and it was $200 cheaper. With one game, two movies and some accessories, my PS3 cost $735 before tax. (Of course, I'll get $100 worth of free Blu-Ray movies, and possibly $100 back if the price drop rumor is true. So that should soften the blow.)
All that said, I kinda, uh, well, I really like the PS3. Yes, the UI is clunky. Very clunky, with lots of steps that make no sense (but more on that in my next column). The system costs far too much for what you get, even with all of the current and rumored promotions. And the out-of-box experience leaves a bit to be desired, especially if you have an HDTV.
After playing a few checkpoints of Resistance, floating through fl0w, logging some laps in Gran Turismo, and watching some Blu-Ray and HD downloadable trailers, I am very impressed. The picture and sound are great. I'd even suggest that they rival my Toshiba HD-DVD player (which, truth be told is a bit buggy, and slow to get firmware updates) and Xbox 360, albeit by a narrow margin. I'll still favor the 360 for multiplatform games, since I love the achievement system and would prefer to get some gamerscore than Sixaxis tilt-control features (when they're even implemented).
I do think that Sony can do a lot to improve the customer experience and make the system more appealing to casual gamers. I'll have more to say on that soon enough. But right now, I just want to have some fun with my new console.
And, to my surprise, it is pretty fun - for the moment, at least. Time will tell whether the enjoyment lasts past the honeymoon phase.