Sony PlayStation 3

The most powerful and technologically equipped of the three next-generation consoles, the PS3s past catalogue of irritating media blunders, production cock-ups and delivery delays should do nothing to dent the success of this truly impressive piece of cutting-edge hardware. A higher than average price tag is reflected in a truly next-generation video game console whose capabilities include a Blu-ray next-generation optical disc-drive, positionable space-sensitive wireless controller and 60 GB hard drive as standard features. Following on from their past successes, Sony are once again positing their console as the adult gamers’ choice – to this effect they blasted into the market place with a series of slick yet slightly deranged TV advertisements that were subjected to a string of hasty re-edits due to their shocking visual content hinting at drug abuse and glorifying random, criminal violence (not that bad press has ever does anything but boost sales of their platform).

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Sony PlayStation 3 Versions

At the American launch two versions of the PS3 were shipped – a 20GB and the 60GB Premium Version. While North Korea’s PS3 sports an 80GB hard drive, there are no current plans to release this on PAL territories. The European PAL version of the Sony PS3 comes in a single standard configuration – the PS3 Premium Version with 60GB hard drive.

Sony PS3 Premium Version (£400 – 425).

  • Console.
  • Built in Blu-ray player.
  • 60 GB Hard Drive for storing games, movies and music.
  • Wireless, motion sensitive Sixaxis controller.
  • Wi-fi capability as standard.
  • Composite AV cable.
  • HDMI high-definition output cable (included free at certain stores)

PlayStation 3 Accessories

  • PS3 Wireless Sixaxis Controller (one included, extra controller £35).
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The Sixaxis is a spatially aware, motion-sensitive wireless controller that builds upon Sony’s PS2 design classic to bring a new level of control to next generation gaming. The intuitive motion-sensing abilities of the Sixaxis allow it to detect rotational and translational acceleration along all three dimensional axes allowing you to steer cars, dodge bullets and control your in-game characters in ways not even imagined yet by simply tilting the joypad in the required direction! Operating wirelessly by Bluetooth, up to 7 Sixaxis controllers can be connected with any one PS3 at a time. Its internal batteries charge directly from the PS3 console via a USB cable, giving 30 hours of play between uses and dispensing with the need for additional battery packs or rechargeable batteries. The centrally placed PS button gives you quick access to the PlayStation 3’s home menu and all the multimedia you have stored there, it also allows you to conveniently switch the system on and off.

  • PlayStation Eye (£ TBC). This is the snappy name given to a specialised digital web cam designed exclusively for the PlayStation 3. It allows players to control compatible games and indulge in real-time integrated video and voice chat with colleagues on the PlayStation Network or across the Internet in general. The PlayStation Eye builds on the success of the PS2 Eye Toy, offering up to four times the resolution (now 640×480), two times the frame rate (60 Hertz) and twice the sensitivity of its hugely popular predecessor. A built-in four-capsule microphone with advanced background-noise suppression and multi-directional voice tracking technologies negates the need for a headset – even in noisy locations. “Eyecreate” is the bundled software pack allowing users to capture, edit and upload video and audio clips to the PlayStation 3’s 60 GB hard drive with a variety of pre-loaded effects, such as slow-motion. Online multiplayer games will never be the same again!
  • Bluetooth Remote Controller (£17.99). Sit back, relax and enjoy high-definition movies on Blu-ray disc, upscaled DVDs or traditional audio CDs. Seeing as the PS3 remote control operates on Bluetooth and not infra-red, you don’t even have to point it at the PlayStation – just be in the same room!
  • Bluetooth headsets (£ Varies according to model). Since the PlayStation 3 incorporates wireless Bluetooth connectivity as standard, you can connect any compatible Bluetooth headset to indulge in live video and voice chat. Alternatively, connect one through a USB port to experience the full interactive experience when playing online.
  • Logitech Driving Force EX Steering Wheel (£49.99).

Feel the bumps and fight the curves in any compatible PS3 racing game with a Force Feedback powered, ergonomic racing wheel. Separate twin-pedal set and F-1 style, wheel mounted gear shifters really put you in the driver’s seat.

  • PS3 Memory Card Adaptor (£12.99). Able to support both official PlayStation and third-party memory cards from PlayStations One, Two and Three, this adaptor allows you to upload your game saves from previous consoles onto your 60 GB PS3 hard disc. You can also transfer them to a PS3 memory card for easy portability – a must have for fans of the classics and those with a long gaming history behind them.
  • Keyboards ( £ Varies according to model). USB and Bluetooth keyboards allow you to use the Internet for more than just voice chat and downloading videos. Compose longer and more eloquent verbal attacks for your online adversaries or use it to win friends and allies in your quest for online domination.
  • Logitech Chillstream Controller (£24.99). Just one example of innovative third-party PS3 accessories – this precision, motion-sensitive game controller packs all the features of the official Sixaxis (minus Bluetooth) controller but with one remarkable difference, it makes use of a tiny built-in fan to pump 3.41 cubic feet of air around frantic, sweaty hands ensuring that you never lose your grip in those mammoth game playing sessions. With variable fan settings, near silent operation and an ergonomic design featuring soft rubber grips and precision calibrated buttons, this futuristic controller may just help you get the edge over the competition!

Sony PS3 Next-Generation Capabilities

  • Blu-ray disc player. Blu-ray is the next generation of optical disc – a dual layer Blu-ray disc can store up to 50GB of information, that is more than 6 times the amount of a dual layer DVD. The PlayStation 3 is the only next-generation console to be able to output at all high-definition resolutions up to 1080p. Connect your PS3 up to a 1080p HD-ready TV set and you will be enjoying video games and movies at the highest standard available, offering levels of detail and vibrancy that are simply jaw-dropping. The PS3 comes with Blu-ray as standard, boosting its performance in two main areas:
  1. High Definition Video Games. Gone are the days of a mere 8.5 GB DVD video game – all PS3 titles come on Blu-ray, meaning a sizeable jump in the quality of graphics and audio. Huge games offering real and fantasy world environments can be included on a single, massive capacity dual layer Blu-ray disc, offering a sense of in-game realism and range of gameplay never seen on a console before. You can store games, game saves and other gaming data on the plentiful 60 GB hard drive that comes as standard.
  2. High Definition Movies. With seven major Hollywood studios backing Blu-ray exclusively, its place as the next generation optical disc format seems fairly secure. With Blu-ray discs’ enormous capacity (up to three hours of HD video content plus an additional nine hours of Standard definition bonus material can be stored on one dual layered disc), Blu-ray movie releases will become an aficionado’s must-have. Using the latest HDMI 1.3 port to connect to an HD-ready TV set, you can play Blu-ray discs on your PS3 and see for yourself what high definition really means (the PS3 is the first player to use HDMI 1.3 output – offering the highest possible sound quality and video over a single cable). In addition to this, the PS3 plays standard DVDs at high definition quality by upscaling them to HD resolution – meaning that you can enjoy your existing DVD movie titles as you have never seen them before! You can download movie trailers from the Internet to store on the 60GB hard drive and use it to store and play many other types of movie files including MPEG and DVDs. It’s worth noting that the PS3 is the cheapest Blu-ray player on the market thanks to massive subsidies by Sony – who desperately need you to buy it and ensure that they win the next generation format war. With untold amounts of time and money invested, this is a battle they simply cannot afford to lose! The cell chip running the PS3 is a high powered piece of cutting edge technology that handles video and images extremely competently, so rest assured the PS3 is a Blu-ray player to contend with.
  • PlayStation Network. This is Sony’s free online service for use with the PS3 console. Connect wirelessly or via a USB hub or ethernet port to a broadband Internet connection and you can experience a new world of online interaction with friends and acquaintances across the world. Aside from free Internet access, joining PlayStation Network also allows you to wirelessly connect to your PlayStation Portable (PSP) and stream video content, music, photos and other information between the devices. Via free firmware upgrades (upgrades to the PlayStation 3’s core programming) advanced features will be made available as Sony creates them. PlayStation Network will take care of all the necessities of an online network: allowing you to interact with voice, video and text chat; see what your friends are up to; and rank and record your scores so that you can be squarely matched with friend and foe alike in multiplayer environments. For example, Resistance: Fall of Man, the PS3 launch title, allows ranked matchmaking in online 40 person multiplayer mode. Taking things a step further, the free online update for Tekken 5 will allow you to observe potential competitors in action, gauge their martial arts fighting style and trash talk them before matches, you will be able to compete in both ranked and unranked matches – meaning that we will be able to see once and for all who is the real king of the Iron Fist Tournament.
  • PlayStation Store. This is an online, virtual market which offers downloadable content for both the PlayStation 3 and the PlayStation Portable. Unlike other consoles’ online services, the PlayStation store offers loads of free content including game demos, HD movie trailers and game add-ons. Paid-for content includes classic games, new smaller titles and emulated versions of previous PlayStation games which can be streamed to your PSP. Sony plan to offer a host of video and music content in the future that will include HD movies, TV shows and standard definition movies to rent or buy. The PlayStation Store is unique among the seventh generation of consoles in being the only online service to allow direct transactions per item purchased – as opposed to the points or credit system used by the other next-gen consoles. A master account allows money to be deposited into a virtual wallet that can then be distributed among sub accounts as required. This allows a parent, for example, to credit children with pre-set amounts of money to be spent as they wish. Additionally, parental controls can be set, meaning that adults do not have to suffer the irritations of censorship, while minors are protected from explicit content. Currently, up to six concurrent downloads can take place while a player enjoys games, videos, music or photos stored on the hard drive or while surfing the Internet.
  • PlayStation Home. To be provided free of charge, this is Sony’s 3-D virtual world where every player will be assigned an online character (also known as an avatar) allowing them to walk around and interact with other players in a variety of interesting ways. Comparable perhaps to Second-Life, PlayStation Home offers a number of innovative features that really set this feature apart from the competition. You will be able to chat to other players via an online keyboard, type long messages on a USB keyboard or simply speak with live voice chat. Emotes are signature movements assigned to players and used to convert certain messages quickly and easily just like in the Sims. You can customise your realistic 3-D character’s physical features and clothes in addition to downloading (paid for) items. Bonus items can be won in various games and you will be able to sell user-created, purchased and trophy content to other users. All characters share a communal space – a futuristic construction of glass and steel, fringed by alpine forests and distant glacial peaks. Even better, everyone has their own ultra-modern private home where other players can come by invite only. Your private home can be furnished as you please and decorated with in-game achievement trophies or real life photos that you can upload and put in picture frames on the walls! If that is not enough, you can invite friends round to watch your videos and listen to your personal music collection (at which the avatars will begin to dance). Go to the online movie theatre to watch downloadable video content or head to the Hall of Fame to marvel at the trophies won by the greatest players on the PlayStation Network. The best part of PlayStation Home for gamers, however, is the ability to play online games at the Home arcade – including bowling, pool and a ream of classic coin-op titles. When you get bored of these you can exit PlayStation Home with a band of newly acquired companions to take part in multiplayer online games on the PlayStation Network. You can see a video preview of this remarkable service here.
  • Backwards Compatibility. The PlayStation 3 UK version uses software emulation to play titles from the PS1 and PS2 consoles. While this has been only a partial success with many games playing badly or not at all, Sony are addressing the problem with Firmware updates. Check their website for a complete list of games and their current status.
  • Memory card readers. The PlayStation 3 comes with built-in multi-format memory card readers able to support not only Sony’s own format Memory Stick family but also Compact Flash and SD/MMC cards. Simply plug one of these cards in, read the data straight from it or download it to the 60GB hard disk. Thus you can easily share content such as videos, photos and music between your camera, mobile phone, PC and PSP – but remember, where Bluetooth connectivity is available you can do it wirelessly.
  • PlayStation 3 Media Hub. Connect your 60GB PS3 to your television, home entertainment system, speaker set-up, PSP, or all three simultaneously and do away with the need for separates once and for all. When it comes to multimedia Sony have not skimped on compatibility issues. On the video front, the PlayStation 3 can play DVDs, CDs and Blu-ray Discs (and rip to the hard drive where legal). It also supports MPEG-1, MPEG-2 and MPEG-4/H.264 video files from USB drives, flash memory cards, or optical discs. You can access your music and photos in the same way and view the latter in a variety of snappy slideshows at premium resolution.
  • Remote Play. Using the PlayStation wireless network you can integrate your PS3 with your PSP device allowing you to enjoy a variety of content stored on the built-in PlayStation 3 60GB hard disc! Connecting the two allows you to play games, surf the Internet, watch movies and photo slideshows, or listen to music on your PSP, free of charge and free of wires! Conversely, you can enjoy any PSP content stored on its Memory Stick Duo media on the big screen via your PS3.There are even plans to allow you to use the PSP in-game as an additional controller or viewing device.

PlayStation 3 Final Word

With a built-in next-generation Blu-ray disc player, an ample 60GB hard drive, Wi-fi Internet and Bluetooth connectivity as standard, the PlayStation 3 really is the king of next-generation consoles. The Xbox 360 offers similar features only as extra purchases or not at all. The downside is the high price and the platform’s relative newness. With Microsoft’s Xbox 360 on the scene a whole year before, Sony’s PlayStation Network simply cannot offer the same in terms of quantity, although as previews of the jaw-dropping PlayStation Home virtual world indicate, quality is another matter altogether. While Microsoft’s Xbox Live is far larger, all Sony Network has to do is catch up, and in the meantime online plays are free while Microsoft charges. At the moment there is no perceivable difference in Xbox 360 or Playstation 3 games – this is due to two things, firstly, you are looking mostly at cloned titles produced by the same third-party game company for both machines. Secondly, publishers have yet to get to grips with the Playstation 3’s advanced capabilities. It will be a while before we see what it is truly capable of and even then it is likely to be on Playstation 3 exclusive titles only. Like a fledgling tiger-cub, the PS3 packs more power than it currently knows what to do with, and while it feverishly tugs and picks at the fabric of video game virtual reality with nascent next-gen claws it only remains to be seen who will hang around to watch it grow into a killer. Find out more at the official site.