Knowing how much people value my input when making critical life choices, I've decided to review the three big modern game consoles. Let's start with price.
The Xbox 360 comes in two formats, the Premium ($399.99) and the Core ($299.99). The Premium package comes with a removable drive, a few more connection options, and spyware pre-installed.
The Sony PS3 also comes in two formats, the Premium ($599) and the Basic ($499). The Premium includes a PS3 and a bunch of crap that most people won't use. The Basic comes with a cardboard model of the PS3.
The Nintendo Wii comes in one format and sells for $250.Winner:
The Wii, since you can't even begin to justify blowing more than $300 on a game console.
It's been a long time since "hardware" in gamespeak meant anything other than "lots of polygons," so we'll focus on graphics.
The Xbox 360 has an outrageously fancy graphics system that makes it really clear that video game art has gone down hill since the early 1980s. Like the Xbox before it, the 360 reminds us that programmers aren't always the best people to tap when your game needs pretty pictures. This might change when someone gets an SNES emulator working on the 360.
Ditto for the PS3.
The Wii doesn't have this problem. The graphics hardware is only a modest improvement over the old Gamecube, but Nintendo's art department is... well... an art department. They draw stuff that doesn't suck.Winner:
The Wii, since it doesn't embarrass itself.
When compared to other Microsoft products, which require several seconds to develop that thick, rich layer of malware that users love, setup for the Xbox 360 couldn't be easier. All you need to do is remove it from the box, plug it in, turn it on, reset it until it works, download updates, reset it, and then turn it off until someone gets a good SNES emulator running for it.
I had more trouble with the PS3. Getting it out of the box was pretty easy, at least until I found a note inside saying that I had accepted an EULA by opening the box. Then I plugged it in and got a message like this:
The Sony PS3 has noticed that you have plugged it into your home electrical system. In accordance with the EULA you agreed to, the PS3 will modify your home electrical system to prevent the use of unauthorized electrical devices that could, in theory, be used to violate Sony's copyright on stuff. Do you wish to continue?
I was a little disturbed, so I clicked no. It then asked me if I was Chuck Norris. I made the mistake of saying no again, so it said "Whatever!" and tried installing something into the nearest power outlet. Fortunately, I was able to tear it out before my place burned down. Unfortunately, that means I can't conduct any more tests with this PS3.
The Wii was surprisingly difficult to get running. I had to sort through a lot of little bits and figure out which went where. It came with a small library of manuals in various languages, but no single manual was comfortable enough to sit on. As a result, I had to figure out how to get it working all on my own. That took a while, since it has a special sensor for the wireless controller that has to be in just the right place. One of my roommates eventually read the manual and said that it needed to be just below the TV, but that didn't work at all. I found it needed to be just above the floor. Then I got lost in the menus. There's a lot to do even before you even get to play a game. I spent six hours making a Mii (an Avar of you that appears in some games and forces the Lombards out of Germany). I guess the idea is that you can customize it to look just like you. However, I found the tools so limited as to be unusable.Winner:
The Xbox 360, since if you've used Windows, you know what to expect.
The new thing for games this year is Internet play. Apparently setting up online services is easier and cheaper than making games people actually want to play for their own virtues.
The Xbox 360 hooks up to the Internet fairly well. If you spend the extra bucks, you can get a few more options to hook your machine up to your router.
The PS3 connected itself to the Internet before I even had it set up. I'm not sure how or why, since it didn't have my wireless password.
The Wii supports USB and wireless connections, but from my experience I can say the antenna doesn't work too well. We were eventually able to get it to work by moving our wireless router into the same room as the Wii and connecting them via USB. On the upside, Nintendo offers free (like Linux) online play. All you need to do is reconfigure your entire house and spend hours and hours fighting with the Wii to access this free service.Winner:
The PS3 is clearly (and disturbingly) the champion.
Traditionally, or at least since about 1995, this category has been ignored by people comparing gaming consoles. I'm not sure why, since there have been over a dozen good games released in the United States since then. Anyhow, in the interest of accuracy, I'm going to nore it.
I have been assured that the Xbox 360 has several good games, since it can (sometimes) run old Xbox games. Leading the pack is Halo 2, which features several significant improvements over Doom in terms of plot (it almost has one) and number of polygons used. However, once someone writes a PS2 or SNES emulator that runs on the 360, the situation will improve significantly.
The PS 3 has a huge advantage over the 360 in terms of games. While the 360 does a poor job of emulating Xbox games, the PS3 does a poor job of emulating PS2 and PSX games. It also has fine native games like Final Fantasy XVI or whatever number they're on now.
The Wii has a huger advantage. You can download and play old Nintendo games, and it will also play such awesome GC titles as Animal Crossing and Chibi Robo. It also features a nifty new way of controlling games. Nintendo apparently did some research that found that gamers (mistakenly) believe that turning the controller, shoving it in the direction they want it to go, falling out of their chairs, and otherwise twitching like Republicans after this last election will somehow make up for the fact that they pressed L1 when they really wanted to hit A-B-B-A. Well, now Nintendo is giving these fine folks a chance to be right. The Wii allows you to control games by moving the controller, called the ヌンチャク ("Numb-chuck!" in English), as well as by pressing buttons. If you swing your ヌンチャク around like it's the hilt of a light saber, you can fight Darth Vader. This adds an extra level of realism and coolness to many games. However, Nintendo has yet to come out with anything that picks up your spoken words, so other games like Anakin Skywalker: Wangsty Jedi
may still feel as though they are missing a little something. I've got mixed feelings about the ヌンチャク. It is a really cool idea that might just make gaming more available to normal people, but it's kind of awkward to get used to. I finally discovered that I can hold it in my front paws and use my back "killing" paws to work the buttons. Additionally, since the controller comes with a vibrating device that helps give you kinesthetic feedback, it's really fun to just roll around and paw at it. Unfortunately, I keep getting my claws stuck around the edges of the buttons. The controller is rather cheaply manufactured, since I've already managed to pull one button out.Winner:
The Wii. It's fun even without any games.
How exciting are these consoles? Do they make you want to stand up and say "Wow!" or do they make you sit down and play WoW? I totally made that one up off the paw. Not bad, eh? A good game console should make you say "Awesome!" just like my line about Wow! and WoW. That's what we're looking for.
The Xbox 360 isn't really that exciting. It doesn't have many good games, and it doesn't always run old Xbox games very well. I guess it's exactly like the old Xbox.
The PS3 is certainly exciting. I have no idea when it might crawl out of its box and try to infest my townhouse's wiring. It's kind of like "Ship of Tears" from Babylon 5
The Wii does make me say "Awesome!" In fact, it makes me say "Whee!" Yep, I made that one up off the paw, too. The control system is pretty sweet. Also, they've got this nifty idea that good ideas make a good game. I'm psyched.Winner:
You can't beat the PS3 for raw excitement and fear. I'm going to name mine "Carolyn."
The Xbox 360 has a great deal of long-term value as a paperweight or some sort of stand for your PS 2.
The PS3 also has a great (and terrible) potential for long-term excitement. In addition to the fun of having Carolyn wake up, wrap itself in wires, and rampage around the room destroying non-Sony hardware, Sony will certainly continue to update the EULA I accidentally accepted. Who knows what fun I might have with that. Plus, will I ever really
know what Carolyn tried to do to my power plug?
The Wii has a couple of problems. First, as I mentioned before, Nintendo doesn't make good controllers. This was a problem on the GC and it's a problem here. Second, they've taken a rather maverick to game design. Rather than trying to increase the number of polygons in a game, which is the most scientifically accepted way of determining a game's quality, or even providing realistic exit wounds and blood sprays, the metric proposed by the UN Commission on Crappy Video Games, they've tried to make games interesting
. I haven't actually had a chance to play any games on the Wii yet, so I can't say how interesting or fun they may be, but if they don't turn out to be a metric assload of both, the Wii will be in serious trouble.Winner:
The PS3 will keep me hiding under the couch long after the Xbox 360 and Wii have been sent to the electronics recycling center. I'd send Carolyn there, too, but I'm afraid it might come back. I mean, it's got $350 of extra hardware that clearly has nothing to do with playing games. Who knows what's in there.
As long as you are willing to do the reading required to figure out all of the aspects of the Wii, and as long as you don't mind the awful Avars it generates that don't look anything like me, you can't go wrong with a Wii.[Edit: I added a section on networking. I've spend the last few hours trying to get the Wii connected to the Internet.]
I admit that I have a small bias when it comes to video games. I like new ideas, and there aren't nearly enough of them out there. I'm amazed by how few people have noticed how little game designers really care. I mean, how many of you have actually noticed that the Madden NFL
series hasn't used John Madden's voice since 2004? He was voiced by John Larroquette in 2005 and by Gilbert Gottfried in 2006 and 2007. Did you notice that Tidus's pants in FFX were only halfway rendered? Did you catch on to the fact that most of Half-Life 2 was just Pong with a driving techno soundtrack? I guess nobody wanted to mention that Tomb Raider: Legend was just Patrick Stewart reading the manual? The worst part was that Legend was, by far, the best of the series. Please, game designers, show us a little respect.