Archive for May, 2006

After a tough E3, it’s curtains for the PS3

Monday, May 15th, 2006

I came to L.A. a Sony fan, sure that the creator of today’s leading game machine would rock E3 and continue its dominance into the next generation. They’ve got everything, after all – a rabid and ever-growing fan base, a technological upper hand, and some of the most popular software franchises in the industry. A week ago, PlayStation 3 had all the momentum.

Tonight, I’m writing its obituary. (more…)

Hands-on with more PS3 games

Friday, May 12th, 2006

We polished off the rest of the PlayStation 3’s playable offerings today, and we have a glimmer of hope among lots of otherwise unremarkable news. By the way, the Wii is incredible. We’ll get into that in more detail in a future post.

Madden ‘07 (30% done)

We’re sure this will turn out nice, but right now it looks horrible on the PS3 and is apparently less than 1/3 complete. It’ll introduce some new things, like lead blocker control, but as far as the PS3 version goes, it’s not really ready for human consumption. The Xbox 360 demo looked a lot cleaner, faster, brighter, and graphically superior. It wasn’t marked how far along that game was in development — the gameplay itself was about the same, but the Xbox’s look and feel beat the PS3’s hands down.

Gran Turismo HD (20% done)

The track environments look great, and the graphics in general make you feel very next-gen. There are four tracks and several cars playable now, among them the amazing Grand Canyon course from the trailer. We’re not in love with GT games in general, but gameplay-wise this seems to be on par with the old stuff, with no major surprises.

Heavenly Sword (50%)

We said Resistance: Fall of Man was the best game on display yesterday, and Heavenly Sword tops it. In this demo, you play a scandalous swordswoman who takes on a bunch of samurai-type guys in several rounds of arena beat-’em-up action. It’s a ton of fun, it looks great, and it feels like a cool mixture of Dead or Alive and Dynasty Warriors. Apparently the game itself is in the “adventure” genre, so it’s much more than just the arena-fighting demo we loved today.

Genji (60%)

After playing Heavenly Sword, this game (of a similar genre) pales in comparison. And considering that it’s one of the closest to completion for the PS3, that could mean trouble. Then again, PlayStation is going to face a lot of trouble this generation even if they have the best games on the market. If E3 is any indication, they don’t. More on our favorite new system, the Wii, to come soon.

Wake up for the Wii

Thursday, May 11th, 2006

Never quite thought I’d awaken to the words, “It’s Wii time, boys and girls,” but I suppose E3 brings out the worst in all of us. We’re headed back to the Los Angeles Convention Center today and sprinting for the two-and-a-half-hour line that wraps around Nintendo’s booth as anxious gamers await their first chance to experience Wii.

We’ll hit you up with our impressions of the console formerly known as revolution, as well as hands-on reports with some of the playable PS3 games we missed yesterday. And by the way, the New York Times has confirmed our suspicions that the PS3 controller is a total last-second save.

Unfortunately for Sony, the admission by one of the Warhawk developers that his team got its hands on the new controller less than two weeks ago reinforced the impression that Sony only added motion-sensitive technology at the last minute in a hasty attempt to match Nintendo.

Two weeks? And here we were thinking they just came up with it during the hour-long press conference delay.

E3 Day 1: Playable PS3 Games

Thursday, May 11th, 2006

We hit up the playable PlayStation 3 games at Sony’s E3 booth today, so here are our impressions. But first, we’ll say this: we haven’t played the Wii yet, since the wait for Nintendo’s curtained-off showing was about two-and-a-half hours long. But that’s the only thing on our agenda tomorrow, and we have a feeling that Nintendo’s innovative new system is really going to rock the PS3 and 360’s collective world.

That said, here’s the good and bad about most of the eight playable PS3 games on display.

Warhawk (development 30% done)

This is really the only game that matters, since it’s the only one that uses the new tilt-sensitive PlayStation 3 controller. The games we saw today suggest, by the way, that the new controller technology was really a last-second job by Sony — none of the other games support it, and even Warhawk’s support was part of a very limited demo that involved flying around a mountainous island and shooting up some aircraft-carrier type stuff.

The game is pretty cool, though, and the controller is very sensitive to the tilt factor. It’s definitely a lot cooler to play this way than with a regular joystick — but at the same time, it’s not revolutionary either (no pun intended). Warhawk will eventually include ground-level man-to-man combat as well as the flight combat that we got to try, which should be a pretty cool dichotomy that you don’t see a lot in other games.

We tried to nosedive our plane into the ocean a few times, but apparently you can’t damage your plane in this demo, and you bounce off the water like it’s a soft landing pad. Call us when we can blow some more shit up.

Resistance: Fall of Man (70% done)

This one is by far our favorite — it’s an FPS set in some sort of alternate reality where World War II is replaced by an alien invasion and you have to save England, the last surviving human state. One of the friendly developers walked us through a few minutes of riddling monsters with bullets, and it was fabulous. We asked him to speculate a little about what the tilt controller might do in an FPS — “think about what you’ve always wanted to do,” he said. “Like when you’re behind a box, or looking around a corner.” We get the idea, and we appreciate the thought even though no one is allowed to “officially” talk about the new technology. After all, Sony just made this shit up like last week.

Gundam: Something Suit (20% done)

We’re not even going to bother looking up the real subtitle for this game, because it wasn’t even worth putting up for a demo. You are a robot, and you get to shoot very small white bullets at other robots in a desert setting. Let’s move on.

Sonic the Hedgehog (40% done)

Sonic is back, and that’s awesome. The game itself is pretty cool, done in a 3D platformer style. It’s looking a little anti-aliased (or aliased? Whichever one is bad). And the controls are very touchy, but we like where they’re going and it’s damn near impossible for us not to love anything including a spinning and spiky blue ball of fur.

Formula 1 ‘06 (60% done)

This game is cool enough, but it might as well be a port of any other F1 racer right now. Graphics are pretty crisp, but nothing blows us away. And the many camera angles all kind of bother us, because it feels like we’re creeping along at 20 mph when we’re supposedly doing 170. Oh well, at least we’ve got Gran Turismo HD.

Virtua Tennis (20% done)

This is obviously a tennis game, so there’s nothing incredibly exciting. Then again, if this were the Wii tennis game, we’d probably need a change of underwear. For now, the biggest thing we can say is that character faces and bodies are very nicely detailed, and actually look human, as opposed to the generally creepy-polygon faces we see in current-gen games. So, it looks good, and we love tennis. There ya go.

Not played today - Gran Turismo HD, Heavenly Sword, Genji 2 and the Nintendo Wii. Look forward to a detailed analysis of the next generation tomorrow — it’s really going to come down to an expensive and overrated PS3 against an affordable and innovative Wii. Depending on how much we love Nintendo’s system tomorrow, things might be looking really bad for Sony.

Until then, have a great day, and stay tuned for more E3 action tomorrow.

We’re in this for the Wii

Wednesday, May 10th, 2006

Alright, after hours of anticipation, we are heading down to the Convention Center for some hot, playable Nintendo Wii action. Oh, and maybe some PS3 games too. And since we still can’t stop IMing each other while sitting seven feet apart, here’s this morning’s update:

san t0 alt 5: i think theres some kind of videogame conference going on downtown
yp0pgo: we should go check it out
yp0pgo: do you have a car?
san t0 alt 5: do we need to be affiliated with the “industry”?
yp0pgo: i’m sure we can sneak in

We’re all over it.

Videos and News: Sony Press Conference Roundup

Tuesday, May 9th, 2006

As soon as YouTube goes back online, we’ll post all the press conference PS3 clips we can muster. Until then, here’s one more roundup of all the major news from yesterday’s conference:

• American Launch: Nov. 17, starting at $499
• Two PS3 versions will be manufactured - the full-featured one costs $599.
• The controller totally rips of the Wii’s “move it in real space” concept. But it looks just like the old Dual Shock, and doesn’t have rumble.

Update: Here’s a pretty good compilation of the PS3 clips that have been released so far, set to the soothing background tunes of that modern rock song whose name we can’t remember.

Who needs Nyquil?

Tuesday, May 9th, 2006

Well, Rob kinda does. But that’s probably just a result of watching the Star Trek marathon on G4 all day instead of covering the videogame industry. Dave has other plans: “If I can’t fall asleep, I’ll just watch the Sony press conference again.” See ya out there.

L.A. Update: We’re having trouble letting go

Tuesday, May 9th, 2006

It’s been a long, hard day of trashing Sony’s PlayStation 3 announcements, but the hardest adjustment for us PS3week staffers is communicating in person — in spoken words — now that we’re in the same city for a week. We’re so used to our long-distance AIM relationship, that we’ve been IMing each other across the apartment for hours. Here’s a clip:

yp0pgo (rob): omg did u hear about ps3?
san t0 alt 5 (dave): what are the features?
yp0pgo: shit shit and shit, then u need the $100 upgrade
san t0 alt 5: how much is the $100 upgrade?
yp0pgo: 9,000 yen
san t0 alt 5: is that in US dollars?
yp0pgo: euros
san t0 alt 5: i seriously think it should include a memory card i love those
yp0pgo: nah those are for rich kids
san t0 alt 5: loook where ur at biatch
san t0 alt 5: im craving buffalo wings
san t0 alt 5: did you hear me?
san t0 alt 5: dont make me open my mouth

God, we’re nerds. And we’re going to get some wings.

Somebody Else’s System

Tuesday, May 9th, 2006

Sony made two huge announcements today — a new controller and an official launch scheme. Too bad neither one was their idea.

THE PRICE

The two-tier pricing system, pioneered in the console world by the Xbox 360, is a dubious plan at best. Does Sony really need to lure deep-pocketed gamers to a $600 system with the promise of some extra hard drive space? Are those extra 40 gigs really worth the cost of two launch games?

FULL STORY:

We’re guessing no — at least not until a few years down the road, when you’ll probably be able to buy an add-on for less than the $100 tag of the higher-end system.

The top-tier PS3 costs $600 — and in Europe, it’s gonna be more like $760. So now Sony’s not just releasing the most expensive console ever, it’s releasing the two most expensive consoles ever. There’s probably some element of economic reverse-psychology here, intended to make the expensive PS3 even more coveted than the normal one. But it comes at the expense of simplicity, and we’d much rather have a bunch of gamers with 20-gig systems and two extra games than a swarm of confused moms wandering around Best Buy.

Update: The lower-tier PS3 lacks a few more options that we didn’t pick up on during the press conference. No WiFi, no HDMI video output, and no memory stick slots! The PlayStation 3, as it is meant to be, really does cost $600. (Full specs on the last page of this press release.)

Consumers already have plenty of consoles to choose from this Christmas. Confusing the issue with two PlayStation 3s is one trick that Sony should have left up Microsoft’s sleeve.

THE CONTROLLER

We never thought it’d come to this. The boomerang controller got a lot of bad press, we know. And the Nintendo Wii’s real-space controller is awesome, there’s no question. So rather than create something new or innovative, Sony tacked on a last-minute addition to the Dual Shock 2 — it’s now equipped with a Wii-like (or, perhaps more accurately, a Nintendo DS-like) gyroscope. So when you “steer” by moving your controller through space, your spaceship turns appropriately. And when you steal ideas from your more innovative competitors, you look like the corporate behemoth with hardly a breath of wind left in its creative sails.

Sony couldn’t have given Nintendo a greater compliment today, and the guys on stage couldn’t have sounded more disingenuous when they were playing it off as their own idea. We’re excited about this new technology too, Phil. That’s why we call it the Revolution.

Update: By the way, the addition of the motion sensor means the controller will no longer rumble.

Sony shouldn’t be feeling this much heat — after all, they’re still riding the hugely dominant PS2 into the next generation. But apparently they’re scared. That’s why they’ve slapped together Microsoft’s price structure and Nintendo’s controller. Maybe if they rip off everything the other guys have, and throw in some Blu-ray, it’ll be worth $599.

Launch Dates and Prices

Tuesday, May 9th, 2006

Japan: November 11
• 20 GB - 58,900 Yen (US $536)
• 60 GB - Priced by retailers

North America: November 17
• 20 GB - US $499, CN $549
$bull; 60 GB - US $599, CN $659

Europe/Australia: November 19 No date yet?
• 20 GB - 499 Euros (US $633)
• 60 GB - 599 Europs (US $760)

Got that? The only difference between the two “models,” apparently, is the size of the hard drive - 20 gigs vs. 60 gigs. That translates to a $100 price difference for the American PS3 … for comparison’s sake, that’s the same as the difference between a 30-gig and 60-gig iPod.

(Also, we didn’t hear a price in Australian dollars… did you?)

Who knows if it’ll be worth it to pick up the larger hard drive right away - or when an add-on to soup up your storage space will come along. The two-tier price system, however, is obviously ripped off from Microsoft’s Xbox 360’s similar price structure. We’ll get into what else they ripped off (think boomerang) from their competitors a few posts down the road.