Right, here's a little something I knocked up for anyone who knows they want one of the new consoles but isn't sure which one (From that point of view I've tried to be honest and unbiased, but of course it’s still just my opinion). Lots of you won’t agree, but I've had an honest crack at it anyway.
Anyone with any comments to add please do, and feel free to discuss the finer points of why I'm wrong amongst yourselves, but lets try to keep the level above that of places like GameFAQs, where they just scream fanboy at anyone who doesn't agree with them.
Oh, and Al - be interested to hear what you've got to say mate. Just remember to engage your brain before your fingers - I think you've got something to add to these forums, and you obviously have an interest... just don't start screaming and ranting before you've digested what I've said.
Wii - £180 (inc Wii Sports).
Nintendo come to the table with a very different hand than either Sony or Microsoft; the Wii being everything their offerings are not - small, cheap, (relatively) underpowered, but innovative in its design and approach to an established multibillion-dollar industry. Nintendo are betting they can make a success of the Wii without taking on the competition in an all-guns-blazing, high definition, bump mapped war of raw processing power.
They will rely on a low purchase price for the console, a decent slice of the younger \ casual gamer market, and their established fan base, who will come back again and again for the first party goodness that is the Big Ns trademark, and the most refined and crafted gaming experience out there.
I still think the biggest selling point for the Wii is the same thing it always has been; the well established, flag ship series, that reads like a lot of gamers 'best games ever' list. Zelda, Mario, Metroid, Smash Bros - all either here already or on the way (Super Mario Galaxy in January, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption to follow in February, Smash Bros in March), and the excitement just knowing these games are going to be available, and very likely to be as good as we've come to take for granted, is a massive plus.
The Wiimote is a nice twist; a bonus if it’s implemented well, and a good way to make Wii Sports more than a cheap pack-in with graphics from a different era. People are going to buy a Wii to play Zelda, they are buying Zelda because it’s Zelda, not because you can swing Links sword with a movement of your hand; the game underneath still has to be fun, and this can go either way.
Super Monkey Ball is (apparently) much improved due to the Wiimote, but Red Steel is a below average FPS which, after factoring in the Wiimote and all it offers, is still a below average FPS.
On the down side, the Wii can be more closely compared to the GameCube and Xbox, in terms of its ability to put pretty things on your screen, than the other next gen systems; it’s not in the same league as the Xbox360 and PS3.
Nintendo are banking on this not being an issue, but you have to think that watching Gear of War in full flow, on a nice, big HD screen, is going to make any Wiimote controlled mini game look outdated, and there is only so much novelty involved in bowling your own ball, or hitting a home run.
Once that wears off, you might find yourself wanting something that’s going to get your heart pumping, and not just because you're knackered because you've been flailing around like a muppet for 20 minutes.
In short, put the Wiimote to the back of your mind (Nintendo don't want you to do this, btw ) and make your decision not on this gimmick that could come good, but on what Nintendo have been doing for decades - making great games that are fun to play, beautifully made, and often epic in their approach.
Zelda at its best is still a cut above what the competition can offer for sheer enjoyment. I think the Wii is a fairly safe bet if you already know where you stand with Nintendo - you already know you are going to lap up all the old classics, that are going to play the same, but look better while they do it.
If money is the primary concern, flashy HD visuals aren’t a necessity, or you really have to play the big first party titles, the Wii is your machine.
PS3 - £425.
At the other end of the price \ performance scale comes the Playstation 3, screaming 'high end bit of kit this' at everyone who will listen. Its slick black casing is so shiny, Sony recommends you do not look directly at it without retreating to the minimum safe distance of 60.52 yards.
It has ports for Memory Stick, SD, and compact flash. It has 4 USB slots. It’s got WiFi, it’s got a 60Gb (easily upgradeable) hard drive, it plays Blu-Ray discs out of the box, and it’s got touch sensitive buttons. Oh yes.
It’s got the CPU and GPU to easily stand up to Microsoft’s 360 (although it’s probably no more or less powerful in real world situations), and pretty much everything else. So it’s a big, shiny box full of the latest tech, that you will have to pay a premium for if you want one under your HD telly when Sony finally lets us buy one, in March 2007.
On the gimmick front, Sony falls short of Nintendo’s Wiimote, but has added a tilt feature to its SIXAXIS controller, which aside from this is very similar to the DualShock 2, minus the rumble feature.
As mentioned, it plays Blu-Ray discs with no add-ons needed, which could be a great bargain (stand alone Blu-Ray players will cost more than a PS3 for a good while to come), but with a bitter format war currently being fought between Sony and its supporters, and the rival HD-DVD format, backed by Toshiba and its supporters (including of course Microsoft) in a few years you could have a very expensive Betamax on your hands. You are not on safe ground with the PS3, it’s a lot of money, and the guarantees are not there; there is a certain amount of risk.
Now the games; Sony’s launch line-up certainly has nothing in the league of Twilight Princess available, and a bit of reading soon reveals that there is really only 1 stand out title available at present, in the shape of Insomniac’s Resistance: Fall of Man. A fine game overshadowed by Gears of War on the 360, but from what I’ve seen and read still a great looking game, that plays well and more than holds its own from a multiplayer point of view.
Away from that, there’s not much on offer yet; there’s all the games doing the next gen rounds at the moment, Call of Duty 3, Need for Speed Carbon, etc, which will look and play the same on both the PS3 and 360, or at least as close as makes no difference.
Really, it’s another gamble; the PS3 doesn’t have a back catalogue to draw on, the 360 has had a very useful head start, and whilst not packed with system selling games, there’s more to play on the 360 at present that’s of a certain quality, and Sony has not addressed this with a strong software line-up.
So, the hardware is a gamble, its expensive, its Blu-Ray format is currently at war (with the only thing so far agreed on is that Blu-Ray defiantly has the better name), and there’s no Metal Gear Solid or Final Fantasy to shift units. The fact is though, that contrary to popular belief, Sony know how to do this console stuff. The original Playstation crushed all before it, relegating the SNES and the Megadrive to the classified ads in the local paper, and quickly seeing off the SEGA Saturn, and from a hardware point of view SEGA itself (give or take a few years and a few self-inflicted SEGA cock-ups).
There are more PS2s in the world than there are people, and more PS2 games than ants. Sony have done it before, and to write them off because this time they are demanding a premium price for a premium bit of kit would be foolish. The PS3 is a powerhouse, it’s of key importance to Sony as a whole, and the Metal Gears, Final Fantasies and Grand Theft Autos will be coming, and that’s enough for most, with MotorStorm, Killzone (don’t expect the game to look like the famous E3 footage though), Armour Core, Resident Evil 5 and more rounding out the ‘these will be great, we promise’ group of titles. Shame you can’t play any of them yet.
If money is no object, you want the latest bit of kit, and the more adult, action packed gaming experience that Sony provide is your thing (and you’ve got a HDTV), then the PS3 is an expensive but impressive machine that *should* be all you want it to be. Give it time though.
Xbox 360 - £280.
Finally the Microsoft offering, already on the market for a year, the excitement and fanfare of its launch long now forgotten, most of us will already know what the 360 is all about, but this goes head-to-head with the PS3, with both systems clamouring for the same market.
For just shy of 300 notes you get a system of comparable power to the PS3, minus the flashy looks, the 60Gb of storage space and the Blu-Ray impressiveness. You do get a pretty decent 20Gb of storage space though, and as of tomorrow (December 1st) there will be a HD-DVD drive available. A lot has been said of the PS3 pricing, but a 360 with the new drive will set you back £410; so yes, you can get a 360 for less, but to address the advantage the PS3 is afforded by its ‘all in the box’ approach, you have to shell out almost the same amount of your hard earned cash.
The year head start on the competition will both help and hinder the 360; in a straight fight with the PS3 on looks and image, it finishes a distant 2nd. It has none of the PS3s slick looks, and Microsoft don’t seem to be pushing it as an ultra-bleeding-edge bit of kit, which is exactly the sort of marketing nonsense that the people who buy these things want. Blu-Ray\HD-DVD out of the box is a neater solution than a £130 add-on release a year down the line. Make no mistake, people who buy iPods will buy the PS3.
Wired pads are available for the 360, which should be resigned to history, and the wireless pads have no gimmicks to speak of, unless you count the rather nice looking ring of light that circles the middle button when the machine is powered on. The 360 control pads are, in keeping with the machine, a nice, safe, solid bet; no gimmicks, but very comfortable, and more than up to the job.
The advantage of that years head starts to show though with a long list of great games you can actually play right now. The 360 could be in danger of already seeming outdated with all the hype about the Wiimote, and the PS3 flexing its muscles, but inside the ‘Microsoft chic’ casing is a machine that is pound for pound an exact match for the bizarrely shiny Sony machine. I’m sure gamers of limited intelligence will argue about it until the cows come home, but they are capable of producing roughly the same end product if the people making the games have the talent to get them to do what they can do.
Call of Duty 3 and Need For Speed Carbon for instance, both apparently look better, and in the case of CoD3 run better on the 360. I’m sure that each system will score many meaningless little victories over the other as cross-platform games are released, and the system capable of handling it 0.7% better than its rival will take a bow, while the people who own the winning system will feel unjustifiably smug. It doesn’t matter.
On the gaming front () you’ve got plenty to choose from, the current system seller being Gears of War from Microsoft, which for the moment, in all singing, all dancing HD mode may well be the best looking game ever on a console. For how long is anybodies guess, but if you want to really show off what a next-gen game can look like, and\or slap down a cocky PS3 owner come March, then this is your game.
Tom Clancy’s Rainbow 6: Vegas, F.E.A.R and Prey are already on shop shelves waiting for your money, and are all superb. Looking forward, there is of course the holy grail of Halo 3, once rumoured to be a spoiler to the PS3 launch, but now due in March (so still a spoiler for the UK PS3 launch I suppose) and Grand Theft Auto 4, no longer a Playstation exclusive.
If you want a next-gen HD system, and you don’t care about watching your movies on that ancient ‘DVD’ format, you can save a few quid on the PS3s price by picking up a 360, and you can save even more if you are prepared to use wired pads, have no hard drive, and generally have people laugh at you.
Away from that, and doing the 360 justice by comparing the Premium 360 package complete with its add-on drive, the 360 can do what the PS3 can do, and it’s a straight choice really; loads of money for Halo and HD-DVD, or loads of money for Metal Gear and Blu-Ray. Make your choice, pay your money. If you want to make a point of it, then yes, the PS3 looks better and is marketed in a way that will get the trendy kids buying one, but there’s more games worth playing on the 360 at the moment, and as many big hitters in the works as Sony have to offer.
Less exciting but less of a risk than the PS3? Time will tell.