The Technological Triumvirate

April 12, 2007, midnight | By Simon Kanter | 17 years, 2 months ago

Three very biased views on who's winning the console wars

Now that most of the hype surrounding the release of the three major next-generation video gaming consoles — the Microsoft Xbox 360, the Nintendo Wii and the Sony PlayStation 3 (PS3) — has died down, we can take an objective look at which one has come out on top. Or can we?

This article will attempt to create one objective review by combining three very subjective reviews. These biased opinions, as told by owners of each of the three gaming consoles, should serve to cancel each other out and provide a rundown of the advantages and disadvantages of every system. The following reviews are reproduced almost verbatim from direct source interviews and represent the three points of view that will matter the most in the future of the gaming industry.

Nick Mozer
Xbox 360

I am the proud owner of the Xbox 360 premium edition. For the past three months, I have played Gears of War and Halo 2 (an Xbox game, but playable on the Xbox 360). My only knowledge of the other two consoles is through conversations with friends who have done considerable research on the consoles.

When I first bought the 360, I drove to Virginia in order to take advantage of a $100 rebate being offered by a retailer out there. My brother came along and on the car ride home I was so concerned about breaking it that I strapped it in with a seatbelt. I came home and set it up in awe of its beauty and the incredible graphics it possessed in Gears of War.

On the advantages of the Xbox 360
The Xbox 360 is an amazing gaming experience. The graphics are incredibly realistic, particularly when viewed through a high definition TV. Playing a realistic and unique game like Gears of War in high definition can be completely exhausting. The sheer force of the superbly real graphics and intense gameplay puts a serious strain on you emotionally and physically, as you frantically try to dodge incoming machinegun fire or storm enemy fortifications. The Xbox 360 is capable of playing both Xbox 360 and some regular Xbox games, giving it a rather large library for a rather new system. The gameplay is fun and great for experienced gamers, particularly because of the revamped online multiplayer systems that allow you to take games to the next level of competition beyond your friends sitting on the couch next to you.

On the disadvantages of the Xbox 360
The Xbox 360 is too complicated for inexperienced gamers to pick up and enjoy immediately and is also very expensive.

On the advantages of the Wii
The Nintendo Wii is a great system for unique gameplay and new, innovative gaming technologies. Plus, it has a very small learning curve. The use of controllers based on gyroscopes and sensors is simply brilliant. The Nintendo Wii is also the cheapest new generation console on the market, giving it an automatic edge over the other two.

On the advantages of the PS3
The PS3 has incredible potential for high quality gameplay geared towards people with experience in video games. The graphics system has the potential to be the best in the industry. The PS3 also has the capability to read all Playstation and Playstation 2 games, a library that includes a staggering number of titles and gaming classics.

On the disadvantages of the Wii
The Nintendo Wii doesn't have many games geared towards older, more "hardcore," for lack of a better word, gamers. The few games that are intended for older gamers, such as the launch title Red Steel, a first person shooter/hand-to-hand combat game, have proven to be riddled with bugs or just general design flaws.

On the disadvantages of the PS3
The PS3's main disadvantage is the cost. It is a whopping $600! The system also has completely new programming, which hasn't quite yet reached its potential. The graphics are good, but aren't yet great, as advertisers have stated.

Overall conclusion
The Xbox 360 is a great choice for experienced gamers because the other experienced gamer console on the market (the PS3) is far too expensive and hasn't yet reached its full potential as a system. While the Wii is fun, the Xbox 360 boasts better graphics and more serious, fully-developed games. All of these factors combined, plus the 12 month head-start it had on the other two systems, give the Xbox 360 a leg up in the console wars.

Daniel Keller
Nintendo Wii

I own a Nintendo Wii. I was one of the many pathetic souls who camped out on Nov. 18 to get one on launch day, but I swear that it was because I thought it would be fun, not because I am a rabid Nintendo fanboy. In fact, the Wii was the first console I have ever owned, though I have dabbled in the portable gaming market with almost every successive Gameboy and, most recently, a Sony PSP. For the Wii, I own Wii Sports (which comes bundled), the indispensable Zelda: Twilight Princess, Trauma Center: Second Opinion, and Rayman: Raving Rabids. I also picked up a number of Gamecube (Nintendo's previous console) titles after launch, because the Wii is backwards compatible with the Gamecube library.

I would say that I took a relatively active role in researching each system. I knew about the 360 because it had launched about a year earlier than the Wii and PS3, but I still read the blogs, hands-on analyses and reviews on a weekly basis. I made my decision to get the Wii pretty early on, in part because of its low cost and in part because I thought it had the potential to offer an immersive, enjoyable experience unmatched by the other systems.

As soon as I had set up the Wii, I was able to have fun with bowling, tennis, baseball and boxing in an interactive way that was surprisingly responsive and tremendously fun. Best of all, these games, which my family quickly embraced, were included with the system, which I appreciated.

On the advantages of the Wii
The advantage of the Wii is its innovation. Rather than simply continue the trend of making games look prettier, Nintendo took an original approach embodied by their completely unique controller, which looks somewhat like a sleek, stylish television remote. This remote has two revolutionary features:

-Detection of 3D Movement:
The remote has an accelerator and gyrometer built in. I don't actually know what those are, but what they do is allow the controller to detect physical movements in space. In Zelda, swing the remote like a sword and your character in the game will unleash an appropriate slash. In Wii Baseball, swinging the remote will cause your player to take a cut at the ball. In Trauma Center: Second Opinion, pulling the remote away from the screen will remove broken glass from a patient's wound.
-Pointer Detection:
The remote also has an infrared (IR) sensor, which allows it to sense when it is pointing at a screen (or more precisely, at the included sensor bar that you place under the screen), like a light gun in those arcade shooters. This immensely simplifies game menus by allowing players to simply point at selections. Where this features is most valuable, however, is in any game that requires aiming. In Zelda, for instance, to shoot your bow you merely point to where you want to shoot on the screen, and the cursor will follow your movements.

The controller also offers rumble packs (giving you feedback in the form of a vibration when you, say, are attacked by a monster or punched in the head) and a built in speaker. Referring back to shooting a bow in Zelda, a player will hear the arrow released from the bow in his remote, and then hear the impact of the arrow from the television speakers, offering a 3-dimensional auditory experience.

These features, combined, offer a level of depth previously unheard of in video games. The fact that it is so easy to pick up makes it appealing to almost everyone, not just hardcore gamers. As soon as I had set up the system at home, my mom and dad had been locked in an epic tennis match. Weeks later, when my grandmother visited, we couldn't pull her away from bowling. This universal accessibility is one of the most important parts of the Wii, an aspect that students can take advantage of (I've had a number of friends whose parents have, after playing on it, decided to purchase Wiis for themselves).

Oh, and besides bringing revolutionary new features to the console market, at only $250 the Wii costs $150 less than the Xbox 360 and $350 less than the PS3. Not a bad deal.

On the disadvantages of the Wii
There are some people who have expressed qualms about the Wii's graphics, which don't output to HD, and lack of online multiplayer, which is scheduled to appear soon, but these people are evil, baby-eating communists trying to destroy the moral fabric of our nation.

On the advantages of the Xbox 360
The Xbox 360, as I understand, offers a number of quality games and has a tremendous online network (Xbox Live). The graphics are tight, and certain games (such as Gears of War) can actually melt your face with how cool they are. Its price, while higher than that of the Wii, is still fairly reasonable, making it a good supplemental system.

On the advantages of the PS3
The PS3, on the other hand, has many advantages that one might classify as theoretical, if not actual. With 45.7 gigaflops of processing power, a video card that could cure cancer, and 19.2 SuperSurround IMAX sound, it is essentially a supercomputer that happens to play games. It also has the capability to play Blue-Ray disks but costs less and does more than most standalone Blue-Ray players.

On the disadvantages of the PS3
The PS3, besides being insanely expensive, has virtually no must-have games as of yet. The only draw of the PS3, as mentioned earlier, seems to be its ability to read Blue-Ray discs, which is one of the potential mediums for future movies. There is a controversial format war between Blue-Ray and HD-DVD and if the Blue-Ray format loses and becomes obsolete (think: Beta-who?) then the PS3 becomes a worthless investment.

On the disadvantages of the Xbox 360
Users have reported the Xbox 360, on the other hand, to be very unstable. Reports of broken consoles, especially in the period immediately following their launch, are not unheard of, but Microsoft's new system seems to be notoriously unreliable. Dead consoles, scratched games, broken fans the Xbox seems plagued by malfunctions.

To me, however, the most disappointing aspect of both the Xbox 360 and PS3 is their lack of true innovation. The only difference between the two consoles and their predecessors is improved graphics. This mindless progression shows a lack of creativity that will inevitably become stale. Do we really need to be able to see every drop of sweat on the obese fan yelling from the sidelines of a basketball game? Probably not, but that's where it seems this policy of escalation is heading.

Overall conclusion
The console war is by no means over. The hardware is out, but the burden now rests on the developers to make software that will attract consumers to the different systems. In my opinion, the Wii is the most innovative, fun and cost-effective choice out of the three next-gen systems. On the other hand, I look forward to seeing what the game developers can do with the new technology and am confident that, whichever console emerges victorious, it will be the gamers who will profit with advanced graphics, novel controls, creative gameplay, and an overall more enjoyable video game experience.

Ethan Schaler
PlayStation 3

I own the one, the only, the ungodly: PS3. I've had it since early January, and I haven't been able to put it down since. In terms of games, I currently own Resistance: Fall of Man, an award-winning first-person shooter, and flOw, one of the first downloadable games offered on Sony's free online gaming network. To keep abreast of the latest gaming trends and facts about all three consoles, I check every fortnight or so.

Simply turning on the system is an experience: The screen fades from black as sounds of a beautiful orchestra tuning together play and reveals a flowing sheet of "gel,"ephemeral lines that wave across the screen in the background. The background also displays the time of day (golden yellow during the day, fading to sunset at the bottom of the screen, and finally black at night). This attention to details and aesthetics make the system all the more pleasing and show the hidden power of the system right off the bat. It made for an awe-inspiring first run of the system.

On the advantages of the PS3
The first thing that hits you when you play the PS3 is its unbelievable graphics. Characters, environments and the sheer breadth and detail of levels, even on the release titles, such as Resistance, is simply breathtaking. The massive processing power of the PS3 allows battles or games with scores of AI characters and up to 7 real players. I've heard upcoming games can support up to 64 players, all without sacrificing any graphics capabilities or slowing down the machine.

In general, the graphics are so realistic that shadows are adjusted for irregular surfaces; much of the environment is interactive and destructible. Characters, trees, animals and buildings actually look lifelike, and the lighting is beautiful. It truly is a next-gen experience. Even the sound system is incredible with vast soundtracks and sounds for bullets whizzing by.

The console can also store enormous amounts of music and movies on the 60GB hard drive and comes included with a Blu-ray drive. This lets you watch the hi-def Blu-ray discs at 1080p resolutions while playing games on discs that can store 50+ GB of data, allowing for the most detailed and extensive games of any console. The game user interface, or GUI, is extremely intuitive, well thought-out and beautifully done. The Sixaxis controller is also easy to use, and though the missing vibration feature is unfortunate, the tilt sensing for games like flOw and even Resistance (little things like shaking it to put out flames) is fun and intuitive.

The download market on Sony's online gaming network is a bit underdeveloped, but I just got a hold of the best game there: flOw, where you control a plankton-esque creature as you navigate underwater realms and eat other small organisms, growing yourself along the way. Download time took less than 20 minutes over my wireless network (setting up that network required almost no work too - the console does almost everything for you) and it cost only $7.99 - well worth it. You control your creature by simply tilting the Sixaxis, and movement couldn't be any more natural. Give it two minutes and you are submerged in a world of beautiful and fragile-looking creatures moving about to a meditative and peaceful environment. Other people can just jump in at any time and work together to complete levels with additional creatures.

Resistance, too, I've talked about before. Imagine large, detailed environments, a thrilling plot, lots of tanks, cars and vehicles to use, a wide variety of original weapons (its by the guys who make Rachet & Clank, so you know the guns are amazing) and support for cooperative missions, up to 7-player offline battles and up to 40 player online battles. After seeing this, I can only wait with high anticipation over other games to come.

Finally, one other amazing feature is the backwards compatibility with all PS2 games, I currently play Final Fantasy XII on the PS3 and find absolutely no problems, just an amazingly entertaining game. It adds a huge library of games to the system and means I don't waste all my current games.

On the disadvantages of the PS3
The first area that must be addressed is the paucity of games: As of right now, there only one or two original titles for the PS3 and few highly rated games. Resistance was of course the PS3's launch blockbuster title but I've had little incentive to purchase any other games at the moment. Thankfully, we'll see numerous highly-anticipated games go gold (i.e. into mass-production and onto shelves) in the next few months through to the first full year after the launch of the PS3. The best games will include: Metal Gear Solid 4, Warhawk, Final Fantasy XIII and Final Fantasy Versus XIII, Devil May Cry 4, LittleBigPlanet and Assassin's Creed. A few hopefuls have also just recently been announced: Black 2 & Killzone 2

At this time, the online realm is also somewhat underdeveloped. New additions coming this year, however, include Home, which is PS3's answer to both Xbox Live and the Wii's Miis with a generous amount of Second Life thrown in. Currently, online gaming is performed entirely though the individual games themselves. Home will allow you create a fully detailed character with various features/outfits (and it looks incredibly realistic) and create your own home (furnature/extras added or can be purchased for a few cents and then downloaded). Music/Movies on the PS3 can be played through media systems within the Home. There are also large 3D environments to meet and talk with other PS3 users and invite them back to the Home or join groups to all enter a game together (a feature lacking in all PS3 games, but included to some extent within Resistance and in all Xbox Live accounts). It also makes it easier to communicate and make friends over the PS3 service. This, again, is all free.

On the advantages of the Wii
The Wii has a few things going for it. Price is a major advantage: at around $250 it's well below the $400 Premium Xbox 360 and $600 60GB PS3 (note I'm quoting the price on the more expensive consoles because it really isn't worth it to purchase the lower quality versions - they lack too many useful features). This makes the console appeal to a far wider audience. Other advantages include the new Wii-mote controller, which makes navigation of the console's controls and menus far easier and also provides a far more interactive experience when actually playing games. Wii-Sports, for example, is a very fun way to use the controller for anything from bowling to golf.

On the advantages of the Xbox 360
The Xbox 360 has the advantage of cheaper price over the PS3 too and thus appeals to much of the same gamer market (it has the requisite graphics capabilities). As it was released quite a bit before the PS3 and Wii, this console also has a better set of games currently established, such as Gears of War and the upcoming conclusion to the Halo series.

On the disadvantages of the Wii
Disadvantages of the Wii include the fact that the graphics are still only comparable to previous-generation systems (it peaks at 480i resolution); only the control system brings anything new to the market. The game system is more a fun distraction to have at a party or to waste a bit of time as opposed to getting really involved in an extensive game. Internet capabilities (though I don't speak from experience here) are fairly weak or non-existent and certainly can't compare with either of the other consoles. In this period of time, it's necessary for games to be playable over the internet.

On the disadvantages of the Xbox 360
Xboxes have a voracious appetite: when they aren't gobbling down power and overheating, they like to dine on game discs. Games often get chewed up and rendered unusable if the console is knocked about even a little. Xboxes also have the tendency to overheat. I've heard stories of discs being melted because the huge power-brick can't handle all the electricity. Xbox Live costs $50 a year and can lag at times, though I believe the offered features are quite well-developed. Finally, the ultimate disadvantage: it's Microsoft - I'd never purchase anything from them if I can help it. They even managed to port over the blue screen of death and turn it into the red light of death (if your console shows a red light around the normally green power button, you had better be ready to break open a gigantic piggybank and buy a new one). Costs, by the way, of adding all the features seen on a PS3 (HD-DVD for Xbox and hi-def output) will make the Xbox cost just as much as the high-end PS3. Also, no motion sensing technology is a major drawback.

Overall conclusion
While all three of these consoles have some attractive features, the PS3 delivers an uncompromising top-quality gaming experience. The price tag may be high, but in this case you definitely get what you pay for in terms of next-generation gaming systems.

Simon Kanter. Simon "The Food Guy" Kanter is the silliest person you will ever meet. Though his true joy in life is posting recipes, Simon finds time to spend patting himself on the back for his witty remarks, breeding Trogdors, stealing markers, staplers and other convenient appliances, … More »

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