Xbox 360 vs. Sony PS3 vs. Nintendo Wii

I’ve had the 360 and PS3 since their launches and the Wii for just over a month (though it seems longer after my Zelda binge, despite it being two weeks ago).

Overall, 360 is the winner and here’s why:

  • Xbox Live – it’s the 2nd version; Sony and Wii don’t have a story for multi-player games and have weak online marketplace experiences;  PS2 did have some online multi-player support but it was game publisher specific.  Once your firewall was set up for Xbox or Xbox 360, everything just seems to work and the game lobby experience is sufficient and consistent.  Microsoft is a software company and they have played that to their advantage.  Sony is touting an upcoming ‘Sims’ or ‘Second-life’ type experience but it’s too late
  • Price – the blu-ray disc in the PS3 is a compulsory purchase even on the lower model (that they have apparently discontinued) and it may have cost Sony the industry lead they had; having a PS2 compatibility board in there cost extra money, and while it beats Xbox 360 (with it’s slow-release compatibility list), anyone hard-core enough to buy a system at launch will probably keep their old systems hooked up anyway.
  • Interchangeable rechargeable controllers (with the right battery pack) –   the 360 controllers should have come with the rechargeable batteries from the start and I went for the standalone 2-battery charging station which prevents any battery issues; the PS3 batteries are not removeable, and the Wii only seems to have limited 3rd-party solutions available
  • Games – there has been very little PS3-only goodness here and even though Xbox 360 didn’t have a large number of launch titles, they have had a year to bring them on now, giving them the hard start; Wii will still attract people for cutesy games.
  • Dashboard and in-game interface – Nintendo and Sony have finally caught on to the idea Microsoft has with the original Xbox – having a consistent in-game interface to the dashboard is very compelling.
  • Media experiences – the 360 can be a media extender to Windows Vista Home Premium/Ultimate or XP Media Center Edition, but if you’re like me, you’d put the computer in the same room as the 360 where the big screen is, so this isn’t the big deal that Microsoft says, and if you want TV in other rooms then it’s something to consider but they you’re probably wondering why there’s no media center extender experience for the Windows desktop; if Microsoft plays it’s cards well in the IPTV industry then the next Xbox (once broadband is 10Mbps+) could be the set-top box of choice

For the truly serious technologist or addicted gamer, there are 3 consoles in play.  For the serious gamer, there are 2 (360 and PS3).

It’s really about the experience and the gameplay – Microsoft has it hands-down on experience, and is getting their on gameplay because it’s Microsoft with a huge developer following and they’ve had a year head-start.  A few more good titles and a killer Halo 3, and things could forever become Pepsi.

For the casual gamer with kids there’s the Wii – it only has 480i (in North America or 480p with component cables) and there’s no digital audio out – but the novelty is there and some games (like Zelda) have pleasant graphics once you get passed the very obvious resolution drop.  Wii sports is family fun but it didn’t take long for us to realise that you can sit on the couch and just flick your wrist with far more precision (so RSI is still on the cards for some).  Wii may have one of the strongest back-wards compatibility stories in terms of taking Game Cube games, controllers and memory cards.  The Mii characters you can build for yourself are limited (despite the many choices) but fun for a while.  The launch games are disappointing (esp Mario), however you can buy a fair amount lot of Wii equipment and games before you hit the price of a PS3 with no games.

If you are into gadgets and technology and you are choosing one then get a 360 and make sure you get the Elite (with HDMI output).  If you have $2000 to spare, get all 3, accessories and a switcher, then spend another $2000 on a 47″+ LCD/Plasma screen (making sure it’s native 1080p, not 720p with 1080i support) and of course another $1000 or so on digital sound receiver with 5.1/7.1 speakers.

Game Review for Wii: Zelda – Twilight Princess

Not a very, um, manly soundly game title but it is nonetheless the latest in the Zelda series where you play the young male hero named Link in this 3rd person 3D action/rpg/platform/puzzle/fighting/fantasy/rpg game set in a fairly large world.

I completed it in about 60 hours (over two weeks of evenings and weekends) – I have binges of game play, then nothing for months – and it was quite addictive and enjoyable in places.  60 hours isn’t quick, but at least I feel like I got an hour’s worth for every dollar.

The game starts off very slowly and it seems like it’s going to be quite dull, but over time, the items at your disposal become far more interesting and practically an extreme sport for some.

The Nintendo platform has a reputation for child-friendly cutesy games and visually this Zelda edition is no exception for the mos tpart, but it is rated T for Teen.  The story, environments and characters get a little PG in terms of potential scariness to <10 year olds perhaps (not to mention the dodgy balloon-ride man), and the skill and patience required to beat the bosses at higher levels is something only the die-hard 5 year old video game addict would put themselves through.  I’m not sure what rating previous Zelda games had, but I could easily see parents buying this game, thinking they were getting something that starts off with cute music, but actually turns into something else.

Once you get passed the slow start, the game is very engaging, and the world map starts to grow (with city, castle, villages, open plains, underwater, snow, sand, twilight worlds…).  Also, just when you think you’ve got all the pieces to put the world to rights, the adventure takes a new turn and you’re collecting for something else.  The number of successive bosses at the end is perhaps too many.  One could easily lose the background plot if the game is played over a long period of time.

Most of the challenges support the main plot and you have a guide available – she (once you figure out the gender) provides useful tips for the most part.

The use of the Wii sensor technology is mostly limited to the controller being a sword (and something else with the nunchuck), and you soon turn off the cursor as it’s not necessary and as annoying as having tinkerbell buzzing at you all day (you’ll see what I mean if you play it).

It was annoying that there can only be 3 save slots (a Nintendo trait it seems), so if you have more than 3 people in your family…  I also didn’t like that you can’t save the game after you finish it to do further exploring (put I did save before engaging the last boss).

If you like open world adventures with fantasy characters and a good balance of exploration, dungeons, puzzles, fighting and a very light sprinkling of rpg elements then this is a very engaging game – it’s not for young children, but then you wouldn’t want the embarrassment of them beating you anyway right?

Movie Review: Next

I saw Next last night, starring Nicolas Cage, Julianne Moore & Jessica Biel.

While Nick fit the part, there was no wow to his performance.  Julianne’s FBI agent part could have been played by a no-one.  Jessica walked around in her underwear a bit which was OK, but as with the other characters, this wasn’t a real deep-character kind of movie.  There was the opportunity for romance between Julanne and Nick (which seemed more logical given that they appear to be close in age than Nick and Jessica who didn’t make a convincing couple).

There’s a brief appearance by Peter Falk which really felt like they were just rolling him out to show you that he’s still kicking.

Don’t go to this movie if you are looking for explanations.  Go to it if you want to see how cool a foresight ability could be.

Some people have said the end was disappointing.  I’d say that if they had played on further from the end shown (which I can’t explain without spoiling it) that the ultimate end would have been boring because nothing exciting would have resulted, other than perhaps some canoodling a few weeks later.

This should have been a Jerry Bruckheimer movie to have made the action sequences really pop and appeal to a younger audience (marketing-wise) though I’m not sure they would have appreciated the end either, or that he could have squeezed enough out of this relatively short movie.

I enjoyed watching the character’s talent in action – his skill combined with a specific limitation made for a novel but consistent (e.g. superman+krypton) fallible, if perhaps somehwhat too jaded/bitter, super hero.

Movie Review: Spiderman 3

It’s 01:30, and I just got back from watching the 10:30 show of Spiderman 3.

Here are my no-plot-spoiler (though it’s hard not to know the plot if you’ve seen all the entertainment shows fighting for their 10 second exclusives) comments:

  • Plenty of action
  • Scary bits that warrant the PG (or 12A in UK)
  • Sam Raimi still can’t pace romance scenes (and they make crappy endings for these movies) – the audience giggled or groaned in all the emotional pieces, but what the hell – it’s an action/comic movie – at least there’s plenty of action padding it
  • Tobey Maguire grinned far too much for contrast effect in the first part of the movie, but he still fits the part well and did show more versatility
  • For all the money spent, some of the tumbling scenes had poor lighting on the computer graphics such that the characters didn’t blend in correctly
  • J K Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson got the best laughs though the last Chris Tucker line in the trailer for Rush Hour 3 got a far better audience laugh
  • The movie could have been shorter
  • Don’t expect true-to-comic storylines
  • If there’s a forth one then make it an original bad guy (not from the comics); bring in a fresh director, no matter what Kirsten (at least I wasn’t grinning all the time) Dunst said in an interview; spidey could do with a better love-interest; in fact let’s lose the Joey Potter/Lana Lang efforts shall we?
  • Keep Tobey Maguire for financial and character continunity reasons; make him cockier still but not a grinning idiot
  • It was still a good spidey movie

Movie Review: Hot Fuzz

Hot Fuzz is the movie that everyone should go to see if they like good entertainment, comedy and action movies. It has all three, but only for those who are 14 and over. The film does feature some choice comedic use of swear words, including in writing :)! When one of the biggest cheers from the audience occurs when an old woman is hit, you should get the idea that this movie has some outrageous moments. Also, when an audience in a small theatre is cheering, you know the movie carries some clout. I should point out that there were probably 14, 41 and 61 year olds in the audience and they all seemed to have a good time. The pace reaches pure brilliance in the last 15 minutes of the movie, and isn’t too shabby starting up either. My only negative comment was that the ex-girlfriend story was redundant.

It’s clear these guys did watch many movies (as the trailer claims) to master the technique of grabbing the audience’s attention and then getting the laughs by bringing on the absurd or non-PC. It’s just a shame this movie didn’t have a bigger marketing budget.

Simon Pegg and Nick Frost star with a collection of other great supporting actors in this fantastically entertaining British movie. And I’m not just saying that because I’m British – any bias is totally drowned out by actual quality entertainment.

Did I mention that while is has no nudity, sex or drugs (other than beer), it pulls off its achievements with comedy, action, violence, smut, beer, cranberry juice, profanity, buddy humour, murder, mystery, and a dark comedy twist?

Movie Review: Fracture

Fracture brings together Anthony Hopkins and Ryan Gosling in a battle of legal/life wits.

The best aspect about this movie is Anthony’s acting and character (Ted Crawford), the worst is that it was quite predictable – it was practically obvious from the start, how the gun thing was done.

The arrogant brilliance of Ted Crawford seemed worth rooting for, vs. the naive arrogance of Ryan’s Willy Beachum. Anthony does play this in a way that is distinct from Hannibal Lecture, but then he is a great actor who seems to effortlessly deliver the part.

Perhaps the lack of a soundtrack in parts made the movie about 15 minutes longer that he should have been. I don’t regret seeing it and I was entertained, but mostly just by the pleasure of watching great acting when Anthony was on screen.

Watch out for Fiona Shaw, more popularly seen as Petunia Dursley in the Harry Potter movies.

Like Hannibal Lecture in Silence of the Lambs, will Ted Crawford walk away scott-free from a homicide?

Movie Review: Disturbia

Disturbia stars Shia LaBeouf as a teenager under house arrest who begins to suspect that his neighbour may be a serial killer.

The only unpredictable element in this movie is discovering how the lead character ends up in trouble.

The movie was spoiled by two things, both of which had the audience laughing and pointing during story-building elements, though one of which was a local screening issue. Boom mics (of various flavours) kept bobbing into the shots (during the scenes in the lead’s bedroom). Fortunately this only occured during the first half of the movie. It is amazing that this made it into print. I can only assume that budget constraints and bad monitoring of the framing caused the issue. Also, the film was being scratched up and residue was collecting at the bottom of the frame, to the point where the movie was stopped at one by the management in an failed attempt to clean up the mess. The problem was that the build up looked like some kind of hair which got everyone tittering somewhat.

The movie was entertaining enough and the audience yelped at the right moments in the final scenes. However it was a total waste of talent from David Morse and Carrie-Anne Moss, and not much of a talent showcase for Shia.