A little more Playstation 3 hating

I turned the previous post into a review that ran in tbt* today, and with most of the caveats removed I’ve been feeling a little bad about bashing the PlayStation 3 so much. But there’s just not going to be a honeymoon period for Sony this time.

The Xbox 360 launch last year was similarly hyped and similarly unimpressive. In my initial 360 review, I said the first games’ graphics were a big leap but not a huge leap (and the Jar Jar Problem of plasticine characters came up immediately) and that there was no reason to get the system just then. I was also unimpressed by Perfect Dark Zero, which was supposed to be the big launch game.

So far I’ve played two PS3 games, Resistance: Fall of Man and Genji: Days of the Blade. Genji has better graphics than Resistance (and some colors beyond brown, green-brown, and grey-brown), but the camera is so fundamentally flawed that the game is literally worthless. Game developers have spent the past 10 years since Super Mario 64 came out refining and perfecting how to show the action in a three-dimensional game. The majority of games now have a camera that follows the character and also lets you change the viewpoint. Some, especially sports games, stick with a fixed view.

Genji keeps a fixed view, but it’s pretty much the worst one I’ve ever seen in a video game. The game starts with you looking up at the back of your character on screen. It’s as if the camera were bolted into the ground. The camera angle changes, but it’s constantly awful.

Forget that the game consists of monotonously jabbing buttons to slash away at zillions of enemies. Forget that some of the characters have bad British accents (even though the game seems to take place in feudal Japan) while others have bad faux-Japanese accents, like 1930s movie villains or the racist aliens at the beginning of Star Wars: Episode 1. The camera just completely cripples the game.

Now, if this were a game on the Xbox 360 in November 2005, I would just say “It’s bad, I give it a C or D, get God of War and keep playing PlayStation 2.” But it’s a year later. Sony can’t hide behind the excuse that every new console starts with weak games. Wii Sports and Rayman Raving Rabbids for the Wii are great. I’ve only just started playing Zelda: Twilight Princess, but by all accounts that’s solid too. And the Xbox 360’s weak launch lineup is irrelevent. That system now, in December 2006, has a lot of terrific games.

The PlayStation 3 isn’t competing with the memory of Kameo and Perfect Dark Zero. It’s competing with the awesomeness of Gears of War, Call of Duty 3, Viva Pinata, Elder Scrolls, take your pick.

In that context, Resistance and Genji don’t get the benefit of the doubt. There’s no way to justify games like that. The PS3 might cost so much because of Blu-ray Disc, and $600 might be a bargain when Blu-ray players cost $1,000 otherwise, but gamers are still paying $100 to $200 more than the Xbox 360. If you’ve paid an extra $260 to play Resistance, being able to also buy an overpriced high-definition DVD for an expensive high-def TV you might or might not have doesn’t seem like much of a consolation for being stuck with an inferior game.

Sony better hope it has some stunners on the way soon, or a shortage of systems will be the least of its problems.

— December 14, 2006

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