Here at TSA we like to think we’re an open-minded bunch of guys. We don’t really have any particular ties to any one system apart from the obvious fact that we like talking about the PS3 on the site – we’re certainly not official in terms of PlayStation reporting and there’s nothing stopping us flicking a switch one day that means we’re now able to start writing about other consoles. Naturally, most of our readership are PS3 fans, so we’ll always concentrate on making sure you guys are getting the most out of your big black box, but we’re far from fanboys, so here’s the first in a series of sideways looks at the competition: the Xbox 360.
For some reason, the playground rivalry that existed when I was a kid – the ZX Spectrum vs the Commodore 64 – is still thriving, but the advent of the internet has meant that instead of scrapping on the hopskotch chalk we’re slinging insults from the safety of our keyboard. Whilst the Wii enjoys a slightly off-kilter fanbase that doesn’t concern itself with the goings-on in the wonderful world of HD gaming, the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 fanbases are often entirely mutually exclusive, and for all the wrong reasons. Here’s the bit that might shock you: I personally don’t have a preference for either console, and here’s why I think you shouldn’t either.
The battle for exclusives is something that all console manufacturers spend a good deal of time and money on, and whilst we’ve covered the major PS3 exclusives in detail over the last two years – Warhawk, Gran Turismo, Uncharted, WipEout et al, it’s worth mentioning that fanboy blinkers aside, the 360 has just as many exclusives as Sony’s platform, and mostly in the same genres. For starters, I’m of the opinion that the Forza series is just as interesting as Polyphony’s flagship racing sim – yes, it’s not as visually impressive and the handling is slightly more arcade, but Sony has yet to prove itself online (GT5P’s online is a joke) and Forza 2’s customisation is utterly insane, not to mention a working trading system and a comprehensive set of vehicles.
And then there’s the classics: Halo and Gears of War. Whatever the Sony fanboys might think of these two titles, the first Halo set a groundbreaking precedence for quality and apart from Goldeneye on the N64 still stands proud as the most innovative first person shooter ever created. A massive fanbase means that there’ll always be people online and whilst it’s typical to assume that the multiplayer is full of racist, facist kids, with friends, Halo 3 is wonderful. Gears of War, too, defined the 360’s formulative years and whilst the sequel upped the spectacle and visual fidelity both games are best enjoyed as a pair as the single player campaign continues straight through. Online in Epic’s third person shooter is as hardcore as it comes, as well.
Better Multiformat Titles
A lot of recent multiformat games have turned out better on the PS3: Burnout Paradise being the shining example of what developers can do with a solid grasp of the hardware, but for the most part resolution, texture quality and framerate is often better on the 360 version – the recent Sony Europe exclusive Ghostbusters was a particular sore point for PS3 owners. This isn’t just pixel counters and forum dwellers by any stretch, the aesthetic differences between both HD consoles can be quite startling at times and to be continuously fed second rate ports is discouraging and frustrating to say the least.
And then there’s the install times. I won’t call out any third parties in particular here, but some developers are clearly struggling with the Blu-ray drive and annoyingly, even after a 15 minute initial install and 5 GIG stolen from your hard drive, the PS3 versions still load slower. We all know the Blu-ray drive is tricky to get the most out of but why PS3 gamers should still suffer once the game is installed we’ve no idea – and that’s without mentioning the fact that 99% of 360 games can now be installed completely to the hard drive meaning once you’ve popped in the disk to verify you own the game, that’s it, and load times are massively improved further.
I love the PlayStation Store, it’s finally coming into its stride with some recent killer titles and the promise of later titles like Fat Princess are nice bullet points for Sony, but the 360’s Live Arcade blows it out of the water sometimes. The purchase of Rare might have seemed odd at the time, but once Perfect Dark lands on XBLA, alongside stablemates like Banjo Kazooie, that initial outlay will start to pay for itself even if full releases like Nuts and Bolts didn’t quite set the sales charts alight. This week sees the release of Monkey Island, a fantastic HD remake of the SCUMM classic, and that’s not to mention other killer retro titles like Rez, Sensible Soccer, Ikaruga – the list goes on.
It’s not just old games on the Arcade, either, and whilst the exclusive downloads for the 360 don’t always hold up alongside the quality of those on the PSN, Xbox owners are pretty much guaranteed at least one new title every Wednesday and often get two – and everything on there comes with a demo – everything – and normally comes out a day or two before it does on the PlayStation Store. Finally, innovative experiments like the Community Games label are interesting for amateur devs like myself and the recent release of coding application Kodu was an absolute delight.
We’ve been round and round about the pricing of the PS3 recently, and when you can pick up an Xbox 360 Arcade with a game for £130 it’s not hard to see where the likes of Activision are coming from when they are pushing for a price cut. Yes, we all know the PS3 can play Blu-rays, comes with wi-fi and the controller doesn’t need batteries, but try exploring that to Joe Public. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve wanted to step in when listening to a potential console buyer talking to sales staff in GAME, but it’s not my job to bullet point the differences between the two machines. Besides, most end up buying a Wii anyway.
But this is all academic to our readership, because we assume most of you have a PS3 anyway. What we did want to point out is that regardless of what you might think half of us at TSA are big fans of Microsoft’s console and are quite happy switching back and forth of an evening. What might surprise you though, is that sometimes, just sometimes, we wish the PS3 had something the 360 had, or did something the way the 360 does – so not having one next to Sony’s behemoth would be a real shame and we reckon the same would be true of most of our readership. Thankfully, we don’t have many fanboys reading the site…