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March 26, 2007
Full PS3 Preview & Release Schedule

Click here to check out PLAYSTATION 3 LAUNCH GUIDE: THE GAMES
Click here to check out PLAYSTATION 3 LAUNCH GUIDE: THE MOVIES
Click here to check out PLAYSTATION 3 LAUNCH GUIDE: THE VERDICT PART 1

PLAYSTATION 3 LAUNCH:
THE VERDICT ~ PART 2

PLAYING GAMES

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Motorstorm is almost certain to be the biggest launch title in terms of sales.
Playing a game is dead simple. After either downloading and installing the title (or demo) or inserting the Blu-Ray disc you can then proceed to the games menu and select the title which you want to play. It really couldn't be simpler. You can also set the system to auto-start the games when a disc is entered, or the console turned on.

In terms of games the quality is variable. Some are brilliant in their own right, but most are ports of games that already exist on other platforms so their value is questionable with little additional content over their original releases - indeed despite a 4 month delay from the American and Japanese launch few developers haven't done anything to the European/Australian versions games to improve them which is a shame. Why, for instance, couldn't online gameplay be included in Tony Hawk's Project 8, or voice communications be added back into Call of Duty 3 as it was in the XBox 360 game? You can expect full reviews of PS3 games in the coming days, months and years.

If there is to be one complaint, or should that be minor annoyance, to be leveled at the hardware it's that we really do miss the rumble in the Sixaxis controller. Playing Gran Turismo HD without knowing when you're right on the edge of the road through vibration feedback is a little unsettling at first - but we did get used to it eventually. Fortunately if everything falls into place, we will hopefully get updated "Rumble enabled" controllers in the coming year or so.

BLU-RAY MOVIE PLAYBACK

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My first Blu-Ray movie.
If you know me well you'll now that my love of games is only rivaled by my love of movies so while I was excited about the games I would be playing on the system it was the thought of Blu-Ray support that had me equally excited. With freebie Casino Royale still a couple of weeks away I decided to grab a movie that I didn't have on DVD yet (Which is pretty hard given my library here mind you!) and selected Bruce Willis' Tears of the Sun. As a technical demonstration of the Blu-Ray's High Definition playback it was simply astounding. The data throughput peaked at just over 25Mbps (compared to 9.8Mbps on the DVD), and despite the fact the disc is only a 25Gb single layer, knowing that the format could be pushed even further was astounding. (Blu-Ray discs have a maxumum throughput of 48Mbps, and could be a dual layer 50Gb disc).

What really makes Blu-Ray stand out is the amount of detail in the picture. Typically DVD's will blur out parts of the background, or you'll see macro blocking or other compression artifacts. The Blu-Ray version of Tears of the Sun is absolutely pristine - in fact you'd be hard pressed to see an image that good in a cinema - it's spectacular. Stay tuned for full Blu-Ray movie reviews soon.

PLAYING PHOTOS, MUSIC AND MOVIES

Through the Cross Media Bar you have an option to access Photos, Music and Movies. These can be stored on the hard drive or memory card and accessed. It's simple. Photos can be viewed in a list form with thumbnails and then opened for viewing. By pressing the Start Button on the Sixaxis controller you can enter a slideshow mode - either full screen, or in a very nifty mode whereby each image is framed like a polaroid and then thrown randomly onto a table in groups sorted by date. It's quite a brilliant way to look at a large series of photos on your TV and I can only hope Sony developers similar viewing options down the track.

Music also has its own category in the XMB. When you insert a CD it's possible to play it with visual effects to keep the screen moving. You can also display information about the CD including track number and progress in the song. Where it gets more exciting is that it is possible to rip a CD to the PS3's Hard Drive. We ripped the 71 minute Hackers soundtrack which took about 3 minutes to complete. Once ripped to the Hard Drive there is no need to insert the CD's to listen to them. With your permission the system will also access the internet to pull down information abou the CD including the album and track names.

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Selecting a video in the XMB.
Finally Movies. We've already mentioned Blu-Ray which offers the highest possible quality but it's also possible to play movies from Memory Stick or the Hard Drive. The Playstation Store has quite a few downloadable movies already. Casino Royale trailer is at 1080p and looks stunning while most other movie and game trailers are encoded at either SD resolution or 720p - if you have the bandwidth we definitely recommend the latter.

If I can level one complaint at the way in which the PS3 handles the different media it's that it requires the media to be placed in specific locations on your memory card. I plugged in my USB stick to test, and it didn't pick up anything despite music, photos and videos all being present. They needed to be placed into Subfolders before they could be picked up. I was also disappointed that the PS3 can't decode DIVX movies - something which is quite commonly used in the PC world these days. These are both issues which could be resolved in future Firmware updates - hopefully.

PLAYSTATION STORE

Another of the online options is the ability to browse the Playstation Store. This Playstation 3 exclusive site will be the hub for downloading games, demos, trailers and additional packs. Naturally the big title which everyone should head for immediately and grab is Gran Turismo HD. This is basically a free demo version which includes one track (playable in forward or reverse) as well as 10 cars (which are in normal or tuned modes). As well as a time trial there is a Drift trial mode but most impressively your lap times are uploaded to the internet and compared to the best in the world! Other demos include Resistance: Fall of Man and Motorstorm among others.

Downloadable games are, at this stage, only very small part of the Playstation Store - but look for it to expand greatly in future. The games range from only a couple of hundred megabytes, to almost a gigabyte. Several titles were available at launch including Tekken 5: Dark Resurrection ($AU16.95), Blast Factor ($AU8.45), Gripshift ($AU13.37), and Lemmings ($AU8.45). Don't think these titles are inferior products either as they offer just as much gametime as games on disc, if not more, as well as 1080p graphics on select titles (including Tekken 5: Dark Resurrection).

We are disappionted that right now there is no option for Australians to download PSOne games to the PS3 and then play through on the PSP. Perhaps Sony are holding that off until the emulation for PSOne games on the Hard Drive is enabled in the Firmware - and given that PSOne games on discs are being emulated through software that can't be too far off at all.

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The system - in all its glory!
OVERALL THOUGHTS

The Playstation 3 is everything I hoped it to be and then some. Since we've had the system we've probably clocked up around 40 hours of time, with the console rarely being turned off between 9am and 1am (yes, about 15 hours a day!). During that entire time the system has not locked up on a single occasion, and we haven't had the wireless controls drop out for a second (well there was one occasion, but that was more likely a mate pressing the wrong button). The Firmware update to 1.6 is an essential part of getting the best out of this system and we urge everyone who has a PS3 to spend the time, and a bit of money if necessary to get this system online.

$AU1000 may sound like a lot of money - and it is -but what we can see after our first weekend of play is a system that promises more long-term potential then any other on the market. This is much more then a games system, it's a complete entertainment package.


Click here to check out PLAYSTATION 3 LAUNCH GUIDE: THE GAMES
Click here to check out PLAYSTATION 3 LAUNCH GUIDE: THE MOVIES
Click here to check out PLAYSTATION 3 LAUNCH GUIDE: THE VERDICT PART 1