Hi-tech xmas: gaming consoles

Last updated 00:00 01/01/2009
Playstation 3
Xbox 360
Nintendo Wii

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PlayStation 3, $799.95

The PlayStation 3, from electronics giant Sony, has a lot of expectation to live up to, especially in light of the huge success of the PlayStation 2, which is still a big seller despite being released seven years ago.

The PlayStation 3 is a technically impressive machine that can play new format Blu-ray high-definition movies, but the almost $1200 price tag for the 60 gigabyte model when it first launched in NZ in March was, understandably, too much for many mums and dads to stomach.

A recently released 40Gb version for $799 is a much more palatable price (the 60Gb is being discontinued) but it can't play PlayStation 2 games.

The PS3's online network isn't as robust as that offered by the Xbox 360, and until recently, the PS3 didn't have many must-have games, although that has changed with games such as Uncharted: Drake's Fortune and Ratchet and Clank: Tools of Destruction.

Pros: Built-in Blu-ray player. Sony reckons that Blu-ray is the next big thing in movies, so comes with a Blu-ray drive that can also play standard DVDs. The PS3 is now starting to get some solid exclusive games, with offerings like Ratchet and Clank: Tools of Destruction and Uncharted: Drake's Fortune really showing what the PS3 is capable of. Wireless internet access out of the box.

Cons: Not a lot of exclusive must-have games at the moment.

You can't play your old PS2 games on the 40Gb PlayStation 3 as the backwards compatibility function has been disabled.

No media reader cards like the 60Gb had.

PlayStation 2, $219.95

A cheaper option is the PlayStation 2 but be warned it can only be a matter of time before Sony decides to stop making this hugely popular console. Despite its age, the PlayStation 2 is still going strong, has a huge library of games, is as cheap as chips (you can pick it up for about $220) and it's still a firm favourite with millions of homes around the world. It's the biggest selling console in the world -- and still growing.

Xbox 360, $449.95 to $799.95

Launched in New Zealand in March 2006. It's now available in four "flavours", the cheapest being the recently released Arcade Bundle that doesn't have a hard-disk drive to store content on. You're probably better off paying extra for the Pro bundle which is only $200 more. It comes with a hard-disk drive that you can use to save games and store downloaded content from the excellent Xbox Live online service.

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The 360 has a strong collection of games for "hardcore" players, ranging from shooters to action games to sports and racing, and is working hard to attract a younger audience with games such as Viva Pinata and Scene It! Lights, Camera, Action.

Pros: Arguably has the strongest line-up of games, ranging from first-person shooters to racing games to role playing and sports titles.

Xbox Live, Microsoft's online gaming service, is a goodie, where you can play other gamers online as well as download content and bite-sized games from Xbox Live Arcade.

Cons: It is noisy and it can get hot. Early consoles also had reliability issues, namely the Red Rings of Death. If you get them, it means certain death for your console. Microsoft has since increased the warranty period for the console. (Xbox 360 Arcade Bundle $449.95, Pro Bundle $649.95, Halo 3 Special Edition: $749.95, Elite $799.95)

Xbox 360, $449.95 to $799.95

Launched in New Zealand in March 2006. It's now available in four "flavours", the cheapest being the recently released Arcade Bundle that doesn't have a hard-disk drive to store content on. You're probably better off paying extra for the Pro bundle which is only $200 more. It comes with a hard-disk drive that you can use to save games and store downloaded content from the excellent Xbox Live online service.

The 360 has a strong collection of games for "hardcore" players, ranging from shooters to action games to sports and racing, and is working hard to attract a younger audience with games such as Viva Pinata and Scene It! Lights, Camera, Action.

Pros: Arguably has the strongest line-up of games, ranging from first-person shooters to racing games to role playing and sports titles.

Xbox Live, Microsoft's online gaming service, is a goodie, where you can play other gamers online as well as download content and bite-sized games from Xbox Live Arcade.

Cons: It is noisy and it can get hot. Early consoles also had reliability issues, namely the Red Rings of Death. If you get them, it means certain death for your console. Microsoft has since increased the warranty period for the console. (Xbox 360 Arcade Bundle $449.95, Pro Bundle $649.95, Halo 3 Special Edition: $749.95, Elite $799.95) --Gerard Campbell

 

Nintendo Wii, $499.95

Long-time gaming company Nintendo, not content with its innovative touch-sensitive DS handheld console, launched its Wii console in NZ late last year.

With its innovative motion-sensitive controller that looks like a TV remote control, it was an instant hit with gamers and non-gamers alike. Instead of pressing buttons, you wave the controller -- called the Wiimote -- around in a more natural way: if you're playing a golf game you swing the controller like a golf club, if you're playing tennis you swing it like a racket.

With games like Wii Sports, Super Mario Galaxy and Metroid Prime Corruption, Nintendo's Wii appeals to hardcore gamers and families alike.

Pros: Nintendo has made gaming accessible to the masses -- families, children, mums and dads, non-gamers. With games like Wii Sports, where you swing the motion-sensitive controller like a golf club or baseball bat, even grandma can have fun. At $499, the price won't break the bank.

Cons: Its popularity is a double-edged sword as the Wii's success means that worldwide demand is outstripping supply -- New Zealand's Nintendo distributor reports that supplies will be tight this Christmas and during the first two weeks of January.

So if you find one, grab it and hold on to it.

You'll either love the motion-sensitive Wiimote, or you won't.

Graphically, it's simplistic compared to the other two major consoles, but that's reflected in the price. --Gerard Campbell

 

- The Press

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