</ />As a standalone games console, the PlayStation 3 is a solid machine. This is Sony's third attempt at a games unit, so it's got that side of the equation down pat. Playing games using the wireless controller is a seamless experience, and we've not come across any issues - even after long periods of play (the wireless controllers, by the way, can last for 30 hours after a full charge). Of course, the most important question many gamers will be asking is: "Do games on the PS3 look better than the Xbox 360?" Unfortunately for Sony, the quick and simple answer is no. PS3 launch titles like Resistance: Fall of Man and Virtua Fighter 5 look stunning, featuring an impressive level of detail one has come to expect from next-generation games. These PS3 titles, however, don't look better than 360 stunners such as Gears of War or Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Vegas. Of course, those 360 games can be classified as second-generation titles, as most developers are now accustomed to working with the console. As we mentioned earlier, we expect the visuals of PS3 games to only improve from here on in.
All games output in HD, but the PS3 does not upscale DVDs.
Our biggest issue on the games side for the PS3 is its limited backwards compatibility with PS1 and PS2 games. While the US version of the console has almost full compatibility with old PlayStation games, local PS3s will not have the same functionality. Of course, with two-thirds of PS2 games apparently playable from the PS3's launch, most people may not even notice the issue at all. It still remains to be seen, however, just how the software emulation on the PS3 will affect PS2 games. Sony has said that some PS2 games may have performance problems when played through a PS3 - unfortunately, we cannot test this until the company releases the latest firmware upgrade to the console, which is due on 23 March. We'll update you on how the unit operates in the weeks to come.
It's similarly too early for us to make a final call on the console's online capabilities, particularly with regards to multiplayer. While launch games such as Resistance: Fall of Man do feature a comprehensive online multiplayer experience, several launch titles have no online functionality whatsoever. Sony is also promising further updates to its friends and games request system with their next firmware upgrade. It'll also be interesting to track how Sony's strategy with online games - where individual publishers can host their own servers for multiplayer as opposed to the Xbox's centralised system - will affect games in the future. We do have to applaud Sony, however, for making online play free for all PS3 owners.
Games aside, we found the PS3's multimedia capabilities to be generally easy to use. DVD and Blu-ray playback is impressive, with the visuals produced clear and crisp. It's a pity that the PS3 doesn't upscale DVDs, however. But for a AU$1000 Blu-ray player, it's still an outstanding achievement that the PS3 can produce picture quality comparable to many higher-end standalone products.
Sony set out to make a multimedia powerhouse with the PS3, and we're glad to say that it succeeded admirably. While we have some concerns with the unit's gameplay capabilities - such as backwards compatibility, online play and the lack of a real "killer app" at launch - we're more than impressed with what Sony has produced on the media side of the equation. The inclusion of a Blu-ray player makes it almost a must-have for gamers looking to get into high definition video (or even a high-def buff with only middling game aspirations), particularly at this price point. Hardcore gamers, however, may need to think twice. With few exclusive titles at launch and a dwindling list of PS3-only games slated for the future, the PlayStation 3 will surely have its hands full competing against the Xbox 360 and the Nintendo Wii.