There’s never been a better time to be a gamer. With 3 consoles, 3 handhelds, and a PC you have more options for video games at your disposal than any other time in history. Even if you just limit yourself to consoles you’ll find a lot of stuff to love. But also a lot of stuff you may not be so crazy about.
Each of the 3 main consoles, Wii, Xbox 360, and Playstation 3, have their high points and their low points. Here are 3 positive points and 3 negative points about each of them.
There are very few developers who can claim to be as good as Nintendo’s internal teams. You know that when you play a Zelda or a Mario game that you’re getting nothing but the best. Obviously, this is an area where the Wii shines and Wii owners get to play some of the very best games Nintendo has ever released.
I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that you probably haven’t played every good game ever released. Throughout the years something will have slipped past your radar, and the Virtual Console is really the perfect way to go back and experience the best games of the past. Best of all, it’s entirely legal and convenient, saving you the trouble of trawling through eBay or shady torrent sites to score that rare, expensive copy of Super Mario RPG you’ve always meant to play.
Everybody Can Play
One of the most well known features of the Wii is that it’s easy enough for everyone to play. From your two year old nephew to your 80 year old grandparents, it seems like everyone has been sucked into the Wii craze. Regardless of where you fall on the hardcore/casual gamer spectrum, you have to admit it’s nothing short of amazing when you see your own grandmother taking you to school in Mario Kart.
No New Releases
Anyone who says that the Wii hasn’t had good releases are lying to themselves. Too bad all those releases are in the past. Looking at the list of upcoming games, there is only a single noteworthy game (Zelda: Skyward Sword) and it doesn’t even have a release date. At the moment the Wii is bone dry and we can only hope that E3 will bring some good news for the Wii.
To say that Nintendo’s online presence is stuck in the past would be an understatement. No voice chat or communication of any kind, no unified friends list (even though the Wii has one built in, it’s used by very few games), and worst of all, friend codes, make the Wii’s online gameplay seem downright prehistoric.
Lack of Storage Space
Believe it or not, the Wii has a plethora of great downloadable games. The problem, of course, is that it doesn’t have the storage space to keep more than a handful of them at the same time. With only 512MB of internal storage (of which only half is user accessible), it becomes a pain to manage which games to keep on your console at any one time. Nintendo has introduced a workaround in the form of SD cards, but it’s a far less elegant solution than you’ll find on any other console.
Xbox Live is the gold standard of console multiplayer. Microsoft’s gaming network has made great strides since the original Xbox and is now fully integrated into every aspect of the Xbox 360, bringing a lot more than just online gaming. Being able to see what all your friends are up to at any given time has turned gaming into a more social experience, and giving each player a profile they can build has made everything much more personal. Now, users get to have a persistent, ever growing online identity. Try turning on your Xbox one day without signing into Live and you’ll really see how much more empty it feels and how much Xbox Live brings to the table.
Xbox Live Arcade/ Indie Games
If my Xbox 360 could only play Arcade games, I don’t think I’d mind. The Xbox Live Arcade, if separated as it’s own console, would probably be one of the best ever made. Take a look around and you’ll find something for you no matter what your taste, and if you dig deep you can find some of the very best games of this generation. Games like Castle Crashers, Shadow Complex, Braid, and Limbo should provide all the justification you need as to why the Xbox Live Arcade is so damn good.
Not to mention the Xbox Live Arcade Indie games. For the first time ever, anyone with the know how can make their own games and release them on a console. If you’ve ever dreamed of making your own game and letting the world see what you can do, the Indie Games finally give you that chance.
Some people love them and some people hate them. I stand firmly on the love side. There’s just something about achievements that appeals to my collector’s nature, and watching that number rise gives a real sense of satisfaction. It’s all part of the Xbox Live point above, with building a persistent identity, and achievements really drive that home by making it, in the end, all about the games.
Lack of First Party Developers
There was once a time when Microsoft has a world class team of developers backing them, with well known names such as FASA and Ensemble Studios. Those days are gone. Now, Microsoft has a rather weak assortment of first party studios, with Lionhead and Rare being the most well known. Microsoft’s Xbox empire has always relied on third parties, but it was the strength of their internal studios that really defined the Xbox.
By this point it seems like everybody knows just how fragile an Xbox 360 is. You should count yourself lucky if you’ve never succumbed to the dreaded Red Ring of Death, or DVD drive failure, or any of the multitude of other hardware related problems the 360 is prone to. Not to mention that the console is loud and sounds like it’s powered by a jet engine. Microsoft’s little box may have a lot of redeeming qualities, but the build quality is most certainly not one of them.
There’s nothing wrong with having your own points based currency for your online store. In fact, it’s kind of nice because it means it’s possible to get points cards on sale. But the way Microsoft does it is counter intuitive at best. 80 Microsoft Points equals one dollar. This ends up making in your head conversions from real money a lot harder and since it’s difficult to determine just how much you’re spending you’re likely to spend a lot more.
Free Online Play
Say what you will about the Playstation Network compared to Xbox Live, free is free. While it may not be quite as full featured or cohesive as XBL (see below), you do get a hell of a lot for free.
The reason the PS3 used to be so expensive is one of it’s best features. Not only is the Playstation 3 still one of the best Blu-ray players on the market (and able to be updated as new features are incorporated into discs) but it also works very well for games. The massively increased storage capacity of the Blu-ray discs gives developers a lot more room to work with. Nowhere is this more noticeable than with Final Fantasy XIII, where the grainy FMV of the Xbox 360 version is replaced with breathtakingly beautiful, uncompressed cinematics in the PS3 version.
Fantastic Exclusive Developers
Throughout the years Sony has built up quite the repertoire of exclusive developers. Whether it’s their own internal studios like Sony Santa Monica (God of War), or exclusive third party arrangements like Insomniac (Ratchet & Clank), Sony has a great team behind them. In fact, most of the PS3’s best games (such as Uncharted or Gran Turismo) come from their exclusive developers and are arguably some of the best games this entire generation.
Firmware Arms Race
I’m glad that Sony is trying to keep their console secure through updating the firmware, but at times it can get more than a little annoying. Because of the way the PS3 updates, it can sometimes take upwards of 20 minutes to download and install the latest update. If you’re someone with only limited time to play games, turning on your Playstation only to have it essentially unusable is a frustrating experience.
Thrown Together Online Features
Nothing better demonstrates this point than the massive implosion of the Playstation Network that happened this week. Compared to Xbox Live, the Playstation Network seems almost thrown together. Even small things, like trophies that don’t automatically sync, show that many of the network’s features were thrown in just to play catch up to Microsoft and add up to a far less cohesive online experience.
Worse Multiplatform Performance
Admittedly, this point isn’t as true as it used to be, but it still pops up more often than I’d like. It used to be that the PS3 version of multiplatform titles was always the inferior one, usually featuring more bugs and graphical hiccups than their Xbox counterparts. Things have definitely improved recently, but every now and again you’ll come across a game like Bayonetta that seems to revert to the old ways and give the PS3 the short end of the stick.
How do you feel about these points? Did we nail them or are we way off the mark? Do you have anything to add to any of these points or maybe even some good/bad points of your own? Sound off in the comments and let us know.