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Another mouth to feed...

Posted by Nathan Strum, 25 November 2012 · 2,849 views

Video Game Ramblings
So, I finally bought a PlayStation 3.

I had planned to do so a year ago on Black Friday, but just didn't want to deal with the insanity of fighting people at stores for one, and all of the online deals sold out before I could get to them.

This year though... I had a plan!

I was going to camp out on Amazon, and snag one in a Lightning Deal™. I knew when their PS3 bundle was going on sale - all I had to do was just log on a little early, refresh the page until the deal showed up, and bam! Deal done.

Yeah... so that didn't work out. They sold out faster than I could refresh the page.

But I had a back-up plan. Y'see I was determined to get a PS3 for no more than $199, because that's what Sony should have been selling them for anyway.

That meant hitting up a store. Wal-Mart, Target, Best Buy, Toys 'R' Us and probably others were all selling the same $199 bundle. All I had to do was find one.

Now, I could've gone to the stores late Thanksgiving night, or stupid-early the next morning, but I refuse to play the bait-and-switch game. Either they had enough stock to last the weekend (which is what their sales theoretically run) or they didn't get my money. I was either going to get a PS3 on my terms, or just skip it until the next sale.

So when I got home from visiting relatives on Friday afternoon, I planned out my route. Best Buy first (it's closest), then Target, then Toys 'R' Us, and finally, if those didn't play out, the three (yes... three) local Wal-Marts as a last result. I hate shopping at Wal-Mart, since my soul dies a little each time I do. But hey, you gotta do what you gotta do.

I was hoping that by the time I went out, the crazy shoppers would've finished up/been arrested, and most everyone else would be getting tired and heading off to dinner.

So, off to Best Buy I went.

And that's as far as I got.

First, parking was a breeze.

Black Friday shopping hint #1: Park near the stores nobody wants to shop at. In this case, Office Depot. A Sears will also work. Then just walk.

There was no heavy traffic around the strip mall, and I found a parking spot up the second aisle I turned into. So far, so good.

Then I walked into the store. Busy, but not insane. No crazy people fighting. Walked over to the video game section. There were a ton of PS3s there. But they were the not-on-sale $299 500 GB version. Not what I wanted. Checked the next aisle over. Some other models, priced at $269, including some of the leftover 160 GB models from the previous generation. Not looking so good now.

Then, I turned around... and in the middle of the floor:

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Ka-ching! More than 20 of 'em left! I don't know how tall the stack was earlier in the day, but I only needed one (a couple of other people snagged one while I was there, so I would guess they were selling pretty well). I also picked up the PS3 Blu-ray remote while I was there - after price-checking it against Amazon, naturally. Surprise! Best Buy was the same price. I guess you can teach an old dog new tricks.

Black Friday shopping hint #2: Shop for obsolete technology. It felt a little bit like buying a Dreamcast on closeout after Sega announced they had killed the console, but they were sure easy to find.

The checkout line took just a couple of minutes, and I was back home in under an hour.

Black Friday shopping hint #3: Shop late in the day, after all of the crazy people are gone. Sure, you limit your options, but deals can still be found, and your stress level will be a lot lower. The odds are you're going to miss out on "doorbusters" anyway, so just plan around it, and don't let your world come to an end if you can't find the deals you want.

And that is how you go shopping on Black Friday.

So I brought my first new console in years home, eager to fire it up.

And now, the obligatory unboxing shots:

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The bundle comes with a couple of games: Infamous and Uncharted, and their sequels. Never heard of 'em. Suppose I should look 'em up to see if they're any good.

And inside the box... another box!

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Actually, this is a pretty smart idea on Sony's part. Just put a thin cardboard sleeve over the standard box, and you can quickly and cheaply re-bundle the console.

You know... I don't feel like taking pictures of removing every single thing from the box. So let's cut to the chase:

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Console, controller, bundled games and some cables. And no, there's no HDMI cable with it. But really... anybody still whining about that has obviously never found Monoprice.

And no, the center channel speaker didn't come with it. The games are just in cardboard sleeves - no cases. The console is considerably smaller than I expected. How small?

Well, while every other website in the world has taken comparison pics next to other PS3s or XBoxes or whatever, that's all pretty irrelevant here. So here are the comparison shots that actually matter:

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Sorry I didn't have a Heavy Sixer, but you get the idea. It's smaller than a 2600, but bigger than a 2600 Jr.

Now then, I already had two games for it: ModNation Racers and Split/Second, so I was eager to fire them up and see how they were.

But things have changed a lot since the last time I bought a console.

First... the console had to update itself. So that took awhile.

Then I dropped in ModNation Racers. And it had to update itself. That took over a half-an-hour.

But finally, I was able to play the game. And... it's a kart racer*. But where it's made its name is in the customization options. You can build karts, characters, and even tracks, then share them and download new ones. I haven't spent much time with it, but it looks like it's going to be a pretty major time-suck. However a lot of the game is built around online racing, and I suspect that since I'm probably the last person to have ever bought this game, most of the online racing is over and done with. Besides, I still have to sign up for PSN or whatever it is.

Next, I fired up Split/Second. This only took about 15 minutes to update. Now this is more my type of game. Very much in the Burnout style of racing game. Very arcade-like, with lots of crashing and destruction. The idea is, as you're racing around you can trigger events on the track that can take out opponents - from exploding oil drums to cranes swinging around to trash trucks backing up to demolishing entire buildings. It's terrific fun! You can even destroy enough objects that the course of the race will actually be altered while you're playing. So I'm going to have a lot of fun working my way through this one.

My "must-have" list for other games includes: Gran Turismo 5, Dirt 3, Burnout: Paradise, Tron: Evolution (yes... I know it's supposedly not very good, but hey - it's Tron!), and possibly Need For Speed: Most Wanted.

Sense a pattern here? Yeah... I bought the PS3 for racing games. But if there are any other "must-haves" out there, let me know.

Especially if they're in the bargain bin. ;)

Oh, and the Blu-ray remote was totally worth it. While I already had a Sony Blu-ray player, the PS3 will now replace it. It has an excellent picture (I re-watched Tron last night on Blu-ray which looked fantastic), has options that my dedicated player didn't, loads discs a little faster, and while not whisper-quiet, it's quiet enough that I don't hear it during movies. Plus, Sony does a good job of regularly updating their PS3s with firmware updates. One gripe - the remote isn't backlit. But if I ever set up a proper home theater, I'll buy an Oppo.


* Seems to me there's a good idea in there somewhere for a "cart" racer game for the 2600.




Wow, they shrunk the PS3 quite a bit.

I seldom play my PS3 anymore - I mostly use it as a Blu-ray player and for streaming videos from Amazon Prime.

There are a couple of download games that I used to play a lot that you may like to check out - Echochrome and Super Stardust HD.
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I forgot about the Amazon Prime streaming. I have a Prime account, so that will come in handy. I use my Apple TV for Netflix, but the PS3 will work for that, too.

I don't really know how much I'll play the PS3, to be completely honest. But that's why I waited so long to get one, and only got one when I was able to get a good price (plus - the games I want are all cheaper now). It's my fourth PlayStation - after a PS1, PS2 and PSP - but it's only the first one I actually paid for. The first one was bought entirely with gift cards, and the second two were presents from a friend of mine. So on average, I've only spent $50 for each one. ;)

I still have the PS2 hooked up since there are still some PS1 and PS2 games I dust off now and then. I don't recall the last time I used my PSP. Probably when I got Gran Turismo for it. I played quite a ways through that one.

The better games get on the iPhone, the more I can see console games disappearing from the mainstream. I recently downloaded Need For Speed: Most Wanted, and the graphics are incredible on it. Still, playing games on a big screen has its own appeal, which even the best iPhone games can't replicate. Yet...
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The main thing the consoles have over the iOS devices is their controllers. For some games iOS' touch and accelerometers work just fine. For others the iCade devices help, but they're not quite in the same league. Apple already supports PS3 controllers under OS X - it'd be great if they'd add that to iOS.
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Actually, in many cases I prefer the simplified approach to controls that iOS games force upon the developers. One thing that turned me off from PC games was the sheer number of controls you had to memorize just to play the game. Tron 2.0, the Jedi Knight series, etc. Simpler is better. I'm finding returning to a console controller to be a bit of a chore in some cases. Split/Second works very well, since it teaches you the controls through a very intuitive series of tutorials. If you have to refer back to the manual to figure out which buttons to press, they're doing it wrong.

That said, so far I think the DualShock 3 controller is a nice update to the PS2 version. It's lightweight, the analog triggers are decent, and being wireless is a big plus.
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Heh, I also bought a PS3 this weekend. I didn't get quite the deal you did, IIRC it was C$240 for the 250GB Uncharted 3 bundle.

If you're into racers, you should pick up a GT5 & a compatible wheel. (I had a wheel which wasn't quite compatible so it mostly worked most of the time.)

I also enjoyed Portal (from Orange Box) & Portal 2 (co-op), Little Big Planet (co-op), & Rock Band (1,2 & Beatles).

It's also fun downloading the free demos from the online store. "Plus" also lets you download some games for free or reduced cost. However, if you let your Plus expire the free games go back to being demos.
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All 3 Uncharted games are, in my opinion, lots of fun.
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Re: the steering wheel - I tried one with GT4, but discovered that in order for it to work properly, you need an expensive one. I've managed pretty well with a DualShock, so I'll probably just stick with that.

I've heard good things about Portal and Little Big Planet, so those are on my "eventual" list. Not into the whole Rock Band thing though.

I'll check out the store once I get around to setting up the online thing. Still haven't gotten that far yet. Haven't cracked the seals on the pack-in games yet either. Trying to wrap-up a couple of homebrew-related projects at the moment, which is seriously cutting into my videogaming time. ;)
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I found Portal to be annoying on the PS3 due to the crappy load times. I did like using the PS3 controller over keyboard & mouse though.
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Sony owes me, big-time.

If I hadn't bought my PS3 last week, then they would've only sold 524,999 of 'em, and that doesn't look nearly as good as a nice, round number.
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I signed onto the PlayStation Network the other day, to try out streaming video.

Netflix (at least on my connection) is poorer quality than on my AppleTV. It seems to be stepping down the resolution, as if it isn't getting enough bandwidth (entirely possible with AT&T). Also, the interface is clunky compared to AppleTV.

Amazon Prime, on the other hand, has excellent quality. The interface is smoother, but still clunky. Nobody really has the whole TV interface thing dialed in yet. Whoever can solve that problem, and gather all of the content together under one umbrella for a single reasonable price, is going to own television.
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... is going to own television.

.. until you hit the download cap on your broadband ISP.
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Having some fun with ModNation Racers now... customizing is the name of the game.

A decent pass at a Subaru WRX (w/rally livery):

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A Ford GT-40:

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And what is probably the easiest racer in the world to create in the game, but he's still cool:

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And what is probably the easiest racer in the world to create in the game, but he's still cool:

Now you need to do the other three goofs.
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The hard part is getting the hair right. You have to unlock mod parts as you play the game, and I haven't gotten very many yet.

Plus, you can't make the characters fatter, so Jeremy would be hard to do. ;)
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Over Christmas I got some new PS3 games. Some as gifts, some I bought.

So here's a question: What's the difference between playing a 2600 game for the first time, and playing one for the PS3?

A: About two hours.

Gran Turismo 5 XL took (I kid you not) about 2 hours to update itself before I could play it. It ran 8 updates, plus add-on content downloads, plus installing "required" files onto the hard drive.

Two hours.

Even after all of that, the load times for everything - races, garages, menus, are appalling.

Now, I've been playing Gran Turismo since the first installment. But somewhere after GT3, the series sort of fell apart for me. In the original games, you could re-run championships, and re-win cars. This let you sell them, and earn more money than cash prizes alone. But they changed that, so you could only win cars once. Plus, the interface has become more and more convoluted with each game. The current one is almost un-navigatable. Sony needs to go back and look at GT 1 and 2 and take notes. Simpler = better.

Several long-standing criticisms remain with GT 5: no crash damage (your cars just sort of bounce and float in collisions, and land pristine), dumb-as-a-post opponent AI, engine sounds that are often grating (and most unsatisfying), and most of the car models look as if they've been ported from the PS2. The new "premium" cars do indeed look great, but many cars (and some in-game textures) look decidedly last-generation. They've also left out several previous tracks from earlier versions (most notably Seattle - blasphemy!!).

All that said, once up and running, GT 5 is a decent iteration in the series. It's showing its age relative to other racing games, but DLC helps a little in that regard. For example, I was able to download a shiny, new Scion FR-S for free (aka a Subaru BRZ). Nice! That helped get me going, since I didn't have to rely on an ancient Toyota Trueno for umpteen races until I could afford a newer car. I'll poke around and see what other DLC there may be, although the XL version of the game I got included quite a bit already. It's been years since I worked my way through a GT game, so despite its shortcomings, I'm looking forward to it. Hopefully GT 6 will address many of its issues. More hopefully, is that it will be released before I'm too old to play it. :roll:

One big plus - I was able to import my cars over from the PSP version of Gran Turismo. They're only available in Arcade Mode (grumble), but at least they're usable to some degree. It lets you bring over up to 50 cars, and since I had only 49, I didn't have to choose between say, a DeLorean and a Bugatti Veyron. :)

I also got Dirt 3 Complete Edition. As a rally fan, this one hits the mark. It's a fun game, great controls, damage, physics, and variety of cars. Plus the Complete Editiion came with additional DLC, and didn't take two hours to update before I could play it. It has a pretty good control setup too, where it starts you off with all sorts of assistants turned on that let you get a feel for the game. Then as you get used to the controls, you can start shutting them off and gain more direct control over the car. GT 5 has this as well, but in Dirt 3 they interfere with you far less than GT 5's do. The interface is a bit too "X-Games" for my tastes, but at least it's easy to find your way around.

I also got Tron: Evolution. I wanted this solely because it was a Tron game. You know what? I'm beginning to remember why I never played all the way through Tron 2.0 now. Controls are terrible. Convoluted, imprecise, difficult to remember, impossible to execute. I have no idea if the game is actually fun, since I can't get my character to run in a straight line long enough to find out. Really... doesn't anyone actually test these out with a DualShock? I'll give this another shot when I have far more patience to deal with it.

Next up was Burnout: Paradise. I was a big fan of the last few Burnout games on the PS2, as well as the PSP version. Paradise takes a different approach, where you have a massive, free-roaming city. You can start events at pretty-much any intersection, and take any path you want to get you to the finish line. The trick here though, is that without a clear path, it can be easy to get lost and end up losing races badly. But it's still a lot of fun, and as you begin to learn the city, you begin to find good routes to take and helpful shortcuts. It has a lot of the same elements that made the previous Burnout games great - crashes, shortcuts, insane speed, great sounding (if completely fictitious) cars, and there's a lot of DLC available for it as well (including another city), which I'll have to check out later. As with GT 5 though, it took well over an hour of updates before I could play it. But once up and running, there are no load times. None. You just keep playing. It's awesome. And it also resulted in me completely draining the controller's battery for the first time. :D

Finally, I bought Phineas and Ferb: Across the 2nd Dimension. Yes, it's a kid's game. But I love the TV series, and thought it might be fun. It's suited probably best for kids under 10. But that said, the thing that they managed to get right are the controls. It's easy to run, shoot, and do what you want to easily and accurately. Effectively, the game is similar to Tron: Evolution in that you're running around, jumping and shooting stuff. But how one game could get the controls so right, and one could get them so wrong is beyond me.

Anyway, between all of those, plus ModNation Racers and Split/Second, I should be able to keep busy for quite a while.
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Gran Turismo lets you take neat pictures of your car.

Here's what the new Corvette looks like:

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This, by the way, is why you don't cut the corner on the Trial Mountain course. :ponder:
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As was completely inevitable, shortly after I bought a PS3, Sony announced the PS4.

No big surprises. Just an evolution of the system to a slightly-higher level. Oh sure, being able to tell that they've simulated real cotton threads on the stitching of the seat in the car you're driving in a racing game probably counts for something... but what that is exactly, I'm not sure.

You just have to wonder... who is going to sit there and model all of that stitching? Seems to me that time would be better spent in actually making games... oh, I don't know... fun.

BTW - I don't know if the game industry already has anything like this or not, but I suspect someone could make quite a lot of money opening up a CG modeling business for game developers. Need a Bugatti Veyron? Why should everyone re-model the same car over and over? Why not just have a company that builds definitive models of commonly used game elements, and then license those out to developers? Cars, guns, trees, lamp posts, fire hydrants, skyscrapers... seems to me there's a good business model in there someplace.

But I digress...

I'm not annoyed that Sony's releasing a new console - dooming the PS3 to inevitable obsolescence - since I've been buying consoles long enough to just accept that as part of gaming. Of course this all-but-guarantees that Gran Turismo 6 won't appear on the PS3, but given how long it takes them between releases anyway, I wouldn't count on seeing it on the PS4 either.

Sony seems to have done a decent enough job of addressing some of the shortcomings of the PS3 with the PS4 - but I wonder if they realize the days of them selling 100 million consoles are long gone? It looks like they're trying to woo hardcore gamers with the system by touting it as a PC, "but supercharged". But is the market there? Casual gamers have all but completely gone mobile. The Wii U isn't exactly jumping off the shelf. Do that many people really want to buy another $500-$600 console? Are their forays into social gaming/networking/media too little, too late?

Beats me. All I know is, I won't be buying one for years, if at all. For the amount of console gaming I do these days, my PS3 will do just fine, thanks.

http://youtu.be/q0vcqayut0E
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Beats me. All I know is, I won't be buying one for years, if at all. For the amount of console gaming I do these days, my PS3 will do just fine, thanks.

Word.
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Of course this all-but-guarantees that Gran Turismo 6 won't appear on the PS3


On the other hand...
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IGN was wondering if it makes sense for Gran Tursimo 6 to come out for the PS3, so close to the launch of the PS4.

Yes, yes it does.

If it launches for both systems, and you can race against people using either one.

Current installed user base of PS3: Approximately 77 million.
Current installed user base of PS4: Zero.

'Nuff said.
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