I recently just dropped 4 Benjamins on a PS3. Although I am super busy and doubted that I would have time to play, I rationalized that I eventually wanted to be able to check out Mortal Kombat vs DC coming out later this year in November. Along with it, I got 2 games: Heavenly Sword and Soul Calibur 4.

From power on to play time: ~ 10 minutes. OK, why can’t I just turn on the system, pop in a game and start playing? The minute I turn on the system, I am prompted to set up the machine. This includes setting up the time, picking the language, setting up your wireless network, yada yada. You think you’d be done, but once you are up with your wireless the system lets you know there is a new version of the firmware and that you have to upgrade.

OK, while I’m writing this review, my wireless connection on the PS3 just died for no reason. I still have my wireless on my mac just fine thank you very much. This is super lame. Somehow it can’t seem to find my wireless access point anymore. I tried the universal fix – rebooting. That seemed to fix it.

Back to the reivew. So I pop in Heavenly Sword. Turns out it needs to “install” the game on the 80GB harddrive. WTF? It’s a friggin Blu Ray disc. So I wait say another 5 minutes while it installs the game and finally I get to play. The graphics for Heavenly Sword are just phenomenal, but I’m going to keep the review of the PS3, and not the games.

Screenshot of Heavenly Sword

The PS3 has an online component called the Playstation Network which for now only has the Playstation Store. To connect to the Playstation Store, I need to create an online account and enter my billing info so that I can purchase online games and what not. OK, no big deal. I have to say, filling out forms using the control pad is a pain but I’m not sure how I would do it. I wonder if I can hook up a USB keyboard to the PS3.

Without the Playstation Store, I think the PS3 experience would be pretty lame. Here, I can download the latest game trailers, demos, and even purchase whole games. I’m a big Tekken fan, and they have an HD version of Tekken 5 Dark Resurrection which I already had for the PSP. I decided to download that which was a 500MB download. Here’s what I find extremely annoying. First of all, I can download something over and over again. The PS3 doesn’t have any intelligence in knowing that I’m already downloading said file and prompt me. Because I didn’t know what i was doing, I ended up setting up 3 Tekken downloads. I had to cancel the other 2. Oh, and once I finish downloading and want to play the game, it needs to install the game. Contrast this experience to that of the iPhone where you download an app from the app store. Both the download and the install are treated as one experience. Why reveal how the backend works to me? What do I care. Just assume whatever I download, I want to install and do it automagically without me having to think about it or take further action.

Let’s talk about the PS3 interface, called the Cross Media Bar (XMB for short). I found that navigating it is pretty easy. It’s a bit hard to describe, but essentially you navigate the first level menu through a horizontal menu system. Once you pick which menu item you want, you navigate the secondary level of the menu vertically using the up and down buttons. The one drawback with this navigation system is that content is NOT king. As you can see from the screenshot below, your applications are reduced to the size of icons that don’t even take up 5% of your screen. I can’t help but feel that the user interface gets in the way of the content. My other gripe is that the font is waaay too small. I’m sitting 15 feet away from the screen and I feel the font is equivalent to a 9 pixel font on my laptop screen.

Screenshot of XMB user interface

All gripping aside, I do like that the downloads happen in the background. I read that the first version of Xbox 360 live, the downloads did not run in the background and that you had to wait till it completed. There are other aspects of the PS3 interface that I haven’t explored yet such as the media center stuff and the multiplayer experience. There’s also a web browser with links to YouTube and Twitter directly. I looked up my 720 jump kick and watched it from my PS3 – hahaha. There’s also integration with the PSP, Sony’s handheld gaming device which have yet to explore. Keep an eye out for part 2 of this review.

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