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To boldly go . . .

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Iain Davidson looks at Sony’s latest entry in the next-gen console wars, as the PlayStation 3 hits the UK

Has your choice of gaming console ever been so varied? Where once fanboy teenagers scrapped over minor hardware differences, now gamers must choose their console with care. It’s a tricky decision, exacerbated by the PS3 release.

Let’s get the Trojan Horse bit out the way. This is part of Sony’s strategy for winning the race to the next-generation DVD format. The PS3 is a Blu-Ray player, costing half the price of similar players and bringing high definition movies to you at a reasonable price. It also allows game developers to fit more information on their discs. All of this sounds like a win/win for the gamer, doesn’t it? Well, not if you just want a console. For a cheap Blu-Ray player the PS3 is an expensive games machine.

But is it really a games machine? As well as the movie player, the PS3 can manage most forms of media, from your digital camera to your iPod. A connection to the web also allows uploading and downloading, making the PS3 the hub of your entertainment centre.

Of course, the PlayStation has always been the sexy choice. Though bigger than the Xbox 360 it’s sleek, shiny and silent, begging to be shown off with pride. The controller retains that recognisable Dualshock shape, though now wireless, and, having swapped its rumble for a motion sensor, it is just as comfortable to use. For surfing the net or managing media it lags behind the Wii Remote, while the 360 joypad navigation is far superior thanks to its interface design.

Sony is relying on the games element to drive the uptake, but at the moment it is sub-par. MotorStorm looks the most exciting, its graphics pushing the boundaries while the gameplay promises a bucketload of fun. Resistance: Fall of Man is also a nice looking title but does it really get the juices flowing? Developers need time with new consoles to get the best out of them but with the competitors having such a head start, is it possible for the PS3 to catch up?

And are the 360 and Wii really competitors? The Wii is bold, accessible fun at an affordable price. It has shunned the technological arms race in favour of experimentation and has caused quite a stir in gaming. Meanwhile, Microsoft’s grey behemoth has latched on to hardcore gamers and has absolutely nailed online gaming.

Sony’s unique selling point is still unclear. The product boasts huge power but there are currently no games that utilise this. It is dripping with potential but will that ever be fulfilled? Time alone will tell. So there you have it: three vastly different machines, with divergent philosophies. For the first time in gaming history, the choice is yours.

PlayStation 3 is available from Mar 23, at around £424.99.

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