A Love Letter to the PlayStation 3
With valentines over and the inevitable announcement of the next PlayStation just around the corner we look back at the highs and lows of our relationship with the PlayStation 3.
Over the week we’ll be doing a retrospective of the PlayStation 3 from its launch in the US through its near 7 year lifespan to where the console is today.
On November 17 2006 PlayStation fans could finally get their hands on the console in the US. Sony tried hard to stop us from loving the PlayStation 3 with it retailing at $599, not an insignificant sum of money. The price hike wasn’t enough to deter fans as queued en masse outside retailers desperately trying to get a hold on the latest PlayStation console.
The launch consoles boasted backwards compatibility with not only the PlayStation 2 but with the original PlayStation as well. To the disappointment of many this feature was taken out of later iterations of the system.
Alongside the release of the PlayStation were some rather strange commercials including a baby doll and a levitating console, eggs being controlled by a SIXAXIS controller then releasing crows and finally to this interesting trailer:
The original logo of the PlayStation 3 harkened to Sony’s Spiderman film franchise; this was removed, among other things, during the re-branding of the console later in the PlayStation 3’s lifetime.
Lack of launch exclusives
So began the popular phrase in console flame wars ‘The PS3 has no games’, a phrase that would ridiculous in light of the library of exclusives currently available for the PlayStation 3. However during the early years of the PlayStation it was certainly true.
Here are the following notable releases of 2006:
Resistance Fall of Man – Created by Insomniac Games, a studio that had been good to Sony in the past with iconic titles such as Spyro the Dragon and the Ratchet and Clank series. The game is a first person shooter set in an alternate version of the 1950s in Britain. You play as an American Sergeant called Nathan Hale and fight to repel the apparent alien invasion.
The main appeal of RFoM, much like Ratchet and Clank, were the wacky weapons such as the Auger which shot through walls and could create shields and the Hedgehog Grenade that would fire spikes outwards once detonated.
The whole campaign could be played cooperatively and the online mode featured up to a whopping 40 players online.
Underneath the zany weaponry though Resistance Fall of Man was a pretty standard shooter, whilst it looked pretty it wasn’t compelling enough to grab those who weren’t already going to buy the console.
Ridge Racer 7 – A franchise that once carried more weight, the game created by Namco Bandai was essentially an arcade racer. It came with online offering races with up to 14 players. It was warmly received though likely due to it being a launch title as the game was still running on the same engine as the last game.
This year brought about the European launch of the PlayStation, it was intended to be out on the same as the US however issues with production meant this release was delayed until March of 2007.
Problems with Ports
This was a troublesome year for the PlayStation 3 as multiplatform games, published first on the already established Xbox 360, were ported with some disparity between the systems. Graphics and performance comparisons time and time again showed the PlayStation 3 under performing.
To illustrate this have a look at IGN’s comparison of F.E.A.R:
The reason for the bad ports were blamed upon the PlayStation 3 being much harder to code for than their competition, especially considering the PC and the Xbox 360 shared very similar infrastructure. Ports have improved significantly now that developers have gotten to grips with the system however there are still some horror stories out there i.e. Skyrim.
Sony started delivering notable software for the system in 2007 with exclusive titles such as:
Uncharted: Drakes Fortune – One of the first games that showed off the potential of the PlayStation 3 and unbeknownst to many it was the beginning of one of the most recognizable franchises this generation.
The game follows treasure hunter Nathan Drake on an adventure to find ‘El Dorado’, the lost city of gold. The game is similar to Tomb Raider games in both concept and execution, with puzzles in ancient temples to platforming and cover shooting.
The voice actors deliver a solid performance throughout making the main characters such as Sully and Elena extremely likable. The game was visually impressive and many reviews pointed out the novelty of rolling around in water to get Drake wet.
Ratchet and Clank: Tools of Destruction – Insomniac eased back into its beloved franchise in the first of a new ‘Future’ trilogy for the PlayStation 3.
This platformer follows the alien character Ratchet and his robot sidekick clank. The story set up is simple enough and created so that newcomers will not need to have played previous titles.
The game’s visuals had publications quoting Pixar and many praised the fidelity of the busy environments. The game proved just as enjoyable as previous entries to the franchise however fans of the series felt it had lost many features in its transition to next gen.
WarHawk – Actually a remake of an original PlayStation title, the online only, third-person shooter had players driving in a variety of vehicles including flying vehicles called Warhawks. The 32 player battles were a blast and the game supported up to 4 player split screen online and provided the community with stable dedicated servers.
FlOw – Originally a flash game the PlayStation release offered more playable characters and utilized the SIXAXIS motion control. Though there wasn’t a lot of depth the game was visually striking and served its purpose of showing that the motion controller did work as intended.
Heavenly Sword – From Ninja Theory who would later bring Enslaved: Odyssey to the West to the gaming community. Heavenly Sword was a game focused on story and melee combat. It leaned heavily on the use of quick time events but received much praise for its combat system though many criticized the length of the game and lack of online functionality.
MotorStorm – A fun racing game that showed of what the system was capable of. The mud deformed as your drove through it and remained persistent throughout the race, the impressive crashes that showed the vehicle disintegrating which was reminiscent of Burnout games. The game was also online which allowed you to play against your friends however Sony shutdown the online servers in January 2012.
Lair - A game that heavily relied on the motion controls of the SIXAXIS which had players flying dragons during medieval battles.
The game was a critical and commercial failure with the control system being the biggest criticism by media outlets claiming it made the game near unplayable. An update later allowed players to use analogue controls however at that point it was too late.
In the next ‘Love Letter to the PlayStation 3′ we’ll be looking at trophies, PlayStation Home and the games that have come to define the PlayStation 3.