Saturday, 25 June 2011

Console Gaming, Rebooted

I've become a bit disillusioned with console gaming over the past few years. Many hours of my late teens were spent on the original PlayStation on classics like Final Fantasy VII & VIII and the various incarnations of Resident Evil. The upgrade to the PlayStation 2 in my early twenties was a foregone conclusion, offering much the same experience, but with better graphics and DVD playback as an added bonus. But the PS3 has never quite captured me in the same way. Part of that is undoubtedly me simply getting older. I'm married, have a daughter, and run my own consultancy company: it's only natural that some of the less important things like computer games slip a bit.

Still, throughout each generation of console, I've always had at least a background flirtation with PC games. Some games (first person shooters springing immediately to mind) are just out-and-out better on a PC. Something a simple as mouse vs. control pad become critically important when you want to be able to turn quickly to find out what's shooting you. Other games (RPGs like Dragon age) are again just better on a PC largely because navigating the intricate menu systems of such games with a d-pad is infuriatingly slow. Thus, while games like Infamous and God of War 3 on the PS3 are undoubtedly best on their home platforms, the shiny black console spent most of its time languishing unused under the TV, while its forgotten dad, the PS2, was in a damp-proof box with its games in the attic.

Anyway, I bought a new monitor/TV earlier this week: finally time to retire the 4:3, 1280x1024 and catch up with the 1920x1080 high-def kids. One of the major selling points for this particular monitor was the sheer number of connectivity offerings on its back. My PC displays via DVI; I have a small, VIA-based server that has a VGA port for the occasional time (i.e. backups) when I need local terminal access; and there's an HDMI port for the aforementioned PS3. But there's also component input, which made me think of the old PS2. Indeed, why not hook both it and the PS3 up to the same display, just for kicks?

Well, since I've done that, I've played the PS2 more than its younger, more powerful offspring, and it's reminded me of why console gaming used to be fun: it was just so simple. Shove in the disk, and go.

With the PS3, turning it on assaults you with a menu of menus, each of which contains a dizzying number of options. If you're an infrequent player like me, it seems like you're being prompted for a firmware update just about every time you turn the damn thing on, and if you play a game that you've not touched in a while, there's every possibility that you'll be looking at anything been 100MB and 1GB of patches to fix the problems caused by rushing the original version out the door.

One of the great things about the PS1 and PS2 is that they didn't have internet connectivity, so game studios had to be very, very sure that the software they committed to CD or DVD was as bug free as possible. With the PS3 (and Xbox360—don't think I'm picking on the PS3 in particular), just about any old crap can be thrown together, to be patched later when the early adopters—devoted fans that a studio should treat especially well—are used as unpaid acceptance testers.

So I'm holding off on purchasing Infamous 2 for the PS3, and instead having fun with Shadow of the Colossus on the PS2. I think I should be able to get through that and Silent Hill 2 before I see if I can stomach the hassles of modern console gaming, or whether I just ditch the platform and stick to the PC.

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