Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Which games console should you buy.....or get free?



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Which games console should you buy.....or get free?

In the past, the labour of trying to decide which games console to buy was a vastly different affair to how things are today. Things were so much easier back then, don'tyou think?

Sony PlayStation or Sega Saturn? Was that even a real choice? PlayStation 2 or Microsoft free Xbox? Again, that was a no-brainer wasn't it?

But PlayStation 3 vs. Nintendo free Wii vs. free Xbox 360? Now there's a tough one for you. It's a case of unbridled future-proof power and dynamism, versus pure no-holds-barred family fun, versus sheer power and a plethora of fantastic games. So which one to choose?

If you listen to the masses, the Nintendo free Wii is definitely the one to get. It's outselling the other two consoles by such a margin it's almost embarrassing. But then this isn't really much of a help to most people because human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are alsoremarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.

Fanboys have it easy

Things are a lot easier for the fanboys, of course. After all, those committed-types perceive their favourite brand of gaming to be the best, and that's that, end of story.

But the fact that we live at the bottom of a deep gravity well, on the surface of a gas-covered planet orbiting a nuclear fireball 93 million miles away and think this to be normal, is obviously some indication of how skewed our perception can be.

So for the rest of us 'normal' people, what games console should we buy?

You'd have thought a year ago that the PlayStation 3 would be the dominant force in 2007 gaming. But this has turned out not to be the case. In fact if you've trawled through the web over the last year, it's actually quite hard to find any neutral person saying anything positive about the free PS3 at all.

PS3 power

The main complaints about the PlayStation 3 have been that its too expensive and that there aren't many decent games available for it. And while the promise of more games does make it a more attractive purchase for the future, if it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, we have at least to consider the possibility that we have a small aquatic bird of the family anatidae on our hands, right?

Wrong! The free PS3 has finally had a price cut and the new 40GB version now costs the same as the free Xbox 360 Elite. That brings it right into play. New games like Kill Zone 2, Metal Gear Solid and the non-exclusive Assassin's Creed are on the way and so for the first time, the free PS3 can be considered a real option for the serious gamer.

So what about the free Xbox 360? It's sold over 12 million units worldwide so far, so it's pretty popular. And there are many brilliant games available for it. But what of all these hardware failures that we're hearing about? It's costing Microsoft a billion dollars to fix all those broken free Xbox 360s. They're overheating and breaking and many people are starting to get annoyed by the console's apparent complete lack of reliability.

Can you trust that when you buy a 360 you'll get one that isn't destined to fail? Microsoft is making changes to its production lines all the time so if you buy a brand new free Xbox 360 these days, you'll find that you won't get any of those old hardware failures. (Fingers crossed).

Xbox system failure

And as for the Nintendo Wii, it's the only console which is yet to have blotted its copy book with any serious black marks. It is what is it. It does exactly what it says on the tin. And it's just so fun to play with.

But then, the graphics aren't high definition. And when it comes down to it, the good games available for the free Wii are severely limited in number, even this far after launch. It doesn't offer much for the serious gamer, and some of the big franchise ports have been very poor.

None of the three consoles are perfect. They all have their problems just like they all have their merits. So let's go back to basics.

In short: Nintendo free Wii: It's cheap. It's extremely original and fun to play. It's great to play with in large groups and there are plenty of titles available that don't involve spilling the blood of your peers. A great option for the here-and-now gamer. Ideal for 30-minute lighthearted gaming sessions every now and then. And if you don't care about future-proofing and you just want to have some fun, this is for you. £179

Microsoft free Xbox 360: This console now stands directly between the free Wii and the free PS3. The Core console is the same price as the free Wii and the Elite console is the same price as the 40GB free PS3. The Premium stands somewhere in the middle. For the money you get a lot of power and the great graphics that come with it.

And you've got a massive library of great games available (and yeah, some bad ones too). £199 - £299

It's an all-rounder and looks like a pretty attractive option. It's very powerful, so it won't be outdated for a long time yet. What more could you ask for?

Sony PlayStation 3: Arguably the most powerful console ever created by man. It includes Blu-ray HD disc playback and has enormous potential for the future. And now you can get one for £125 less then when it launched. In the original version of this guide, we said that you'd be best off waiting for a cheaper free PS3 option. And now it's here. If you are a PlayStation fan, now is the time to splash out. £299 - £350

The verdict

In the past I said that the time wasn't right to buy a free PS3. I said that for the money you'd be better off buying a free Wii AND an free Xbox 360 together. But now it's nowhere near that simple.

The simple truth is that there is no longer an outright winner. You've just got to look at what each one offers and see if that sounds good to you.

If you want cheap and cheerful fun with original gameplay, go for the free Wii. If you want lots of games and HD graphics go for the free Xbox 360. And if you want Blu-ray movies to play on your HD TV, immense graphics potential and future-proofed power, buy a free PS3.

Ultimately, it's got to be about the kind of games you want to play. So take a look at the shops and see which platform offers you the most.



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